MANKATO, Minn. — As Colorado College head coach Scott Owens put it, “It’s an understatement to say that special teams were the key to the game.”
The Tigers (22-11-1 overall, 17-11-0 WCHA) scored five power-play goals and overwhelmed Minnesota State-Mankato as CC earned a split on the weekend with a 7-0 victory over the Mavericks (19-16-1 overall, 13-14-1 WCHA).
Colorado College got spectacular goaltending from junior Jeff Sanger, who made 23 saves. Offensively, the Tigers were led by Peter Sejna, who tallied two goals and an assist, and Alex Kim, who had two power-play goals, including the game winner.
The first period alone featured 15 penalties and six power-play opportunities for the Tigers. MSU was never able to obtain momentum in the game, and Sanger stopped the few chances they had. The Tigers finished 5-for-11 on the power play and killed all seven of MSU’s man-advantages.
“The penalties threw the whole flow of the game off,” said Maverick head coach Troy Jutting. “Obviously the power plays were a huge difference. There was a lot of disparity in the power plays. Anytime there’s that many power plays, it’s almost impossible to win.”
“It’s a game where we obviously didn’t play well enough to win.”
On the other end, Owens was very pleased with his team, especially the power-play unit. “I thought we did a good job of moving the puck. We had a lot of opportunities.”
“I think that’s one of the things we knew needed to go well,” said Kim. “I think for the most part the power play came through.”
Sanger came up huge right away in the first period. With the Mavericks on the power play four minutes in, Sanger stopped two huge blasts by freshman Matt Paluczak and a rebound attempt by forward Tim Jackman.
CC scored the first goal for the second straight night. With MSU’s Tyler Baines and Jon Bushy in the penalty box, the Tigers had a 5-on-3 advantage. They scored easily as junior Mark Cullen passed from the right circle cross-ice to Kim. Kim had a wide-open left side to shoot at, and he made no mistake with his one-timer. The goal at 8:06 was Kim’s 13th of the year.
It took only 1:47 seconds for the Tigers to score their second power-play goal. With Bushy still in the box, Sejna got the puck up close on the right side and wristed it over goalie Eric Pateman’s shoulder.
Sanger continued to play well and kept the Mavericks scoreless by stopping senior T.J. Guidarelli on MSU’s best chance of the period.
On a shorthanded rush, Guidarelli flew past the defense and came in all alone on Sanger. However, Guidarelli’s backhand attempt was stopped with a quick glove save by the Tiger netminder.
Colorado College poured on the pressure in the second and demoralized the home crowd of 3,775 as Sejna scored his third goal at 7:48 of the second period.
Sejna, who had a goal in Friday night’s contest, carried the puck across center ice, made a nice play to get around the defense, and moved the puck over the blue line. Sejna then fired a tricky shot from the top of the right faceoff circle that seemed to fool Pateman as it slid between his legs. Sejna leads the Tigers with 23 goals on the season.
Minnesota State was never able to regain their composure and they were only able to get two shots on goal in the second. Kim would add another power-play tally at 15:03, and the second period ended with the Tigers owning a 4-0 lead.
Kim said his goals were the results of “really nice passes. It’s not too hard to put a puck in an empty net.”
The Mavericks came out in the third with a stronger effort, but still could not get a score. Five minutes in, senior Peter Holoien took a nice pass from teammate Nate Mauer as he came streaking down the right side. Holoien fired the shot high, but Sanger was there to make the blocker save.
Sanger would continue his dominant goaltending as he made stops on slap shots by Paluczak and Cole Basset halfway through the period.
Mark Cullen put any idea of a comeback away as he scored another 5-on-3 goal at the 16:07 mark. Cullen got the puck on the right side from a pass by Sejna and buried the puck past Pateman for his 17th goal of the year.
Trent Clark and Noah Clarke added goals in the final three minutes of play, and the Tigers went on to win 7-0.
Even though special teams dominated the game, Owens thought Sanger played a big role.
“He’s starting to come around and play well. It’s nice for him to get rewarded with a shutout.”
“The first period was the period they pressed the most,” said Sanger. “They came out pretty strong. They had some good power play chances. I had to be alert. The ‘D’ also played really well for me.”
“This was a big game for us,” continued Sanger. “Going into the playoffs we needed a big game like this under our belt, especially if we play them next weekend.”
Kim agreed, saying, “This was a pretty big game for us as a team. We need to build some momentum going into the playoffs. We treated it like a playoff game.”
The tilt was the last regular-season game for both teams, but the combatants will see one another again shortly. MSU will head out to Colorado College next week to battle the Tigers in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.