COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Mark Cullen’s shorthanded goal 2:41 into the third period helped Colorado College break open a tight game with Minnesota State-Mankato as the Tigers beat the Mavericks 6-2 going away Friday night at World Arena.
Faced with helping kill a four-minute Mankato power play at the beginning of the third period after Tiger winger Jesse Heerema was guilty of elbowing and tripping in the same sequence, Cullen found himself rushing two on one with linemate Trent Clark. Clark lured the Maverick defender as well as goaltender Eric Pateman to Pateman’s left and then threaded a perfect feed to Cullen, who tapped it home from just outside of the crease to make the score 4-2 in favor of the Tigers.
“It’s a 3-2 hockey game going into the third period and we’re on the power play — a four-minute power play. The game’s right there. If we had scored on the power play it’s a 3-3 hockey game and there’s 16 minutes to go. It took the wind out of our sails,” said Mankato coach Troy Jutting, who made his debut as the Mavericks’ chief after taking over this season from retired legend Don Brose.
Mankato defenseman Ben Christopherson intercepted an errant pass from Tiger Peter Sejna a little over a minute into the contest and fired a shot which Tiger goalie Jeff Sanger got in front of, but B. J. Abel was able to get another attempt and then crammed the second rebound through Sanger to stun the few of the crowd of 6,671 who were in their seats for the opening face-off.
The Mavericks’ Shane Joseph was sent to the box for slashing 40 seconds later and on the ensuing face-off CC’s Tom Preissing fired a winner past Pateman’s right shoulder from just inside of the blue line to tie the score at 1-1.
CC then began to exert an advantage territorially (CC outshot Mankato 22-7 in the first period) but failed to convert on numerous chances. A shoddy line change by CC allowed Mankato’s Tim Jackman to rip a shot from outside the right face-off circle past Sanger to put Mankato back on top 2-1, but the Tigers tied it again when Noah Clarke took a pass from Alex Kim and flipped a backhander past Pateman 37 seconds later.
CC got the eventual game-winner at 7:51 of the second as freshman Tyler Leibel accepted a nifty backhanded pass from Sejna and threw the puck past Pateman to put CC in front 3-2. The Tiger chances were fewer during that second period, and Mankato was poised for a comeback after Heerema’s penalties. But CC’s superior speed and skill became apparent on Cullen’s shorthanded goal and on two more third-period goals that were scored by Sejna and Clark as the Tigers seemed to constantly be in transition, creating odd man rushes as the Mavericks scrambled to get back and help Pateman.
“We’ve had a lot of games where we put up 40 shots, or came close to out-shooting somebody two to one, but rarely have we gotten six goals,” Tigers coach Scott Owens said. “It was nice to see us score some goals, in different ways, and some of the kids get rewarded.”
It was not only CC’s forwards who got praise from Owens.
“I thought Tom Preissing played big time tonight, offensively and defensively,” Owens said. “Brent Voorhees went down early. Here we are in our second game and we have to rotate five defensemen. Guys aren’t in shape yet, you know? They were smart. They didn’t take long shifts. I thought they all played real well.”
It was the regular-season and WCHA opener for both teams. The two-game set concludes at 7:05 p.m. Mountain time on Saturday.