COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — You wouldn’t think that a player tied for second in college hockey with 22 goals scored and in the running for the Hobey Baker Award would be worried about his scoring. For Brett Sterling, however, a seven-game goalless drought seemed like an eternity. Especially since that “next goal” would be no ordinary goal.
Sterling finally lit the lamp in the first period of Colorado College’s 6-2 win over Alaska-Anchorage on Friday night, collecting his 100th career goal with the Tigers and the first of three tallies on the special night.
The Tigers (20-12-1, 12-10-1 WCHA) came out flying and leapt on the Seawolves early with a power-play goal three minutes into the game. As Colorado College broke out through the neutral zone, Chad Rau’s headman pass redirected off of two UAA sticks and directly onto the blade of a streaking Sterling, who sprang into the offensive zone and buried a shot past Seawolves goaltender John DeCaro.
“You have no idea how much lighter I feel right now just being able to get that first one,” joked a relieved Sterling. “I was just hoping to get one, not just for the 100th goal, but because it was frustrating. As much as I had tried to block it out, I knew I wasn’t scoring.”
“You can see it in the game,” said Colorado College head coach Scott Owens. “He’s been pressing a little bit and has been hard on himself in practice, so you could see him lighten up after the first one.”
The goal seemed to invigorate the entire Colorado College team, which had struggled through a week of turmoil due to the injury of number one goaltender Matt Zaba and the sudden dismissal of Aaron Slattengren due to academic ineligibility.
Joey Crabb made the score 2-0 midway through the first with a backhanded beauty. Dragging the puck to his backhand as he slid from right to left through the slot, Crabb eluded three Seawolves defenders
and eventually hoisted a shot back towards the far post and over the pad of a sprawling DeCaro.
Alaska-Anchorage (6-22-3, 4-18-3) was not without its first-period chances, out-shooting Colorado College, 11-6, in the frame. But Chris Kawano, who had only one decision in four games with the Tigers
entering the night, came up with some key early saves to preserve CC’s two-goal edge after the opening 20 minutes.
“I don’t think we were our sharpest, especially early in the game,” admitted Owens. “But Chris hasn’t looked like a guy who’s only played a few games. He’s looked like a veteran. We were really sloppy in the first period, and he made some key saves.”
Sterling extended the Tiger lead to three less than a minute into the second period with a power-play tally. Colorado College’s leading scorer found himself alone in the slot and casually buried his 24th of the season.
UAA finally cracked the scoreboard at 12:22 of the second on the power play. Justin Bourne zipped a centering feed to Justin Johnson, who was parked in front of the Colorado College cage. Johnson tapped a quick one-timer on net, and the puck bounced over Kawano’s head and over the line to cut the Tigers lead to 3-1.
The third period belonged to the home team, however. Colorado College regained a three-goal lead thanks to Braydon Cox’s third of the year. And just 89 seconds later, Sterling netted his third of the game to put the game out of reach at 5-1.
“We were all joking, and the guys told me it was about time that I finally got one,” said Sterling. “We knew that once I got that first one things would start going smoothly again.”
The Seawolves notched their second of the game on a two-on-one rush. After leading teammate Adam Corrin into the Tigers zone, Eric Walsky jammed the return pass past Kawano just before the net was dislodged, cutting the CC lead back to three.
Tigers junior J.P. Brunkhorst capped the night’s scoring with a minute remaining thanks to a defensive miscue. After a Seawolves defender failed to glove down a floating puck in the Alaska-Anchorage zone, Brunkhorst found the loose rubber behind the defense and had time to deke around a helpless DeCaro for just his second goal of the season.
The Tigers and Seawolves will meet again tomorrow night at 7 p.m. MST.