COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Four power-play goals, including two from Danny Irmen, propelled No. 1 Minnesota past No. 3 Colorado College, 7-2, on Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd of 7,390 at the World Arena to snap the Tigers’ five-game win streak.
Despite the final score, the teams played a close game for 55 minutes. Up 3-2 with five minutes left in the game, the Golden Gophers tallied four goals in exactly two and a half minutes to seal the win and salvage a series split after CC’s 3-1 victory in Friday night’s contest.
Minnesota has yet to lose a series this season and now holds an 11-4-0 overall record, while CC sits at 11-3-0.
“We got down 1-0, but once we scored that [first] power-play goal, I thought we improved as a team,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “We might have been a little down after last night, but that seemed to ignite us a little bit. The power play had been struggling and we scored [that goal] and then one, two and three on the power play. I really like the way the guys competed tonight.”
“We actually didn’t play that poor of a game, said CC coach Scott Owens. “We were going at them very hard the first 10 minutes of the third period and we just couldn’t get that tying goal. It would have been a different outcome then.”
A fast-paced and evenly-matched first period resulted in a power-play goal from each of the teams, as both CC goaltender Curtis McElhinney and Minnesota netminder Kellen Briggs allowed one tally on seven shots.
Joey Crabb opened the scoring after Minnesota’s Judd Stevens was whistled for hooking at 4:16 of the game. Brett Sterling passed the puck behind the net to Marty Sertich, who found Crabb skating towards the post on Briggs’ stick side. Crabb converted at 5:08 for the early 1-0 CC lead.
Sertich’s assist upped his scoring streak to seven games with five goals and seven assists since Nov. 13.
At 8:33, while again down a man, Minnesota’s defensive corps kicked in and did not allow any shots to successfully kill the CC power play.
The Gophers got a power-play goal of their own before the end of the first frame. With CC’s Brandon Polich in the box for tripping, Irmen received a feed from Alex Goligoski while waiting on McElhinney’s stick side and scored on an open net at 12:08 to lock the game at 1-1. Tyler Hirsch was credited with the second assist on the play.
A penalty-laden middle stanza saw two more power-play goals from the Gophers and an even-strength goal from the Tigers. CC fell behind for the first time since going down 1-0 in the first period of Friday’s game when Irmen notched his second of the night with a glove-side tip-in from Ryan Potulny and Hirsch.
The goal was Irmen’s ninth of the season (9-10–19) and the team is now 24-4-1 in one-plus seasons when he has tallied a point.
Seven seconds later, Sterling was called for slashing and just 18 seconds into the penalty, Minnesota took a two-goal lead on its third power-play goal of the game.
McElhinney made the initial save on a shot from Andy Sertich (no relation to CC’s Marty and former Minnesota-Duluth and Michigan Tech coach Mike), but could not stop Kris Chucko from grabbing the rebound and dumping it in over his outstretched right leg at 14:19. Gino Guyer also earned an assist as Minnesota went up 3-1.
“They had power-play opportunities that they were converting on; they did a nice job of finding diagonals and our penalty killing wasn’t quite as sharp,” said Owens. “A couple of our better penalty killers were in the box serving [the penalty] so it hurt us a little bit.”
The Gopher lead was diminished at 17:33 when Trevor Frischmon deflected the puck past Briggs after Brian Salcido took a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle. Minnesota went back to the locker room with a 3-2 lead and a 22-17 shots advantage.
CC played hard in the third to try to tie the game, but fell apart in the last five minutes.
“It was kind of a cat-and-mouse game,” said Owens. “We scored the goal to make it 3-2 and we were right there but we just couldn’t get that third one.”
With 4:30 remaining, the Tigers had one last opportunity when Briggs was caught out of the net, but defenseman Chris Harrington stepped in and Garrett Smaagaard was able to steal the puck, skate it down into the CC zone and hit the one-timer high on McElhinney’s glove side at 15:42.
From there things went downhill for CC. At 16:29, Mike Vannelli sent a pass to Potulny, who tipped in Minnesota’s fifth goal after McElhinney went down for the save. Twenty-nine seconds later, Jake Fleming won a faceoff in the CC zone to assist Stevens on goal number six.
At 18:12 of the third and on the power play, Jerrid Reinholz took a shot through two Tiger defenders for the 7-2 final.
“McElhinney maybe got a little bit tired at the end and we were able to get to him a little bit,” said Lucia. “But he’s a great goaltender, they have a very good team and it was our night tonight.”
Minnesota was 4-for-6 on the power play and Briggs had 22 saves, while CC was 1-for-6 on the power play with 26 saves by McElhinney.