GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Fighting Sioux coach Dave Hakstol saw his struggling team turn in one of its best performances in the past two weeks against the visiting Colorado College Tigers.
Unfortunately, the score didn’t reflect the effort as the Tigers won their WCHA opener 3-2 with an overtime goal by junior forward Brett Sterling.
The Sioux were better at avoiding the undisciplined penalties that have plagued them while putting a season-high 35 shots on goal and holding the Tigers to 23 shots on goal. But they were unable to maintain a 2-1 third-period lead.
“The bottom line is, we have to finish off games like this,” Hakstol said. “We have a one-goal lead and if we can’t get it to a two-goal lead, we have to play intelligent hockey in the last five minutes.”
CC came into the series at Ralph Engelstad Arena after a week off and having played four non-conference games. UND dominated the first period, outshooting CC 9-2, but it ended scoreless.
“We got outshot bad initially, but we knew there would be an adjustment because of the schedule they’ve been playing versus the schedule we’ve been playing,” said Tigers coach Scott Owens.
CC got on the scoreboard at 12:28 with a power-play goal by junior defenseman Brady Greco, who one-timed a cross-ice pass from Braydon Cox. Sioux goalie Jordan Parise made the initial stop, but couldn’t get his glove on the bouncing puck before it crossed the line.
With 1:05 left in the second period, Sioux freshman forward Travis Zajac threw a weak shot on goal from the right circle. CC goalie Curtis McElhinney failed to control the rebound, which led to UND senior forward Rory McMahon backhanding the puck past him on his second attempt to make it 1-1.
“It was kind of a bad rebound on my behalf, but those things happen,” said a nonplussed McElhinney.
Just 1:16 into the third period, McMahon cashed in on the power play to put the Sioux up 2-1. Streaking down the left side, he got around a Tiger defender, swooped in on McElhinney and beat him short side.
Exactly 13 minutes later, CC defenseman Richard Petiot tied the game 2-2 by crashing the net and pounding in a rebound off Sterling’s point-blank shot. The Sioux outshot the Tigers 17-10 in the final period, but couldn’t crack McElhinney, who made several big saves.
In overtime, CC outshot the Sioux 4-0 and scored the game-winner at 1:33. Junior center Marty Sertich skated to the top of the slot and ripped a slapshot. Parise stopped it, but couldn’t control the rebound. Sterling got his stick on the puck and punched it in.
Owens thought McElhinney’s goaltending was the difference in the game.
“He was very, very solid tonight,” he said of the former All-American goalie. “It was a tough game to play. He had to stand in there and battle.”
The first two-goal game of McMahon’s college career was tarnished by the Sioux loss.
“Any time you lose a game like that, it’s disappointing,” he said. “We outplayed them for basically 55 minutes, and five minutes was all it took. We let up and they capitalized.
“We’ve got 20 guys in the locker room who lost that game. We lost it together,” he said.
UND is 4-3-2 overall and 2-2-1 in the WCHA. CC is 5-0-0 overall and 1-0-0 in league play. The teams play the second game of the series at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in Engelstad Arena.