ST. CLOUD, Minn. — No. 8 Colorado College scored six even-strength goals, including two by freshman center Chad Rau, to take two points from No. 15 St. Cloud State in a critical late-season WCHA matchup 6-3 before 6,056 at the National Hockey Center.
“Being able to control at even strength was the real difference maker tonight,” said Colorado College head coach Scott Owens. “We had excellent depth tonight, pursued the puck really well… it wasn’t pretty but it’s still a solid road win.”
Colorado College drew first blood from an unexpected source: junior Brandon Polich. Two and a half minutes in, Polich crossed in front of the St. Cloud State net and used a head fake to put SCSU goalie Bobby Goepfert on the ice as he made the early commit to a shot that never came. Polich continued to move to Goepfert’s right and simply lofted the puck in an arc that the sprawling Goepfert was unable to find.
St. Cloud State struck back four minutes later on the man advantage. An awkward backhand by Brock Hooton from near the blue line had enough mustard on it to make it through to Colorado College netminder Matt Zaba who made the initial save, but the short rebound went to St. Cloud State sophomore Andrew Gordon, who was all alone in front to put the puck between Zaba’s pads.
An error by St. Cloud in its own zone cost it dearly fourteen minutes into the opening period, as Rau picked up the loose puck directly in front of the net after an errant pass attempt by St. Cloud captain Casey Borer. Rau proceeded to move to Goepfert’s left. Again, Goepfert committed early, and Rau simply snapped the puck into the net to put the Tigers ahead 2-1.
“I went to fore check on the play,” said Rau, “and he sort of lifted his stick a little. The puck was just sitting there. I didn’t know what to do, so I just took it, faked the shot, and the net was just open there for me.”
The Tigers increased their lead to two early in the second period. A shot by junior defenseman Lee Sweatt from the boards to the left of the net glanced off of Goepfert’s right leg, and the angle took a decidedly favorable route for Colorado College – directly into the net for the 3-1 tally.
Just over a minute later, St. Cloud State would get the goal right back, again on the power play. A shot from the blue line by Aaron Brocklehurst was deflected in front by junior Dan Kronick into the net for his ninth goal of the season, cutting the lead back to one.
But the Husky comeback was snuffed out just as quickly as it had started. Just 21 seconds after Kronick’s goal, the Tigers stormed back on the attack, culminating in a shot which eluded Goepfert’s attempt at a toe save and putting the Tiger lead back to two. Sophomore Jimmy Kilpatrick was credited with the goal.
Throughout the remainder of the second period, St. Cloud State continued to struggle to find quality scoring opportunities at even strength, while Colorado College maintained pressure in the attacking zone. An opportunity with eight minutes to play in the second glanced off both the crossbar and a post and was later reviewed, but did not cross the goal line. Rau would score his second goal of the game with under two to play in the second stanza to put the Tigers up 5-2.
Colorado College dominated possession for the most part during the third period to hold on for the victory. A goal by SCSU junior Billy Hengen halfway through the period was countered six minutes later by a goal from Marty Sertich to end the game’s scoring. Sertich’s goal was the 60th of his career, tying him with Brett Sterling for the active lead in points at Colorado College with 170.
Sterling, meanwhile, continues to search for the 100th goal of his collegiate career after being kept out of the net for the sixth straight game without a goal, the longest scoring drought of his outstanding career at Colorado College.
“He’s still pretty confident,” Owens said regarding Sterling’s search for the landmark goal. “He may be gripping the stick a little bit.”
Tiger senior Joey Crabb had an assist on the first goal of the game, which was his 100th point at CC. He had two assists on the night.
Zaba finished the night with 27 saves in the Colorado College net. Goepfert allowed five goals and had only 12 saves in arguably his worst showing since beginning his tenure at St. Cloud State. Jason Montgomery made six saves on seven shots in relief for St. Cloud in the third period.
“We saw some things we hadn’t seen before,” said St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko. “We played in spurts tonight. It was just a very weird game for us. We battle back to within one, turn the puck over right away, and give up another one. We kept battling but the game really just got away from us.”
St. Cloud State saw a six-game winning streak snapped, while Colorado College has now won two straight immediately following a five-game losing streak during the month of January. The Tigers have now won six straight over SCSU. Both teams now occupy fourth place in the WCHA with 23 points each.
“It’s an important win,” said Rau. “We lost five straight, and any time a team goes through something like that you want to get back on track as soon as you can. We’ve got another tough game tomorrow – St. Cloud is a tough team and I’m sure they’ll come out and work really hard, so we’ve got to come out and work hard too.”
The concluding game of the weekend series is Saturday night at the National Hockey Center.