ST. CLOUD, Minn. — One night removed from his worst outing in a St. Cloud State uniform, Bobby Goepfert was given the start and erased the previous night’s memories for the SCSU faithful, stopping 40 of 41 shots, including all 19 he faced in the final period, leading No. 15 St. Cloud State to a 2-1 victory over No. 8 Colorado College Saturday night at the National Hockey Center.
“Last night was a hiccup (for Goepfert),” said St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko. “He knew he was going to come back.”
“Going into this series, I think I just put too much pressure on myself, and I ended up getting into my own head,” said Goepfert of his Friday performance. “Last night I thought about it too much, so I tried to do the exact opposite tonight.”
Approaching the midway point of the first period, SCSU junior Gary Houseman ripped a shot from just over the blue line as he entered the zone. The puck avoided skaters in front and went just over the left shoulder of Colorado College goalie Chris Kawano – the surprise starter over Matt Zaba in net – giving St. Cloud State (17-10-3, 12-9-1 WCHA) a 1-0 lead that they would take into the first intermission.
Colorado College (19-12-1, 11-10-1) found the equalizer 12:27 into the second period when CC sophomore Scott McCulloch passed from behind the St. Cloud net to junior Lee Sweatt in front. Sweatt’s one-timer was too quick for Goepfert to reach, tying the score at one. It would prove to be the only blemish on the junior’s record for the evening.
Back-to-back penalties to Colorado College center Marty Sertich late in the second period created an extended power-play opportunity for St. Cloud State, and the Huskies made good on their chance early into Sertich’s second penalty. Sophomore Andrew Gordon passed across the goalmouth to Joe Jensen, who one-timed his first goal since returning from injury last weekend.
From there, it was Goepfert’s time to shine.
Goepfert gave a glimpse of things to come as time was running down in the second, robbing a CC opportunity by scooping the puck out of the air with his glove while positioned firmly on his backside. Once the third period started, Colorado College threw everything it had toward Goepfert, searching for its second game-tying goal of the night. But the New York native stood tall, stopping 19 shots in the final frame, including three big saves on the Tigers’ only power-play opportunity of the period, which came with under four minutes to play.
“The barrage at the end kind of took a toll on me,” admitted Goepfert, “but when you get in tight games like that and time’s winding down, even with all that pressure, it’s still easy to get focused and stay sharp, and that’s what happened.”
For Kawano, it was the first start of his collegiate career, pinch-hitting for the injured Zaba. He played an exceptional game, making 29 saves on 31 shots, but the play of his counterpart on the other side of the ice ultimately led to a disappointing final result.
“Matt just told me to play my game,” said Kawano. “He said he had a lot of confidence that we could get the job done. That was great to hear, it gave me confidence, but unfortunately we couldn’t get it done.”
“I don’t think it’s anything too serious,” said CC coach Scott Owens when asked about Zaba’s condition. “He just couldn’t play tonight.”
Brett Sterling’s quest for his 100th career goal continues after a seventh straight game without scoring, but it was not for lack of effort. Sterling uncorked eight shots on Goepfert, including five in the third period.
With the victory, St. Cloud State remains in fourth place in the WCHA, while the loss sends Colorado College into fifth place, holding a one point lead over North Dakota for the final home-ice slot for the WCHA playoffs.
“This is probably one of the biggest wins of the year so far,” said Jensen. “If we had lost tonight, the odds of us advancing much farther would not be looking good at all.”
“I thought we’d get that tying goal down the stretch,” said Owens. “Goepfert made big saves, and we didn’t get the bounces. It’s disappointing. You win on Friday night and you’d like to carry that into Saturday, but St. Cloud State answered the bell tonight. They came back with a real strong effort.”
Colorado College returns home to face Alaska-Anchorage in a two-game set next weekend. St. Cloud State hits the road to face Minnesota State for two in Mankato, Minn.
“Everything’s magnified at the end of the year,” said Motzko. “A mistake, a win, a loss, they’re all magnified. All of the marbles are lined up in a row, and it’s playoff-type hockey.”