DULUTH, Minn. — Minnesota Duluth was seeking a few goals Saturday night in its final home game of the season.
The Bulldogs, in the midst of a scoring drought, had averaged 1.8 goals a game while winning just once the past six weeks.
However, No. 7 Colorado College stayed on a hot streak and denied UMD’s offense much of the night in a 5-2 Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s win before 5,031 at the DECC.
The win all but clinched a league home playoff spot for fourth-place Colorado College, while UMD (which led in shots 34-32) remained in ninth with one regular-season series remaining.
The Bulldogs (9-21-4 and 6-17-3 in the WCHA) are 1-11 in 2006 and have been outscored 19-3 the last four games. They’re at No. 1 Minnesota this Friday and Saturday.
“We played a good third period and that’s what we have to build on,” said UMD senior defenseman Steve Czech. “Things can turn around, and to do that we’re going to have to score. We’re going to have to get the puck in the net. We’re going to have to do better than three goals in four games.”
Colorado College (23-12-1 and 15-10-1) is 6-1 the last seven games entering a home-and-home series with two-time defending Division I champion Denver.
Three Minnesota natives had Colorado College goals — forwards J.P Brunkhorst of Rochester and Brandon Polich of Osseo, and defenseman Jack Hillen of Minnetonka. The Tigers scored twice on power plays and once shorthanded to sweep the series, following a 5-0 win Friday.
“We’ve gotten back to playing hard-nosed and physical,” Colorado College scoring leader Brett Sterling said of the last three weeks. “We’re not the biggest team so we have to use our skill and speed, and play hard. I thought we played really well.”
Two goals in 49 seconds early in the first period gave Colorado College a big shot of momentum. Brunkhorst connected from the crease at 7:09 and Polich took advantage of a UMD turnover at 7:58.
UMD began a 5-on-3 power play at the end of the opening period, but couldn’t get past Tigers goalie Matt Zaba, who was sharp in the series in returning from a knee injury. The Bulldogs led in shots 14-9 for 20 minutes.
Freshman winger Andrew Carroll did score on a power play at 1:26 of the second period, putting a shot to the near side from the left edge of the net. His 10th goal of the season got UMD within 2-1.
Colorado College pulled away with three straight scores in 4:24. Sterling’s Division I-leading 26th goal of the season came on a power play at 4:41, winger Joey Crabb was credited with a short-handed goal 2:56 later when the puck caromed off a UMD defenseman and past goalie Isaac Reichmuth, and Hillen scored 12 seconds into a power play at 9:05.
“It’s been and up-and-down year, but I like where we are now,” said Colorado College coach Scott Owens. “Getting up on UMD was the key and our special teams prevailed. It was a good step for us.
“It’s tough to sweep in this league. UMD played really well in the third period and took it to us.”
UMD freshman defenseman Josh Meyers scored on a power play for the only goal of the third period as the Bulldogs led in shots 15-8.
“We had a much better effort than Friday,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin.
“In the third period we relaxed and played with an edge. That’s what we have to do.”
Kevin Pates covers Minnesota-Duluth for the Duluth News-Tribune in Duluth, Minn.