DULUTH, Minn. — Four furious comebacks by Minnesota-Duluth were not enough Saturday night as the Bulldogs fell to Colorado College 7-5 to remain winless in the WCHA.
The No. 13 Tigers (11-7-2, 7-6-1 WCHA) saw leads of 1-0, 3-1, 4-3, and 5-4 evaporate and held off heavy offensive pressure in the latter moments of the third period before it was all said and done. Jesse Heerema finally scored the game winner with just 2:18 left to play and an empty-net goal was added with 4.1 seconds left.
“We found a way to win tonight,” said Tiger head coach Scott Owens. “I thought we were outworked quite a bit tonight…[but] it’s kind of nice to not play real well and come out with a win.”
Bulldog freshman Evan Schwabe agrees that his team worked the hardest. “We were right with ‘em; every time they got up, we battled back,” said Schwabe. “We deserved a better fate, I think.”
Peter Sejna led the way offensively for CC, registering his first hat trick of the season.
The two teams traded the game’s first two goals before many of the 3,532 at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center settled into their seats. Sejna scored his first of the night when his shot from the left faceoff circle deflected off of Andy Reierson’s stick and fluttered past Adam Coole just 35-seconds into the contest. UMD then evened it up just over a minute later when Tyler Brosz’s slapshot from just above the right circle zipped through Jeff Sanger’s five-hole.
Despite some spirited play by UMD (7-14-1, 0-11-1 WCHA) throughout most of the period, the Tigers ended the first 20-minutes with the lead. After being held without a shot in its first power-play opportunity, CC made it 2-1 on Reid Goolsby’s goal at the 13:41 mark. Goolsby shot from close to the same place as Sejna did in his first goal and it convinced UMD coach Scott Sandelin to make a change in net. Coole finished out the period, but Rob Anderson took over at the start of the second period.
“When you see the same goal two nights in a row from the same spot, where do you think they’re going to be shooting?”, asked Sandelin referring to the fact that all of Colorado College’s goals in Friday night’s 4-1 victory and the first two goals Saturday, came from either in the slot, or within the two faceoff circles.
“I thought the next goal was the turning point of the game. They ended up getting it but we kept battling back.”
Noah Clarke scored the power-play goal to make it 3-1 at 5:22 of the second period, when he swept a quick turn-around shot through Anderson’s legs.
UMD then began its second comeback. Reierson led the charge at the 6:14 mark when he banged in a rebound of Judd Medak’s shot from the left point into a wide open CC net. Sanger made the initial save with his right leg, but then got tangled up with another player in pursuit of the same rebound. Luke Stauffacher jumped over the goaltender, hoping to avoid a collision, but then, indirectly, helped his team narrow the lead to 3-2.
The goal also gives Reierson at least one point in his last six games. The Bulldogs then scored to make 3-3 at 9:32 when Drew Otten poked in a Brosz shot that squirted through Sanger’s legs.
CC would pick up its third lead when Sejna scored his second goal of the evening with less than five minutes left in the middle session. After being left wide open on a Tiger power play, the sophomore lit it up with a one-timer from the left faceoff circle.
Yet UMD would not quit. Junior Lessard tied it at four when he swiped in his own rebound of a Judd Medak shot with 47 seconds remaining in the period.
CC came out in the third period with some added intensity and appeared it would maintain momentum when it scored to make 5-4 at the 5:51 mark. Noah Clarke picked up his second goal of the game with wrist shot from, again, the left faceoff circle that just made it through Anderson’s legs. Trent Clarke, from nearby Superior, Wis., assisted on the play.
But less than four minutes later, it would happen again. UMD’s life support systems fired up one more time when Schwabe deflected a Neil Petruic point blast to make it 5-5.
Then both teams began an assault that tested the resolve of both goaltenders. Rob Anderson stood up Colin Stuart in his shot from the right faceoff circle by using his glove. Then, moments later, he kicked away Richard Pediot’s point blast. At the other end, Sanger denied Lessard on a point-blank shot after the sophomore forced a CC giveaway in its own zone. Sanger also made two spectacular kick saves on drives by Reierson and Mark Carlson.
But strong forechecking and luck turned out to be the ingredient needed for the winning goal. Heerema used both when he intercepted Schwabe’s clearing pass in his own zone and fired a shot that deflected off of Hambly and past Anderson to make it 6-5.
UMD ended up pulling Anderson for a sixth attacker and had the benefit of a James Laux penalty with a 1:40 left to play, but could not nail the equalizer. Sejna completed his hat trick with a shorthanded, empty net goal from his own blue line with 4.1 seconds left on the clock. It was a shot few thought would miss. Sandelin considers Sejna’s shot NHL-caliber and puts him among the elite players in college hockey.
“He’s dangerous every time he has the puck, he’s so strong on his feet,” said the second-year head coach. “He’s just so dynamic, he can do so many things.”
Sejna finished with four goals on the weekend.
Owens gives partial credit to UMD for making things so tough for his squad.
“I’m not happy with our defensive effort, but part of that was their pressure.”
CC and UMD ended up tied with 39 shots on goal.
The victory keeps Colorado College unbeaten in eight of its last nine conference games (7-1-1). The Tigers will return home to Colorado Springs next weekend for a series against Minnesota State-Mankato. In fact, nine of CC’s next ten outings will be played at the World Arena.
Meanwhile, things don’t get any easier for UMD next weekend, as the Bulldogs visit top-ranked St. Cloud State for a two-game series.