COLORADO COLLEGE, Colo. — It didn’t take long for Colorado College Saturday night to pick up from where they left off in game one of their home series against the University of Wisconsin.
Just 21 seconds into the first period, the Tigers took advantage of an odd-man rush when forward Cody Lampl banged in the initial rebound off a shot from center Brandon Polich.
The Tigers carried that momentum through the rest of the game, skating to a 4-2 victory and a series sweep against the Badgers.
Friday’s contest was a physical game that Wisconsin controlled throughout most of three periods. Two scrappy goals by CC, one in the late stage of the third and another on a power play goal in overtime, seemed to foreshadow another barnburner set for Saturday’s showdown.
The Tigers carried that emotion into the series finale, playing a complete game at both ends of the ice and on special teams.
“Everyone wanted to get the sweep this weekend, and we were able to play 60 good minutes of hockey to get it,” said CC senior forward Braydon Cox, whose dramatic second period goal carried the Tigers to a 4-1 lead going into the third period.
Following CC’s early goal, Wisconsin responded back at the 7:32 mark of the first. Defenseman Matt Olinger’s shot from the point was knocked down in front of Tiger goalie Matt Zaba. Forward Jake Dowell scrapped his way to the puck and beat Zaba glove side.
It wasn’t long before CC found the net in a similar fashion for their second tally. Center Chad Rau batted down a re-directed shot with his glove to the right of Wisconsin net minder Brian Elliot, and beat him glove side with a spin-around wrist shot.
The Tigers came close to capitalizing on another loose puck opportunity with 13 seconds remaining in the first, but Elliot saved the Badgers with a sprawling, last-ditch glove save.
That missed opportunity didn’t slow down CC, as they came out blazing in the second period. An interference call to Wisconsin’s Jake Dowell during a 4-on-4 proved costly for the Badgers.
The Tigers ran a relentless 4-on-3 power play by cycling the puck and drawing the Badgers out of their triangle penalty kill. Chad Rau circled toward the slot and left a drop pass at the point to defenseman Jack Hillen, whose shot made it through traffic to beat Elliot top corner.
As well designed as the 4-on-3 scheme appeared for the Tigers, Hillen admitted it wasn’t something taken from the playbook.
“I think that was the first 4-on-3 I have ever been a part of,” Hillen said. “It’s just something that never really happens.
“We were looking for cracks in their defense because [Wisconsin] packs it in and plays really tight,” Hillen said.
Less than two minutes later, Tiger right winger Cody Lampl hit a streaking Braydon Cox in the neutral zone, who broke loose for a 1-on-1 and followed up his own rebound with a diving effort to beat Elliot stick side.
The Badgers’ struggling special teams continued to plague them, going 0-for-7 on the power play Saturday. They failed to find a rhythm on man-advantage situations, struggling to set up in the offensive zone, and CC’s hard-nosed penalty kill units blocked shots and cut off passing lanes.
Friday night’s power-play goal is the Badgers’ lone in their last 28 attempts.
Tiger goalie Matt Zaba stood strong when his team needed him, stopping 31 shots on the Saturday’s victory puts CC just one point behind the University of Denver, who dropped a 6-4 decision to the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
The schedule only gets tougher for the Tigers, who face three top 10-ranked opponents in their final four series, including a next weekend’s series at St. Cloud State.