MINNEAPOLIS — When Colorado College takes the ice, the odds are good that you’ll see a Sertich on the scoresheet. That was true again Friday night — but the Sertich in question wasn’t the one you might have expected.
Fourth-line winger Andy Sertich scored twice for No. 4 Minnesota (15-6-4, 12-5-2 WCHA), including a momentum-changing goal late in the second period that turned out to be the game winner as the Gophers defeated the seventh-ranked Tigers 4-2 at Mariucci Arena.
Thirty seconds after Colorado College (17-9-1, 9-7-1 WCHA) had scored to knot the game at 2, Sertich answered with his second goal of the game, giving Minnesota the lead for good. On the play, Mike Vannelli rotated the puck to Evan Kaufmann near the goal line, and the Gopher waterbug spun a blind pass to Sertich, who was open on the back side.
Sertich put away his short-range shot, a near-copy of his first goal of the game, to put Minnesota up 3-2 at 14:07 of the second period.
“I didn’t even know what [Kaufmann] was doing,” said Sertich of the spinning pass through the slot. “He just turned around and fired it right on my stick.”
Before the middle frame ended, Blake Wheeler extended the Gopher lead to 4-2 with his sixth goal of the season. Ben Gordon’s shot from the high slot banged off a CC skate, but bounced straight to Wheeler on the left side of the goal. The freshman snapped a shot through CC netminder Matt Zaba’s legs at 17:58 for the insurance tally.
That was all Minnesota needed as the Gophers kept the Tigers’ most dangerous forwards, Brett Sterling and Marty Sertich, mostly in check. Sterling did tally assists on both CC goals, but Sertich, the reigning Hobey Baker winner, was kept off the stat sheet on the evening.
“That one goal [his own] helped turn us around,” said Sertich. “Then we got another and the game was pretty much over.”
Until then, the result was very much in doubt as the Tigers matched the Gophers goal for goal despite a healthy advantage in shots for Minnesota. For the game, the Gophers outshot the Tigers 36-19, holding CC to a season low in the process.
“[The Tigers] answered, 1-1, 2-2,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. “Getting that fourth goal was obviously important to give us that two-goal cushion.”
And though a two-goal lead is famously said to be the hardest to hold, the Gophers managed, shutting out CC the rest of the way. The Tigers’ loss was their third straight, coming in their first game after getting pummeled by Wisconsin last Saturday.
“We’re a pretty good team, but we’re going through a tough time,” said CC head coach Scott Owens, who referred to his team as “fragile mentally” in the wake of that eight-goal loss to Wisconsin.
“I don’t think we played poorly; we just didn’t get much done,” he added.
The Gophers got out front early in the first period. With Minnesota’s first power play having just expired, Justin Bostrom fired the puck toward the CC net, where a driving Sertich tipped it past Zaba (32 saves) for his seventh goal of the season at 5:42.
CC answered at 10:12 after a crosscheck by Wheeler. The Tigers wasted no time on the power play, getting the tying goal off some pretty puck movement. Aaron Slattengren finished the play from the back door, taking a Sterling pass across the crease and firing it home over the shoulder of Kellen Briggs (17 saves).
A hook by Minnesota’s Ryan Stoa then gave the Tigers a chance to grab the lead — but instead, the Gophers took it back. Ryan Potulny picked up a turnover in the neutral zone and went in on a shorthanded two-on-one with Danny Irmen, finally finding Irmen unmarked on the back door.
After settling the puck on his stick, Irmen fired his ninth goal of the year past Zaba at 19:53 to send Minnesota to the locker room up 2-1 after one.
Zaba temporarily saved CC from going two goals down early in the second period, denying Phil Kessel on a breakaway with his left pad, but an interference call against Alex Goligoski put the Tigers on their fourth power play of the game, when the Gopher defenseman got rung up after flattening Jimmy Kilpatrick in the neutral zone.
On the man-advantage, Sterling acted as the playmaker to get the Tigers tied back up at 13:37. He found Joey Crabb for a wrister that the senior winger lifted high into the back of the net at knot the score at 2.
Seconds later, Sertich had the answer for Minnesota, and the Gophers never looked back.
The win kept Minnesota in a tie for second in the WCHA alongside Denver, which beat Wisconsin 1-0 Friday. Both teams have 22 points and trail the Badgers by six points. CC, meanwhile, remained in fourth place in the league with 19 points.
These same two teams match up Saturday afternoon in a 3 p.m. matinee at Mariucci Arena.