COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — MSU-Mankato needs to find a way to score against Colorado College. Otherwise, the Mavericks’ season will be over very soon.
The Tigers defeated the Mavericks 3-0 in a first-round WCHA playoff game Friday night, utilizing strong goaltending and fortunate offensive positioning to hand Mankato its second straight shutout loss. In last Saturday’s regular-season finale, Colorado College whitewashed the Mavericks 7-0.
The two teams play again Saturday and Sunday (if necessary) in a best-of-three series, the winner advancing to the WCHA Final Five next week in St. Paul, Minn. But if the last two games between these two teams are any indication, it is going to be the Tigers moving on.
“It wasn’t a very pretty game,” Colorado College head coach Scott Owens said. “Defensively, it’s nice to have back-to-back shutouts against these guys. But we made it more difficult on ourselves than we needed to.”
Colorado College (23-11-1) dominated the first period of play, taking a 2-0 lead on two rebounded shots. Freshman left wing Peter Sejna opened the scoring at 5:25 when he deposited a Mike Stuart shot from the left flat past MSU-Mankato junior goalie Eric Pateman. Junior center Mark Cullen also assisted on the score.
Cullen netted the second Tiger goal on a rebound of Sejna’s short shot from the left zone. Although Pateman made the initial save, Cullen put the puck past him five-hole for the score. The Mavericks (19-17-1) were fortunate to be down only 2-0, having been outshot 15-4 in the period and beaten to the puck regularly by Colorado College.
“Tonight things were going our way,” Colorado College goalie Jeff Sanger said. “I think we set the tone right away from the first shift in the first period. In the second period, they got a little jump, but we contained them and played a playoff hockey game.
The second period was essentially a draw, with the Tigers preserving their lead and the two teams relatively even in shots on goal, 10-9 in favor of MSU-Mankato. Colorado College killed two penalties, while MSU-Mankato killed one. Both goalies came up with big saves in the middle of the period to keep the score 2-0.
The third period featured a lot of penalties and a lot of shots from Colorado College. MSU-Mankato was never really able to mount a comeback, even with power-play opportunities. They just couldn’t get enough scoring chances, and the ones they had were quickly stifled by the Tiger defense.
Junior right wing Trent Clark added an empty-netter to cap off the scoring for Colorado College.
With the final score, Sanger added to his school-record shutout total, making 21 saves in his ninth career blanking. For the season, he is 14-5-0 and for his career, his 51st win puts him just two off the school record.
“Our defense did a great job of protecting me,” Sanger said. “They gave me vision for the puck and made it easy for me. They get four shots in the first period, and those are one of the toughest games to play, to stay focused.”
One thing is clear — for the Mavericks to beat the Tigers, they have to beat Sanger. Considering he’s posted two straight shutouts against MSU-Mankato, the challenge may be psychological as well as physical.
MSU-Mankato head coach Troy Jutting was unavailable for comment after the game.