COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Perhaps it was a sleepiness brought on by too much Thanksgiving turkey, but the atmosphere at the World Arena Saturday night was more like a placid mountain lake rather than a raucous college hockey rink. Nevertheless, the smooth-skating Tigers, led by the patient play of their smallest line, defeated the visiting Findlay Oilers, 4-0.
Linemates Brett Sterling, Marty Sertich and Tyler Liebel are listed generously at 5’8″, 5’9″ and 5’10″, respectively, but their impact on the Oilers was huge. The trio registered eight points and contributed to all four of the Colorado goals.
“We just work hard, keep our feet moving and play our game,” said Sterling, who was the first star of the night. “Size is a part of hockey, but its not everything, as our line is starting to prove.”
The first goal came as the line cycled on the power play at 13:27 of the first period. The puck traveled from Sertich to Sterling to defenseman Andrew Canzanello, who fired the puck home from the point.
Another defenseman, Richard Petiot, capitalized on passes from Sertich and Liebel at 13:02 of the second period. The final two tallies of the contest seemed like a dj vu as Sterling scored with assists from Sertich and Canzanello at 15:07 of the second, then scored at 9:26 of the third with assists from Canzanello and Sertich. The three-point night was especially sweet for Sterling, who was back in only his second game after missing six contests with a broken thumb.
“The first night was rough — I was definitely tired. But tonight I felt better and I got a couple goals to bring my confidence back,” said Sterling.
In addition to stellar play from the Sterling line, the Tigers received a solid performance from freshman goalie Matt Zaba, who registered 21 saves in his first career shutout. Zaba has stepped forward in the absence of junior netminder, Curtis McElhinney, who has been sidelined with illness for the past three games.
The relatively quiet game allowed the Tigers (8-1-3) to work on their passing and power-play skills, which paid off with two man-up goals on the evening. It is a trend that Head Coach Scott Owens hopes will continue in next weekend’s match-ups with WCHA rival St. Cloud State.
“Today was a better step. I though we pursued the puck better,” said Owens. “We did some things well, but we have some work to do.”
Findlay (4-9-1) will take on its own conference opponent, the Air Force Academy, in two home games on December 5 and 6.