COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — After slinking away from a rough, one-point weekend at Wisconsin, Colorado College wanted to bounce back in a big way against struggling Michigan Tech.
The biggest rebound came from goaltender Drew O’Connell, however, as the freshman shrugged off his shaky opening performance against Air Force to earn his first shutout victory, 5-0, over the Huskies on Friday night.
O’Connell admitted that there were more than a couple of butterflies fluttering after learning that he would start on Thursday.
“I was really nervous,” he admitted. “I was shaky the first game, and I wanted to come in here and play well.”
Colorado College (10-2-1, 5-1-1 WCHA) head coach Scott Owens watched the nerves slide away from his freshman netminder with each puck that bounded away harmlessly.
“I thought he got more confident as the game went on,” said Owens. “He was out of his net challenging, he was being aggressive and he looked in control of his game.”
Colorado College notched its first goal 15 minutes into the game on its first power play. Senior Aaron Slattengren parked himself on the far post and waited for Brett Sterling and Marty Sertich to undress the Michigan Tech defense. The two Hobey Baker finalists from a year ago drew the Huskies attention, and Sertich fed a wide-open Slattengren for a tap-in tally.
“He had a lot of jump,” said Owens of Slattengren, who notched a pair of goals in the contest. “He was probably the most excited player to play. He was quick, made some good plays, and really got going with that power-play goal in the first period.”
The Tigers took a 2-0 lead at 13:17 of the second period after a near stop by Michigan Tech (2-10-1, 1-5-1) goaltender Michael-Lee Teslak. Slattengren snapped a hard wrist shot toward the far post, which the Huskies netminder saw clearly. The rubber dribbled out of Teslak’s glove and across the line, however, giving the Colorado College senior his second tally of the night.
The Tigers relied on brute strength to force their third goal past Teslak. With the puck lying free in the crease, the Huskies goalie was steamrolled by a mass of players from both teams. Meanwhile, Sertich jammed the biscuit through the pile of bodies and into the net moments before the net was dislodged.
Michigan Tech generated several prime chances of its own. Most of the 19 shots faced by Colorado College freshman goaltender Drew O’Connell were from point-blank range or came off of Huskies odd-man rushes. Michigan Tech captain Brandon Schwartz failed to capitalize on a pair of two-on-one breaks, including one with just seconds remaining in the second period.
Asked whether it was difficult to remain focused throughout the game with a lack of shots faced, O’Connell replied sheepishly, “Not when it’s your second game in college hockey.”
At 18:24 of the second period, emotions boiled over. After Colorado College defenders took exception to hard net crash by the Huskies’ Jimmy Kerr, players paired off in a near brawl. Kerr, Geoff Kinrade and Mike Batovanja were sent to the sin bin for Michigan Tech, while Jimmy Kilpatrick and Jack Hillen spent two minutes each in the box for the Tigers.
J.P. Brunkhorst extended the home team lead to 4-0 early in the third with his first goal and point on the season. Sterling added the game’s final tally with two minutes remaining following a neat feed from Joey Crabb.
“It wasn’t a great bounce back, it was a good bounce back,” said Owens. “I thought we were solid in a lot of areas, and any time you beat a WCHA team 5-0 you have to be pleased.”
The Huskies, who have one win in their last 11 games, will look to reverse their fate tomorrow night against the Tigers.