COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Bulldogs lived up to their moniker on Saturday night, taking four separate leads and hanging on in the waning minutes for a gritty 4-3 victory over No. 4 Colorado College.
Minnesota-Duluth, out shot 13-4 in the third period and 41-17 in the game, made the most of its quality chances to earn its fourth win in its last six outings. The victory came after the team’s most lopsided loss of the year, having dropped a 7-2 decision to Colorado College the night before.
“It was a big character win for our guys after being embarrassed last night,” said Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin. “We played a lot more competitive tonight, we were opportunistic, and we got great goaltending.”
“We had a long talk after last night’s loss,” elaborated Bulldogs’ forward and game-winning-goal scorer Michael Gergen. “We made a commitment to each other that we were going to have a better effort, we were going to pat each other on the butt no matter what, and make good plays. Just staying positive on the bench was key tonight.”
Minnesota-Duluth made an early statement that it would not roll over on Saturday by cracking the scoreboard first at 15:30 of the first period on the power play. Matt McKnight received a post-to-post pass from Tim Stapleton and waited until Colorado College goaltender Matt Zaba fell before tucking the puck under his pad and into the net.
The Tigers tied the score at 1-1 with just one minute remaining in the first period thanks to a lucky bounce. A loose puck bounced in the Bulldogs end and rolled to the stick of Scott McCulloch, who wheeled and fired over the glove of Minnesota-Duluth goalie Isaac Reichmuth.
Minnesota-Duluth regained the lead 12 minutes into the second period on a rocket of a wrist shot off the stick of Justin Williams. Mayson Raymond fed the streaking Williams, who collected the puck at the top of the right circle and fired against the grain and past the stick side of the sliding Zaba to give the visitors a 2-1 edge.
Marty Sertich scored one of the easiest goals of his distinguished career to tie the game, 2-2, thanks to the patience and experience of Joey Crabb. Posted at the left dot, Crabb was forced to settle a bouncing pass at his skates from Brett Sterling. The senior refused to panic, however, and found an open Sertich sneaking in on the far post for a tap-in tally at 13:35 of the second.
The Bulldogs tenaciously took the lead for a third time in the first minute of the third period on a highlight-reel tally from Raymond. The freshman glided into the Tigers’ zone on a two-on-one rush with Williams. Raymond held the puck, dragged around the lone Colorado College defender, and roofed a backhand shot over a diving Zaba.
“They’ve been doing it all year,” said Sandelin of the contribution from his large freshman class (nine on Saturday night’s roster). “The Gergens and Raymonds just keep getting better. They’ve been put in a lot of situations and they’re learning, and that will help us down the road this year.”
But the Tigers would respond once again on the power play less than two minutes later. Sterling set up in the low slot and one-timed a Sertich pass through the wickets of Reichmuth for his 18th goal of the year, tying the game at 3-3.
As if scripted, Minnesota-Duluth took its fourth and final lead at 4:10 of the third, however. This time Gergen did the honors, speeding between a pair of Colorado College defenders in the high slot and lifting a snap shot over the glove of Zaba.
“When you get in tight on [Zaba] he likes to go down paddle-down into the butterfly,” the freshman explained. “So we knew coming in that he had given up a lot of goals in the last couple of weeks, and the coaches had told us that up high was the place to beat him.”
Colorado College generated several quality chances in the final sixty seconds, but Reichmuth and the Minnesota-Duluth defense held on despite taking two late penalties.
“We kind of hung on at the end there a little bit,” said Sandelin. “But they’re a good hockey team, and we’ve seen them make that big push before. We did what we had to do.”
Minnesota-Duluth will hope to ride the momentum from tonight’s emotional victory when it hosts Denver next weekend. Meanwhile, Colorado College loser of three of its last four games and four of its last six will look to right the ship when it travels to take on Alaska-Anchorage.