HOUGHTON, Mich. — The No. 14 Colorado College Tigers found out Friday just how hard it is to play against the Michigan Tech Huskies in the MacInnes Student Ice Arena. On Saturday night, it was painfully obvious for the Tigers, as they were downed 1-0 by sophomore goaltender Rob Nolan and the Huskies for the first time since 2004.
“Three points on the weekend is huge with the way the standings are,” said Huskies head coach Jamie Russell. “I have a lot of confidence and faith in this team.”
Junior forward Jordan Foote got the Huskies rolling right from the opening faceoff, firing a puck on net just nine seconds in. The Huskies would continue the pressure until they found themselves in the box and the Tigers (14-10-2 overall, 10-7-1 WCHA) finally had a chance to calm down.
Shortly after the man advantage ended, the Huskies (12-13-3 overall, 7-10-3 WCHA) picked right up right where they’d left off, as co-captain Lars Helminen blasted a one-timer just wide of Tigers goaltender Matt Zaba’s left post with about seven and a half minutes left in the opening stanza.
The Huskies physical play seemed to get under the skin of the Tigers, just as it had Friday night, as the Tigers took three minor penalties in the opening frame. Unfortunately, the Huskies couldn’t convert on any of those chances.
During the early portion of the second period, the Tigers began to attempt to turn the tide, taking the play to the Huskies, but Nolan ready time and again to make the necessary stops. His biggest save of the period came just 4:53 in when co-captain Lee Sweatt received a pass and skated right in untouched, but Nolan stopped the backhand shot from the senior.
“I thought we did better in the second and third periods tonight,” said Tigers head coach Scott Owens. “They are good defensively.”
Not long after the Huskies had a huge penalty kill, junior forward Tyler Shelast was sprung from the defensive after a beautiful banked pass from freshman center Alex Gagne. Skating hard past Sweatt, Shelast cut to the net and fired a wrist shot over Zaba’s left shoulder to net his tenth of the season at the 9:24 mark.
“When I see the defense backing up like that, I try to yell to the center to move the puck up to me,” said Shelast. “I knew that Sweatt was going to cut me off from the far side, so I just picked the spot and put it there.”
After taking the lead, the Huskies began to take the play to the Tigers again. Assistant captain Tyler Skworchinski, junior forwards Jimmy Kerr and Foote skated in on a three-on-one, but Skworchinski hit the far post.
Skworchinski and Kerr both had golden opportunities in the final 30 seconds of the period, but Zaba hung strong in between the pipes for the Tigers.
The Tigers came out hungry in the third, but Nolan was again equal to the task. Among his several key stops he made a huge stop on Sweatt, who fired a long slapshot from near the blueline. Nolan finished the period with eleven stops and made 25 for the game. The shutout was the first of his career.
“I have to give credit to the guys on the team in front of me,” said Nolan. “I had been fighting the puck of late, so tonight I just tried to keep things simple.”
Zaba was forced to make a tough save on Shelast’s attempt at a wraparound six and a half minutes in. He also came up big with a stop on Foote with just five minutes left. He finished the game with 20 saves.
“We wasted a very good goaltending performance from our senior,” said Owens. “He covers a lot of our mistakes to keep us in these games.”
Neither team could muster anything on the man advantage. The Huskies finished zero-for-four while the Tigers finished zero-for-four as well.
The win also gives Nolan seven for the season after not recording a single victory a season ago.
The goal gave Shelast a point in his fifth straight game (4-1=5), marking the first time since 2005-06 when Brandon Schwarz had six points in five games.