DULUTH, Minn. — You’ve heard about Colorado College’s superstars Marty Sertich and Brett Sterling.
Sertich won the 2005 Hobey Baker Memorial Award. Sterling leads NCAA Division I men with 25 goals. The senior linemates have combined for 351 career points.
But the Tigers also have defensemen Jesse Stokke and Brandon Straub, and winger James Brannigan. Each scored Friday night as No. 7-ranked Colorado College beat Minnesota Duluth 5-0 before 4,542 in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game at the DECC.
It was the first career goal for Stokke, a senior from Hermantown, who helped put the Tigers (22-12-1 and 14-10-1 in the WCHA) one step closer to clinching home ice for the league playoffs. It was the first goal of the season for Straub and the second for Brannigan.
“I was sitting in my hotel room today thinking I only had four games left in the regular season and I didn’t want to end my career with a zero for goals,” said Stokke, a former Hermantown High School captain, who played a number of prep games at the DECC.
“But the biggest thing is that we got scoring from some other players and we played a solid 60 minutes.”
UMD (9-20-4 and 6-16-3) had a chance to move up in the WCHA, as eighth-place Michigan Tech lost at St. Cloud State, but the Bulldogs remained ninth. They’re 1-10 the last 11 games, 4-12-1 at home this season and have been outscored 14-1 the last three games. The shutout was the first at home in 96 games, since a 4-0 loss to Minnesota exactly five years ago.
The loss was the first for senior goalie Isaac Reichmuth in six career games against Colorado College. The Bulldogs, outshot 35-25, entered the game 6-1-1 the last eight games versus the Tigers.
“We came out hard to start the game, but they got the first goal and we lost some life,” said UMD freshman winger Michael Gergen. “We’re just not stringing good shifts together. We get a good one and then the other team gets a good one. We have to be more aggressive, we have to get to the net more often, and when we do get a bounce we can’t just shoot right into the goalie.”
When UMD couldn’t clear a Chad Rau attempt, junior defenseman Straub converted just 2:00 into the game. The first of two power-play goals gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead with 4:28 left in the first period as winger Joey Crabb put in a Sterling rebound.
The Bulldogs matched Colorado College 10-10 in shots in the first 20 minutes, but Tigers goalie Matt Zaba looked sharp in his return to duty. The junior had missed the last three games with a bruised right knee, but claimed his seventh career shutout with 25 saves.
“Zaba played well. He was sharp and hungry,” said Colorado College coach Scott Owens. “We got some breaks and we were efficient on the power play.
The only goal of the second period came on a Rau shot from the left circle that clanked in off the near pipe at 2:39. That made the Tigers 2-of-3 with a man advantage.
After UMD was blanked in a 5-on-3 advantage early in the third period, Stokke scored in a 4-on-4 shift at 7:10 for a 4-0 lead. He got the puck in front of the UMD goal, kicked it onto his stick, then says his shot went off Reichmuth’s helmet and into the net.
With one second left in the game, Brannigan managed to squeeze a shot through Reichmuth from the right edge of the crease.
The Tigers, 5-1 the last six games, remained fourth in the WCHA and can clinch home ice with a win today versus UMD.
“It’s tough to battle back when you fall behind early, especially when you’re not scoring many goals. It’s an uphill battle against a skilled team,” said UMD assistant Steve Rohlik.
“We had a decent first period and we continued to play hard, but when you’re not scoring, you start squeezing your stick.”
Kevin Pates covers Minnesota-Duluth for the Duluth News-Tribune in Duluth, Minn.