COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Three losses in its last four games had really put Colorado College in a corner as it hosted a hot Minnesota-Duluth club. The trapped Tigers lashed out at the Bulldogs, however, and made a clean break from mediocre play with a 7-2 dominating victory on Friday night.
“We had been real slow, and we were doing a lot of searching and thinking over the week,” said Colorado College senior Joey Crabb. “So it was good for us to rebound this way.”
The No. 4 Tigers kicked off an early onslaught seven minutes into the first period on the power play. Marty Sertich deked around a Bulldogs defender behind the visitors’ net, carried the puck out in front and fed an open Crabb at the far post for a 1-0 lead.
“I felt like I needed to set a bit of an example for the team,” said Crabb, who has 10 points in his last seven games with the Tigers. “Things fell my way tonight.”
Colorado College defenseman Lee Sweatt buried his second goal of the season midway through the first period to give the home team a 2-0 edge. Crabb’s aggressive forecheck created a turnover deep in the Minnesota-Duluth end, and the senior fed Sweatt as he pinched in from the blue line. Sweatt chipped the pass up over Bulldogs goalie Josh Johnson’s pad for the Tigers’ first shorthanded tally of the season.
“They came out a little tentative and we came out with a lot of vigor,” said Colorado College head coach Scott Owens. “We concentrated on ourselves this past week because we just hadn’t been very good. And tonight we came out and really established ourselves in the first period.”
The Bulldogs (6-8-3, 4-4-3 WCHA) settled down after a shaky opening ten minutes, however, creating turnovers and playing a more physical game. Minnesota-Duluth got on the board at 13:36 of the first period. Tim Stapleton snuck behind the Colorado College defense and corralled a hard lead pass from freshman Mason Raymond at the Tigers blue line. The senior alternate captain made the most of his breakaway chance, beating Colorado College goaltender Matt Zaba five hole to slice the Tigers lead to 2-1.
Colorado College (13-5-1, 7-3-1) capitalized on the power play ten minutes into the second period to regain its two-goal lead, however. Brett Sterling fired the puck into an open net after Crabb and Sertich worked Johnson out of position with a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing sequence. The helper was Sertich’s 100th of his career.
“That’s pretty special,” said the senior and reigning Hobey Baker winner. “I’m not thinking about it too much right now, but as time goes on I’ll reflect on it.”
The Bulldogs caught the Tigers by surprise less than three minutes into the third period with a power-play goal of their own. A pass through the slot ricocheted off of multiple bodies and sticks before trickling past Zaba. After a video replay to determine whether the puck had been kicked into the net, referee Marco Hunt awarded Stapleton his second goal of the night.
The Tigers responded a minute later with their first even-strength goal of the night, however. Aaron Slattengren located a loose puck between the rings and fired it over the sprawled Johnson to give Colorado College a 4-2 lead.
With 15 minutes remaining in the game, Colorado College’s Scott McCulloch took a checking-from-behind major penalty, giving Minnesota-Duluth a five-minute uninterruptible power play. The Bulldogs failed to notch a shot on goal, however, wasting the prime opportunity to get back into the contest.
“We got into a good rhythm on our kill,” said Owens. “I thought we did a good job of tracking down pucks and making good clears. There was no panic, which I thought was key.”
Colorado College used its power play to put the game away instead, as Sertich scored the team’s fifth goal at 11:32 of the third. Sertich redirected a Sterling pass past Johnson’s flailing glove for his ninth tally of the season.
“I thought it was key for us to get that third goal, because so often we’ve gotten ourselves in the position where the opponent has tied it up,” said Owens. “That’s a big step for us.”
The game got out of hand in the final minutes. The Tigers got their sixth goal when Johnson batted a rebound off of his own defender and into his net. Slattengren was credited with his second of the night. James Brannigan added his first goal of the season with less than two minutes remaining to account for the final score.
The two teams will meet again tomorrow night at 7 p.m.