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College Hockey:
Sterling Sparkles in Tiger Victory

— Brett Sterling and the Colorado College offense rolled into Mankato Friday night and did not disappoint.

Sterling had two goals and three assists as the No. 2 Tigers defeated Minnesota State 7-1 in front of 3,635.

“It was nice to get those five points, but it was greater to get that 7-1 win,” said Sterling, who is second in the nation — behind teammate Marty Sertich — with 47 points.

Senior netminder Curtis McElhinney made 27 saves, and defenseman Brian Salcido also had four points as CC earned its 11 win in its last 14 games. The Tigers (16-4-1 WCHA, 23-4-2 overall) are undefeated in Friday night contests this year with 12 wins and one tie.

The Mavericks (6-13-2 WCHA, 9-14-4 overall) started off the game with up-tempo play, but, like most games this season, they failed to cash in on quality chances.

On their first power play minutes into the game, the Mavericks were stifled by McElhinney. Captain Brad Thompson had the puck alone in front of the goal, but the CC goalie robbed Thompson’s five-hole attempt and allowed no rebound.

“We knew that they’d come out fresh with a lot of energy,” said Tigers coach Scott Owens. “We kind of hung in there early, and I thought Curtis was very sharp early and gave us some confidence.”

“That was the difference early on,” MSU coach Troy Jutting said. “They scored when they had their chances, and we didn’t.”

McElhinney stopped all 13 shots he faced in the first. CC put 11 shots on net against MSU in the opening period.

Meanwhile, the Tigers took advantage of the opportunities they had.

With CC enjoying its second power play, Sterling made a pass from behind the Maverick net before being checked into the boards. Sterling’s pass found Sertich in front. MSU goalie Jon Volp was lost on the play, and Sertich had a wide open net that he roofed the puck into at 16:28 of the first.

“Sterling had it behind the net, and I just think the goalie was looking the wrong way, and Brett made a great backhand pass out front,” Sertich said.

“It was a real tight period, so it was huge to get that first goal,” added Sertich, “especially because it let a little wind out of their sails.”

Just 1:43 later, Sterling led a two-on-one up ice at the MSU net. Sterling took a shot from the left side, and Volp made a kick save. But the puck bounced out to junior Aaron Slattengren, who buried the puck into the back of the net.

On their third power play of the game early in the second, the Tigers increased their lead to 3-0. After Volp made several saves, Salcido found the puck on the right side and put it inside the post at 3:43 of the period.

The Tigers added another goal later in the second to increase their lead to 4.

As he did on most of the game, Volp came up with saves on CC’s initial chances. However, with the MSU goalie sprawled on the ice, Sterling picked the puck out of the air and put it into the net for his fourth point of the game.

The Mavericks finally got on the scoreboard as David Backes tipped a shot in front of the Tiger net past McElhinney. The sophomore’s goal came at 14:40 of the period on MSU’s third power play.

In the third, Derek Patrosso scored in his first game back since a head injury he received on January 8. Salcido also scored another power-play goal to give CC a 6-1 lead before Volp was replaced.

The senior goalie allowed six goals on 27 shots, including two goals on five shots in the third.

Sterling finished off the scoring with his 23rd goal and 47th point of the season at 15:30 of the third. The goal came off an assist from, whom else, Sertich.

“They have unbelievable chemistry,” Owens said. “They see where each other is a lot, and they’ve just been getting the job done.”

The Mavericks have just two wins in their last 12 games.

“I’m extremely disappointed in the way we played the third period,” Jutting said. He later added, “Its one thing this team hasn’t done all year is quit, and I thought they did not finish the game tonight.”

But the Tigers don’t think MSU will play that way for long.

“I think they’re going to be challenged tomorrow,” Salcido said. “I know they’re going to come out just as hard as they did tonight, maybe even harder. So we want to come out and get the first goal, and hopefully try to kill their momentum.”

The two teams will finish their league series Saturday night at 7:07 p.m. CT.

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