ST. PAUL, Minn. — There was plenty of electricity in the nearly-sold-out Xcel Energy Center Thursday night for North Dakota. Unfortunately for UND, its power play wasn’t plugged in.
North Dakota was sent home early for the first time in the last four Final Five trips, in large part thanks to a flurry of missed opportunities on special teams in its 4-3 overtime loss to Colorado College Thursday night.
2013 WCHA Final Five
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“There were some missed opportunities,” North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol said. “There was also some good goaltending from Joe Howe and some good defensive play.”
The Tigers took one penalty in the first, three in the second and two more in the third, gifting North Dakota an opportunity to build momentum that seemed to elude it at times.
But instead of those power plays putting wind in North Dakota’s sails, those penalties were killed. UND came away with just four shots on goal to show for its 12 minutes of power-play time and came up without a shot on goal on two of those six.
“We definitely let a couple of those power plays go, especially early,” North Dakota forward Danny Kristo said. “I don’t think we were clicking on all cylinders tonight. You obviously can’t go 0-for-6 on the power play at this time of year. It’s tough to win games like that. Special teams is so crucial.”
On the day of his being named a Hobey Baker Award finalist, Kristo added a goal and provided some needed energy to help keep UND in the game. But after the game, he wasn’t happy with the way the team responded to Colorado College’s defensive prowess.
“I thought we took about 20 minutes off there between the second and third periods and just got lulled to sleep,” Kristo said. “I think they deserved to win the game but we didn’t play to our potential, so at this time of year you can’t leave your game up to the bounce of the puck.”
Colorado College coach Scott Owens was pleased with how the back end of his team — which has had a tumultuous season — followed up its stellar performance against Denver last weekend with another Thursday night.
“You saw a pretty good penalty kill tonight,” Owens said. “And not only was it pretty good, it was at the right times.”
Instead of folding under the pressure, the Tigers stood up to the challenge on the penalty kill, stood tall and jammed up the shooting lanes. And Alexander Krushelnyski’s short-handed goal at 7:54 of the second highlighted a big day for the Tigers’ special teams.
“They’re grinding out wins,” Hakstol said. “They’re doing a great job and they did a good job tonight. We played a pretty good hockey game, but pretty good doesn’t get the job done this time of year against the quality of teams that are here.”
The Tigers can play beyond this weekend only by winning the Final Five. And the next step in that seemingly insurmountable journey? No. 1 Minnesota Friday night in the Gophers’ backyard.
“We’re going to stay with our deal and see if we can make some good things happen,” Owens said. “We respect them a ton — they’re No. 1 in the country — but because of our schedule we’re not intimidated by anybody.”