COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The high-flying offense of No. 6 Colorado College normally steals the spotlight, but in Saturday night’s 1-0 victory over No. 3 Ohio State it was Tiger goaltender Matt Zaba who shined.
Zaba, under heavy pressure most of the night, turned aside 34 shots while earning his fourth career shutout and helping Colorado College (3-1-0, 0-0-0 WCHA) to avoid its first sweep at the hands of a nonconference opponent since 1985-86.
“He looked so sure of himself for 60 minutes,” said Colorado College head coach Scott Owens. “He was covering up, he was challenging, and for the intensity of this game in October I thought he was outstanding.”
The victory was important for the Tigers on another level, as a win over the CCHA preseason favorite Buckeyes may prove significant as the NCAA tournament approaches in spring.
“It was absolutely huge for rankings towards the end of the year,” said Zaba. “Ohio State is a really good team, and we knew we had to come out and put out a strong effort. We came to the rink focused tonight, and we got the ‘W.’”
Colorado College scored the game’s only goal at 16:54 of the first period thanks to a strong individual effort by Brett Sterling. The senior drove past two Ohio State defenders and fired a shot on Buckeye goaltender Dave Caruso from close range. Though Caruso turned aside Sterling’s attempt, last year’s Hobey Baker winner, Marty Sertich, lifted the rebound into the back of the net for his first of the season.
“One of our goals was just to battle and compete more,” said Owens. “We didn’t compete last night, and I thought we played with a sense of desperation tonight and won a lot of little battles.”
Ohio State kept pressure in the Colorado College end for much of the night, firing nine shots on Zaba during its six power-play chances. Still, Zaba credited his team’s defense for keeping the second chances to a minimum.
“I thought our defense actually did a really good job,” said the junior netminder. “Ohio State may have had 34 shots, but I saw a lot of them and our defensemen did a good job of clearing the rebounds that I gave up.”
Ohio State had its chances late. Jason DeSantis found himself wide open at the side of the Colorado College net with less than three minutes remaining, but failed to bury a one-timer.
“For a butterfly goalie, I thought we didn’t shoot the puck high enough,” said Ohio State coach John Markell. “That’s where we scored last night.”
The two ranked teams emerged with a split after a hard-fought weekend, leaving Saturday night’s victors content and its losers disappointed.
“[A 3-1 record] is good because of the teams that we’re playing and it’s good because we’ve had four to seven guys out a night,” said Owens, whose team suffered several early injuries. “Some games we haven’t even had the full allotment of players. We’re going to get some guys back slowly over the next couple of weeks, and hopefully we’ll be at full strength by November.”
“It’s tough to take two games in a row against a team of this caliber, but we’re not happy with a split,” Markell countered. “I thought we put ourselves in position to win this game tonight, and we didn’t do it.”
Colorado College will remain at home next weekend to face Notre Dame and Air Force. Meanwhile, Ohio State will kick off its CCHA season with a home-and-home series with interstate rival Bowling Green.