ST. PAUL, Minn. — Karl Goehring has long been hailed for using his head off the ice — the North Dakota goaltender was on Thursday named the league’s student-athlete of the year.
On Friday, he finally applied that on the ice.
Goehring was forced to make only 18 saves, but one of those was a head-butt on a shot that floated toward the net. Second-line forward Jason Notermann provided the game-winning goal, and the Sioux downed Colorado College 2-1 in a WCHA Final Five semifinal game at the Xcel Energy Center.
“I do some goofy stuff,” Goehring said, “but whatever it takes to keep the puck out of the net.”
The method aside, the result was exactly what North Dakota wanted to see — a solid defensive effort without one offensive line dominating the game.
After allowing CC (25-12-1) the first goal of the game — just 4 minutes, 26 seconds in — the Sioux clamped down in the defensive zone.
They held the Tigers to just 19 shots for the game, and only four in the third period, when CC mounted a desperate attempt to tie things in the final minutes.
“It’s the kind of game we wanted to win,” top line center and Hobey Baker finalist Jeff Panzer said. “Championships are going to be won with defense. A good defense means offensive chances.”
There was symbolism in Panzer, the nation’s leader in points, talking about defense. That’s just the kind of game it was in front of a matinee crowd of 10,375.
He figured into the scoring with an assist on the tying goal early in the second period, but this game wasn’t about offense. North Dakota (27-6-9) only fired 20 shots on goal, a season low.
North Dakota’s previous low in shots this season was 21 in a 5-1 loss to Minnesota on Jan. 13.
But all the Sioux really needed was two second-period rebounds.
North Dakota defenseman Aaron Schneekloth backhanded a loose puck past fallen CC goaltender Colin Zulianello to tie the game at 1 at 3:27. On the power play at 10:51, Notermann finished off a nice rush by defenseman Travis Roche and put home a rebound of Wes Dorey’s shot from the slot.
Early in the season, not having one of the forwards on Panzer’s top line score a goal usually spelled doom for the Sioux. But of late, others have stepped in to fill the void.
On Friday, it was a defenseman and a 10-goal scorer.
“I did not notice [UND's top line] that much tonight,” CC coach Scott Owens said. “You have to be aware of them all the time. It was actually the next line, [Wes] Dorey’s line I noticed quite a bit tonight.
“Schneekloth might be one of the more underrated players in the league. I thought he was outstanding tonight.”
Said North Dakota coach Dean Blais: “I thought in the first half of the season, it was very difficult to be carried by one line. Now we’re getting play out of the other three lines, contributions in the scoring department.”
The Tigers didn’t get many good chances after losing the lead and the tie, perhaps from having the wind taken out of their sails. They beat Wisconsin roughly 16 hours before Friday’s faceoff and Owens admitted after that game his players were exhausted.
“As tough as last night’s game was, I was really impressed with the way our kids came out today,” Owens said. “I thought we had a lot of jump. Even the guys that got played a lot seemed to almost do better. We had more jump today, I thought, than last night.”
In the last four minutes of the third period, though, the Tigers peppered the North Dakota net, including one stretch with three shots on goal in roughly 10 seconds.
With just over a minute left and CC’s net empty, the Tigers nearly snuck the puck past Goehring, but the horn sounded before they could get another good chance.
“We were going pretty good there at the end,” CC forward Mark Cullen said. “We had a lot of chances, even in the last couple of minutes when we pulled the goalie.”
CC jumped ahead just 4:26 into the first period on a 2-on-1 break after a good North Dakota chance on the other end.
WCHA rookie of the year Peter Sejna, who scored the go-ahead goal in the last minute of Thursday night’s win over Wisconsin, waited for the North Dakota defenseman to make a move to the ice, then put a pretty pass on the tape of Cullen’s stick.
Cullen easily put the puck into a mostly empty net for a 1-0 lead.
With the Tigers tiring as the game went on, their best chance was to hold onto the lead as long as they could. They did for almost 20 minutes, but after falling behind, weren’t really able to mount much offense until the closing minutes.
They’ll play the winner of Friday night’s Minnesota-St. Cloud State game on Saturday in the consolation game.