COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The last time these two teams met, the result was a 4-2 loss for Colorado College at the hands of Minnesota in the championship game of last year’s WCHA Final Five.
The Tigers fared no better Friday, falling to the defending national champions, 2-1. Gopher blueliner Keith Ballard scored the game-winner, a power-play shot from high in the slot off a pass from Troy Riddle that slipped under CC netminder Curtis McElhinney at 4:04 of the third period.
Minnesota freshman goaltender Kellen Briggs, a native of Colorado Springs, made his first appearance in net in his hometown, stopping 23 shots on goal for Minnesota’s 10th win of the season and Briggs’ eighth.
Briggs has seen the majority of time in net for the Gophers, playing in 16 contests, and leads the team in goals-against average (2.86) and save percentage (.890).
The first stanza saw the Tigers hit two posts, which was as close to scoring as either team came through the first 20 minutes.
Though CC had two power-play opportunities it was unable to convert, decreasing its power play to 18 for 102 through 18 games this season. The Gophers entered the game with an 83.7 percent penalty kill, shutting down opponents 74 of 89 times.
Minnesota’s best chance of the period came when Garrett Smaagaard caught a pass across the slot and wristed it to the net, but McElhinney robbed the Gophers with a glove save.
The game heated up only 2:10 into the second period when CC forward Trevor Frischman netted the first goal of the game on a rebound from the crease. Tyler Liebel got the helper.
Minnesota answered only 17 seconds later at 2:27, when sophomore Peter Kennedy notched his first collegiate goal, unassisted, to make the score 1-1.
McElhinney saved the Tigers from exiting the ice in the red after the second stanza when Gopher forward Riddle was left alone in the zone. Riddle tried to snap the puck past McElhinney, who snagged it and held on to keep the score tied through the remaining four minutes.
The Gophers opened the final stanza with a man in the penalty box after receiving a two-minute bench minor for too many men on the ice, but were able to keep the Tigers from scoring.
The two teams face off again Saturday night at the World Arena.