COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — It didn’t take long for Colorado College’s rookies to adjust to WCHA hockey.
Freshman Brett Sterling scored twice, including the eventual game-winner, and classmate Kjell Bennemark notched his first win between the pipes as Colorado College dominated Michigan Tech 5-1 Friday before 5,611 fans at the Colorado Springs World Arena.
Sterling did not mince words in summing up the Tigers’ performance.
“This is definitely the most complete game we’ve played,” said the 5-8, 165-pound native of Pasadena, Calif. “Except for early in the second period, we played 60 minutes of hockey about as well as we can.”
Although Colorado College dominated play from the outset — limiting the visitors to just four first-period shots — the Huskies scored first. Seven minutes into the contest, Chris Durno rushed the net in an odd-man rush, and after a scramble, Brad Sullivan stuffed the puck by Bennemark for his first goal of the season.
“I concentrated on [Durno], but I don’t know if the puck hit me or a skate,” said Bennemark, who finished with 17 saves. “It was a pretty frustrating goal to give up, but if it was a goal that had been my fault, it would have been worse.”
The Tigers responded 7:25 later, as captain Tom Preissing took a pass from Richard Petiot at the top of the key and rifled a slapshot by Huskies’ netminder Cam Ellsworth for his seventh goal in seven games.
Sterling then gave Colorado College the lead for good late in the first period, capitalizing on a Michigan Tech turnover. He took a pass from Tyler Liebel behind the net and fired a wrister that trickled past Ellsworth.
With the exception of the opening five minutes, the Tigers controlled the tempo in the second period, adding to their lead on goals by Noah Clarke and Weston Tardy 22 seconds apart. Tardy’s goal was the first of his career.
After Tardy’s tally with 4:45 remaining in the period, Michigan Tech unraveled. The Huskies committed three penalties to close out the period, including a five-minute major and game misconduct on leading scorer Brett Engelhardt, who forced Sterling to miss a couple of shifts with a check from behind.
“I went into the boards a little wrong,” said Sterling. “I don’t know if I’d say it was a dirty hit, but it was definitely a penalty. I’m just glad I was able to get back in the game and contribute.”
Contribute he did, as the game’s first star completed the scoring with eight minutes left. He blocked a Michigan Tech shot from the blue line, raced down the puck, and flicked a wrist shot past Ellsworth.
Despite allowing five goals, Ellsworth kept the Huskies alive through much of the contest. He stopped 44 shots, his highest total since a 46-save effort against Colorado College last Nov. 30.
Michigan Tech fell to 1-3-2 on the season, while Colorado College improved to 5-1-1 thanks to its airtight defense.
“We have a terrific defense. The guys were only giving up shots from the sides,” said Bennemark. “It’s pretty easy to play goalie with this defense.”