MINNEAPOLIS — Colorado College and Minnesota turned back the clock Friday night.
Putting on a display of offense reminiscent of freewheeling days gone by, the two teams combined for 78 shots on net, 11 goals, a lot of open ice and a handful of stellar individual efforts in CC’s 6-5 win at Mariucci Arena.
“You know what, this is how it used to be,” said CC head coach Scott Owens. “This was a low-scoring game in the old days.”
“Yeah, that’s old-time hockey,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia concurred. “A fan’s game. Not a coach’s game, not a goaltender’s game.”
Both teams seemed to have the game under control at times, including CC’s early 2-0 lead and a four-goal second period for Minnesota that led, in turn, to the Tigers’ game-deciding three-goal flurry late. Jason Josza, Alex Kim and Noah Clarke scored the Tigers’ third-period goals, with Clarke’s standing up as the game winner.
“We had to make some [plays] down the stretch, so we’ll take the two points. I think we earned them,” said Owens.
CC’s Jeff Sanger stopped 43 shots amid the tornado of rubber, earning his coach’s approval despite Minnesota’s frequent scoring.
“I thought Jeff played about as well as you can and give up five goals,” Owens said.
A torrid first period started the game, including a combined 27 shots on goal for the two teams. After extended pressure in the Gopher zone, CC (20-8-3, 14-7-2 WCHA) got on the board with a slow-developing play that barely felt like a goal even after the puck was in the back of the net.
From the rear boards, Joe Cullen threaded a backhanded pass through traffic in front to Chris Hartsburg, and the senior from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., dinked it just past Travis Weber’s outstretched leg at 8:08. Weber started in place of senior Adam Hauser, who suffered an ankle injury in practice Thursday and was a late scratch.
Minnesota (21-7-4, 13-7-3 WCHA) had a chance to answer immediately on a two-on-one, but Jake Fleming couldn’t get a stick on blueliner Keith Ballard’s cross-crease pass.
Instead, a turnover at neutral ice turned into Hartsburg’s second goal of the night, as he took a feed from Colin Stuart in the slot and shot point-blank. Weber made the save, but left the rebound in front and Hartsburg made no mistake, whacking the puck past the blocker side for a 2-0 lead.
“He’s a senior veteran,” said Owens of Hartsburg. “He’s been making some key plays for us.”
The Gophers wasted no time righting the ship in the second period. At 1:03, John Pohl’s centering pass nicked a diving Riddle’s stick before finding Nick Anthony — making a rare appearance on the top line — in the high slot. Anthony ripped a shot just inside the left post to cut the CC lead to one.
Minutes later DeMarchi, who had the second assist on Anthony’s goal, tied the game with a pretty move in the slot. On a three-on-two, Anthony and Riddle occupied the defense’s attention, leaving DeMarchi a clear lane to the net. The junior defenseman took Riddle’s pass across the crease for a backhander over Sanger’s glove, just his second goal of the season.
The Tigers killed a Minnesota power play to stem the tide, then promptly capitalized to regain the lead. Captain Mark Cullen got the goal, a redirection of defenseman Tom Preissing’s shot from the point at 8:36.
CC had a chance to extend the lead after a DeMarchi hold, but a characteristic bit of playmaking from Pohl turned the Tiger power play into a Gopher goal.
Claiming a loose puck at center ice, Pohl led Riddle on a shorthanded break, feeding the sophomore winger for a shot from the bottom of the left circle. Sanger made the save, but Pohl was there to clean up the rebound, making it 3-3 with four minutes to go in the second.
A bit of controversy accompanied the next goal for Minnesota. On a bang-bang play in front, captain Jordan Leopold’s wrister rebounded to Grant Potulny in the high slot, and Potulny’s swipe at the puck bounced in turn to Dan Welch. Welch took a downward chop at it, making contact chest high and banging it past Sanger and in.
The CC players argued for a high stick, but referee Trevor Goddard signaled for the goal and the 4-3 Gopher lead at 18:56. That culminated a second period in which Minnesota outshot Colorado College 15-6, including a head-turning 11 shots on goal from the slot area.
“They took it to us in the second, but in no way did we think that the game was over, that they were going to win,” said Owens.
Indeed, the third period could not have been any different, as Colorado College stunned Minnesota with two quick goals to retake the lead.
The Tigers undid Minnesota’s lead three minutes in, as Josza’s shot from the point somehow escaped the glove of Weber, sailing into the net to tie the score at four. Joe Cullen and Hartsburg were credited with assists on the soft goal, Josza’s second of the year.
“Josza was a man down the stretch,” Owens said. “He made some great plays.”
Then, at 4:49, Kim gave the Tigers the lead again thanks to a defensive breakdown. Weber stopped Clarke’s wrist shot, but the rebound hopped out to Kim, who cut straight back to the net, uncovered. Kim’s wide-open wrister went just under the crossbar to give CC the 5-4 lead.
The Gophers killed CC’s third power play, but could generate no offense of their own, instead allowing Clarke to pad the Tiger lead at 9:39. Cruising unmolested into the offensive zone, Clarke lifted a backhander over Weber’s glove for his ninth goal of the year.
Lucia lifted Weber in favor of fellow rookie Justin Johnson at that point. Weber finished with 24 saves while giving up six goals.
“We got back to 4-3, and then it’s boom-boom-boom,” said Lucia. “You don’t want to pull those young guys right away — you want to see if they can fight their way out of [trouble].”
The merry-go-round continued at 12:20, as Anthony scored his second of the night to get Minnesota back in it. Sanger blocked Riddle’s hard-angle wrister up into the air, and when it landed Anthony was there to whip the puck inside the far post. Riddle’s assist was his career-high fourth, and DeMarchi got the second helper, giving the hard-hitting blueliner a three-point night.
With a rejuvenated Minnesota swarming the goalmouth, CC’s Scott Polaski was caught for holding, giving the Gophers their fourth power play of the evening with six minutes left. But the Gophers could not score despite near-constant pressure, including a Jeff Taffe slapshot that hammered off the crossbar and out.
With Minnesota able to maintain the zone, Preissing dumped Welch to the ice, incurring a holding call at 17:56 and putting the Gophers on the power play one last time. Johnson left to make it a six-on-four at 18:55, but was forced to return with 15.6 seconds to go after icing on the Gophers. Minnesota called time out and got across the blue line for a last shot, but couldn’t convert as time expired on the Colorado College win.
With the win, CC moved ahead of Minnesota for third place in the WCHA, and also gained home ice for the first round of the playoffs.
“[Home ice] is good,” Owens laughed. “It makes my AD happy.”
The victory came at a price for the Tigers, though, as they lost Andrew Canzanello to a separated shoulder at the end of the first, and then left wing Tyler Liebel to a knee injury in the second.
CC and Minnesota will meet for the series finale Saturday at Mariucci Arena. Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m. Central time.