COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The nation’s leading power play just got a little bit stronger.
Joe Cullen continued his torrid scoring streak with two of Colorado College’s four power-play goals as the Tigers doubled up Western Michigan, 8-4, before 5,663 fans at the Colorado Springs World Arena Friday night.
The fourth-ranked Tigers improved to 15-2-2 on the season, while the Broncos dropped to 7-10-1.
“This is a big series for us, coming off a loss [at MSU-Mankato last Saturday],” said Cullen, who has nine goals in his last six games after scoring just one in his first 13 contests this year. “A lot of guys came through tonight.”
Cullen’s first goal of the game, with 3:28 remaining in the second period, gave Colorado College the lead for good. His blast from inside the face-off circle deflected off the pad of Western Michigan netminder Mike Mantua, who up to that point had frustrated the Tigers.
Cullen’s second goal of the night 1:30 into the final period proved to be the game-winner. Mantua stopped Marty Sertich’s one-timer, but the rebound caromed to a wide-open Cullen, as the senior scored his 10th goal of the season.
“I’m getting a lot more confidence, and by trying to score more in practice, I think it’s carrying over to the game,” said Cullen, who helped the Tigers improve their power play percentage to 35.9% (37-of-103). “It’s a good feeling to put the puck in the net. I don’t think I’ve been this hot since high school.”
Colorado College’s power play was not done, however, as the Tigers sealed the victory with two more goals with the man advantage. Colin Stuart recorded a power-play tally to give Colorado College a 6-2 cushion, and completed the scoring with a shorthanded goal in the final two minutes. Sertich, meanwhile, notched a man-advantage goal for his second tally of the evening.
“Part of the reason why we’re having such success is because we aren’t relying on just one guy,” said Stuart, who noted that the Tigers were without freshmen Brett Sterling and Mark Stuart, who left Thursday to compete in the World Junior Championship.
For the first half of the game, it appeared the visiting Broncos, who haven’t won away from home since their season opener at Bowling Green, might steal the victory. Luck was certainly on their side as Western Michigan tied the contest at two-all midway through the second stanza.
Junior Brian Pasko, who entered tonight with one career goal in 48 games, skated across the red line and appeared to dump the puck into the corner. However, the puck hit the skate of assistant referee Bob Keltie at the blue line, and redirected toward an empty goal, as Colorado College goalie Curtis McElhinney went behind the net to play the puck.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that happen,” said Stuart. “Even though that was a tough break, we can’t let that get to us, and fortunately we didn’t.”
Still, despite the win, the Tigers were less than stellar defensively. Colorado College matched its season high by allowing four goals in a contest, even though the Broncos only managed 17 shots on goal. McElhinney stopped just 13 shots in picking up his 12th win of the season.
“We need to tighten up defensively overall,” said Stuart. “We’re turning pucks over in the neutral zone, and we can’t have that happen. But a win is a win.”
Jeremy Cheyne and Dana Lattery had a goal and an assist each to lead Western Michigan, while Mantua recorded 33 saves in the loss.