GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The No. 1 seed Colorado College Tigers had a difficult time disposing of No. 4 seed Colgate in the Midwest Regional on Friday night, but pulled off a 6-5 victory to move on to the regional final, thanks to a late third-period goal by Hobey Baker finalist Brett Sterling.
The game was a back-and-forth affair. Despite the Tigers outshooting the Raiders 39-17 in the contest, the outcome was in doubt until the final buzzer sounded.
“It wasn’t exactly the type of game we anticipated being involved in,” said Colorado College coach Scott Owens. “You had two of the best goaltenders in the country and two teams who are solid defensively, and it turned into a 6-5 shootout.
“[Colgate] never quit. They haven’t all season long. We scored six goals tonight and never felt comfortable. We’re very fortunate to win.”
The Raiders kept the game close, never trailing by more than two goals, and tying the game up late in the final stanza.
“It was a little out of character four our team to be in a 6-5 game,” said Colgate coach Don Vaughn. “We battled back a couple of times tonight. Colorado College is extremely dangerous. We knew exactly the kind of team we were going to be playing. They played their game. They capitalized on opportunities.
“Colorado [College] was a better team tonight.”
Despite being outshot handily in the game, Colgate kept its chances alive thanks in part to a pair of shorthanded goals.
“Any time you give up two shorthanded goals in a game, it doesn’t look good for you,” explained Colorado College center Marty Sertich . “Me and Brett [Sterling] both made a couple of poor decisions on a couple of plays. We got a little lackadaisical near our blue line and didn’t take care of the puck like we should, and they capitalized.”
Colorado College opened the scoring at the 2:29 mark of the first period. Skating on the power play, sophomore defensemen Brian Salcido notched his sixth goal of the year from between the circles, beating Raiders goalie Steve Silverthorn on the glove side. Aaron Slattengren added the assist on the play.
Colgate tied the contest at the 8:16 mark with a special-teams goal of its own. Junior winger Jon Smyth picked off a pass on the CC power play and skated in alone on goaltender Curtis McElhinney, deking the senior to score his 16th goal of the year, and his second shorthanded tally of the season. The goal was unassisted.
The tie, however, was short-lived, as the Tigers pulled ahead in the contest, scoring their next two goals less than a minute apart.
Slattengren gave Colorado College a 2-1 advantage at 12:26, finding the five-hole of Silverthorn from the left circle. The play was assisted by Braydon Cox.
National scoring leader Marty Sertich gave the Tigers a 3-1 lead at 13:15, picking up a loose puck at the side of the net and wrapping the shot around the goal for his 26th marker of the year. Scott Polaski assisted.
Colgate cut its deficit to 3-2 at 14:01 of the period, as Smyth picked up his second goal of the night on a deflection from the point. Dustin Gillanders had the shot that was deflected in by his teammate to pick up the assist.
The two teams traded goals in the second period, with Lee Sweatt giving the Tigers a 4-2 advantage at 8:02, blasting a one-timer from the left circle for his third goal of the year. Joey Crabb and Trevor Frischman added the helpers.
The Raiders cut into the deficit again at 10:50 with their second shorthanded marker of the game. Senior winger Adam Mitchell stole the puck in his defensive zone, skated in on the CC net with a defender draped on him, and managed to direct the puck through the legs of McElhinney for his 12th goal of the season, and fourth shorthander of the year.
“The goalie was in position, and I just made a pretty nice shot over his right pad,” said Mitchell.
A pair of Raider penalties in the third period led to the Tigers’ next goal.
Sterling scored his NCAA-leading 33rd goal of the year on a 5-on-3 situation. Sterling took a crisp pass from linemate Sertich at the side of the net and wristed it past the goaltender for a 5-3 Tiger lead at 5:56 of the period.
Colgate again pulled within one goal at the 10:17 mark of the period as senior defensemen Justin Spencer shot through traffic and found McElhinney’s five-hole for his first goal of the year. Eamon DelGiacco assisted on the play.
The Raiders tied the game on a loose puck in front of the net at 14:13 of the period. After a scramble in front of McElhinney, Mitchell found the puck on his stick after a pair of shots and tucked it into the net for his second goal of the night.
“I think the bench was kind of shocked, but we were just trying to stay positive and get it done in regulation,” said Sertich.
CC got the game winner just 22 seconds later as Sterling tipped a Richard Petiot shot between the leg of Silverthorn and the post.
“Richard Petiot made an amazing play by diving to keep the puck in,” said Sterling. “I was sitting wide-open in front of the net and when he passed the puck, it was rolling, and I was just able to get a little bit of a tip on it and get it to go up and over his pad. I’m definitely happy to get that goal in regulation and get ready for tomorrow.”
Colorado College scored a pair of power-play goals in seven tries, while Colgate was held scoreless with the man-advantage.
Silverthorn stopped 33 of the Tigers’ 39 shots on goal. McElhinney was 12 of 17 in saves.
The Tigers (30-8-3) will move on to the regional final Saturday at 5:00 p.m., playing the winner of the Wisconsin-Michigan game.
Colgate finishes the season with a record of 25-11-3.