MINNEAPOLIS — No. 2 Colorado College scored goals its first two shots of the second period Sunday night at Mariucci Arena, then coasted to a 5-3 win over No. 1 Minnesota and a weekend sweep. The win almost certainly cemented the Tigers as the nation’s new number-one in the polls, but the impact doesn’t stop there.
The sweep gave CC the edge in the regular-season series between the two teams, three games to one, and therefore earned CC the tiebreaker in the WCHA for playoff seeding. It also gave the Tigers a stranglehold on the PairWise Rankings comparison between the two teams.
“More than anything it helps us in the PairWise,” said CC head coach Scott Owens. “It also helps us for league play, for a chance to be in the top three in conference and for our confidence.”
“We fell asleep a few times and they took advantage of it,” agreed Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. “They’re a good team. They deserve being ranked No. 1 in the country.”
Emotions ran high as the Gophers came out fast, trying to avoid the sweep.
The Gophers opened the scoring at 6:18 on a goal by senior forward Jake Fleming. Mike Vannelli fed a puck at his own blueline to a streaking Fleming for a one-on-one rush. Using the defenseman as a screen, Fleming buried a wrist shot over the blocker of CC goaltender Matt Zaba.
The Tigers struck late in the period to tie the game at 1-1 on a controversial goal at 18:25. A CC icing was waved off because an official saw the puck hit Ryan Potulny in the CC zone before it went all the way down the ice. Joey Crabb hustled down the ice to gain control of the puck behind Minnesota’s net, and found a lane to Scott Thauwald, who one-timed the puck past Kellen Briggs.
Ten thousand Gopher fans booed the non-call for several minutes.
“I looked at it on video and our guy did not touch the puck. But you still have to defend,” Lucia said of the goal.
Thauwald would later leave the game with a torn ACL. He is expected to miss the remainder of the season, according to Owens.
CC used the late goal to gather composure after being outplayed for the first 18 minutes of the game, including being held shotless for the first eight minutes. The shots ended up 10-7 on the period.
“We probably deserved better than a 1-1 fate after one. Early in the year we would probably have had a 3-1 score,” said Lucia. “It’s a chore for us to score.”
“We knew they would be playing desperate. We persevered and got through the first period tied 1-1, and then opened it up,” added Owens. “Tonight we were opportunistic.”
The Tigers came out hungry in the second, scoring on their first two shots of the period.
The first came at 4:04, moments after a minor penalty on Barry Tallackson expired. Saturday night’s overtime hero, Marty Sertich, buried the puck into an open net as Briggs was caught off-guard on the weak-side shot.
The second Tiger goal came at 5:23 on another feed from behind Minnesota’s net. This time Crabb was on the receiving end of a Trevor Frischmon pass. Despite being outshot 13-9, the Tigers had a 3-1 lead.
The Gophers brought the game back within one on a four-on-four breakaway goal by Gino Guyer at 9:11. Freshman defenseman Derek Peltier gathered up a rebound in front of Briggs and found Guyer at the CC blueline. Guyer beat Zaba low for the fast-break goal.
The second period saw long stretches of four-on-four action, resulting in numerous odd-man rushes and scoring opportunities for both teams. The shots ended 23-16 in favor of the Gophers.
The Tigers won the third period on goals by Jason Brannigan and Scott Polaski for CC, versus one by Peltier for Minnesota, producing the final 5-3 score.
“Our goal every weekend is to get points. We kind of just gave up in the third,” said Peltier.
“The sweep was huge for us. It gives us a lot of momentum,” said CC forward Brett Sterling, who scored two goals in Saturday’s opener.
Next weekend Minnesota will travel to Minnesota State. The Friday game, nominally a home game for Mankato, will be played in St. Paul at the Xcel Energy Center. Colorado College hosts North Dakota.