GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Hey, Matt Zaba, what are you going to do after beating North Dakota at home in front of 11,000 Fighting Sioux fans?
The Tiger goalie, who stopped 33 of 34 Sioux shots and led Colorado College to a 4-1 victory over second-ranked UND, thought he might spend a little time with the seven family members who drove from Yorkton, Sask., to watch him play.
“I told them that I didn’t want to talk to them before the game or see them on the weekend, but I’ll go out tonight with them and grab a bite to eat,” Zaba said.
Fortunately, the freshman’s relatives understand that he’s not very sociable on game days.
“They know my routine and they respect that,” Zaba said. “I was trying to convince them not to come at all, but they didn’t like that too much.”
Having a large contingent of relatives wasn’t a distraction. Zaba held one of the nation’s top offensive teams to a single goal and stopped Sioux forward Brandon Bochenski — a Hobey Baker candidate and the team’s leading goal-scorer — five times on the doorstep. He also broke UND’s nine-game unbeaten streak at home dating back to Nov. 14.
“We had a bunch of chances and that’s where you have to credit their goaltender,” said Sioux captain Andy Schneider. “We had our chances and Zaba definitely stood in there and made the saves that their team needed to be successful tonight.”
UND got on the board first with a power-play goal by Zach Parise at 11:52 of the first period. The Sioux took a 1-0 lead into the locker room at the end of the period, seemingly in control after outshooting the Tigers 8-2.
An elbowing penalty on CC forward Reid Goolsby at the end of the period gave UND a 5-on-3 power play for 1:11 at the start of the second period. But Zaba and the Tiger penalty killers came up big and the game’s momentum suddenly changed.
At 2:34, CC junior defenseman Richard Petiot threw a shot on goal from the blue line. Sioux freshman goalie Jordan Parise left a rebound that Tiger forward Colin Stuart put in the net.
“The turning point of the hockey game is the 5-on-3 at the beginning of the second when we didn’t score,” said UND assistant coach Dave Hakstol. “We had an opportunity to go up by a couple and had a chance to start putting the game away. They come back and get one a few seconds after that.”
Just 31 seconds later, the Tigers broke into UND’s zone 2-on-1. Freshman forward Braydon Cox scored the game-winner for CC when he tipped in a centering pass feathered to him by forward Scott Thauwald.
The Tigers scored two goals on 5 shots, and they weren’t done yet. Following a scrum at the 13:50 mark that sent four players from each team to the penalty box, CC went up 3-1 with a power play goal by sophomore defenseman Brady Greco at 14:19.
Sixteen seconds later, CC defenseman Mark Stuart drove a stake into the heart of a potential UND rally when he one-timed a Colin Stuart pass from behind the net to give the Tigers a 4-1 lead.
“We just got on a little bit of a roll and we got some confidence,” said CC coach Scott Owens of his team’s four-goal second period. “We just kept working hard. We seemed to feed off of the energy.”
In a penalty-filled third period, the Sioux outshot the Tigers 10-4, but still couldn’t solve Zaba. Late in the game, Sioux coach Dean Blais pulled the goalie for a 6-on-4 power play. It made no difference and CC held on for a 4-1 victory.
Owens said that coming out of Grand Forks with two points was important for CC, which is tied for sixth place in the WCHA with Denver and is three points behind Minnesota.
“This has got to put us back on the bubble. We got Duluth next weekend, then go to St. Cloud and then play Denver. It keeps us in the running,” he said.
Despite going 3-4-1 in their last eight games, Hakstol said the Sioux aren’t about to press the panic button.
“We took some steps forward from where we thought we were last week in Wisconsin,” he said. “We did a lot of things better than we did a week ago and that’s still got to be the main focus. We’re still okay. We’re still in good shape in the league race.”
UND is 20-6-3 overall and 14-5-3 in the WCHA. The Tigers are 16-11-3 overall and 9-11-2 in the WCHA. UND travels to Minnesota State for a two-game series Feb. 20-21. CC plays Minnesota-Duluth at home Feb. 20-21.