COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — In a tense defensive battle, the St. Cloud State Huskies proved to be one play better Friday night, handing Colorado College its second loss of the season with a 2-0 shutout.
Despite a defense that killed off three penalties, extending its streak of successful kills to 25 straight, the Tigers could not push the puck through the Huskies’ junior goaltender, Adam Coole, and his physical supporting cast.
“We’ve got to score goals to win,” said sophomore winger Brett Sterling, who initiated several scoring chances on the night. “We didn’t get the breaks and we couldn’t bury our chances.”
St. Cloud, on the other hand, capitalized on a rare CC defensive gaffe to create the game-winning goal. At 10:59 of the second period, sophomore Joe Jensen slipped behind the defense to collect a perfectly-lofted pass from Billy Hengen.
Even with the partial breakaway, a hard backcheck by Richard Petiot nearly saved the day for CC. Petiot made contact with Jensen and his stick, knocking him over. On the way down, Jensen managed to tip the puck inside the left post. Ryan LaMere had the secondary assist.
“I thought I had him on the way back [into the zone],” said Petiot. “I had his stick, but he was lucky and the puck came right back to him and he stuffed it in.”
Matt Zaba, whose freshman stint in replacement of Curtis McElhinney (out due to illness) earned him Rookie of the Month honors for November, suffered his first-ever loss in a CC uniform.
If he were to lose to anyone, it was somewhat fitting that it be St. Cloud, considering that Coole is the only WCHA netminder with a better save percentage (.940) than Zaba (.938). Coole turned away 27 Tiger shots, including a spectacular diving stick save early in the first period, following a collision with a CC forward.
“We have to bear down in front of the net. We need a bad goal to get us going against this [goalie],” said Petiot.
In addition to the hot play of Coole, the Tigers faced a tenacious, hard-hitting defensive corps that blocked 22 shots, 10 of them in the third period.
“They are a real good defensive team. They keep three people back at all times, so it’s tough to create odd-man rushes against them,” said Sterling.
Down 1-0 with less than a minute remaining, CC coach Scott Owens pulled Zaba in favor of an extra skater and called a timeout. On the ensuing faceoff, the puck took a Husky bounce, scooting out to the St. Cloud forwards and eventually leading to an empty-netter by right winger Brock Hooten (assists from Peter Szabo and Matt Hendricks) with 35 seconds remaining.
“[During the timeout] we were just trying to get everybody in the right position and let them go,” said Owens. “I don’t really need to fire them up; it’s a 1-0 game with 40 seconds left. I just need to get the right people out there so that we can set up a play.”
Despite the lack of output on offense, Owens looks forward to the same kind of effort in Saturday’s rematch with the Huskies at the World Arena.
“I think this was our best game in five games, to be honest,” said Owens. “I thought our systems were good and defensively we only gave up one goal against a good team. … But this team [St. Cloud] is the top defensive team in the country.”