COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Minnesota-Duluth finally looked like the team that was picked to win the WCHA this year.
The Bulldogs continued their recent domination of Colorado College with a 4-3 victory over the No. 1 Tigers Saturday night at the Colorado Springs World Arena. UMD took three of four points in the series and moved within two points of idle North Dakota for fifth place in the conference standings and home ice in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
Josh Johnson made 38 saves, including 15 in the third period, as Minnesota-Duluth remained undefeated in its last six games (5-0-1) against Colorado College. The Bulldogs improved to 10-11-5 overall and 8-9-3 in the WCHA.
CC dropped to 20-4-2 overall and 13-4-1 in conference play with Saturday’s loss and remain one point behind first-place Wisconsin in the WCHA standings. The Tigers also saw their 11-game unbeaten streak come to an end.
“It hurts our pride a little because we’ve been on top for a couple weeks,” CC head coach Scott Owens said of the loss. “But they (the Bulldogs) played well and hung on. They had good energy for five periods this weekend. Then they circled the wagons a bit and played smart in the final 20 minutes tonight.”
The Bulldogs took what appeared to be a commanding lead when they scored three second-period goals in a span of 4:26. Evan Schwabe broke a 1-1 tie when CC netminder Matt Zaba lost control of the puck at the right post and Schwabe was able to jam the puck under Zaba’s glove.
Tim Stapleton scored 1:02 later when he jumped on a soft pass just inside the CC zone and blasted a shot past Zaba from the inside of the right circle. Nick Anderson completed the scoring spree on a backhand from the right circle.
“We just outworked them in the second period,” said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin, “and got goals and got a lead, and found a way to put ourselves in a position to win.”
The Colorado College comeback started when Joey Crabb scored a power-play goal with 11:37 remaining in the game. Lee Sweatt cut the deficit to one with a blast from the right point with 7:46 to play, but despite outshooting the Bulldogs 17-4 in the third, the Tigers could not get the equalizer.
Johnson made his biggest save of the night with 4:29 left in the game when he denied a Marty Sertich deflection at the top of the crease after the national scoring leader took a feed from Brady Greco. Sertich factored in on all three CC goals.
Justin Williams gave the Bulldogs an early lead when he fought through a check by CC’s Richard Petiot at the top of the crease and beat Zaba high on the glove side. Stapleton started the play by working the puck free along the boards and kicking it to Blair LeFebvre in the left corner.
The Tigers tied the game midway through the second period when Sertich scored his 19th goal of the season on the power play, taking a drop pass from Crabb in the slot and beating Johnson low on the glove side.
Brett Sterling added a pair of assists for CC.
Minnesota-Duluth will remain on the road next weekend when the Bulldogs travel to Minneapolis for a series with Minnesota. Colorado College will face the suddenly red-hot Michigan Tech Huskies in Houghton, Mich.