ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Andrew Gordon scored goals number 18 and 19 of the season, including the game-tying tally midway through the third period as fourth ranked St. Cloud State battled to a 2-2 tie with No. 13 Colorado College Saturday night at the National Hockey Center.
“Gordon just scores goals,” said freshman Andreas Nodl, who picked up the primary assist on both of Gordon’s markers. “That’s what he does. He’s the heart and soul of our team.”
Freshmen Kris Fredheim and Lee Sweatt scored for Colorado College (16-11-3, 12-8-2 WCHA), who are unbeaten in four consecutive Saturday night contests.
“[St. Cloud] did an awesome job of blocking shots last night,” said Fredheim. “We knew coming in that getting more shots through the defense was going to be important.”
Gordon opened the scoring late in the first period with a play that put the chemistry of the SCSU top line on display. Junior defenseman Matt Stephenson dished the puck off to Nodl, who immediately glanced it on toward Gordon, and Gordon’s one-timer from the bottom of the left faceoff circle found the back of the net.
“Tape to tape,” said Gordon. “It was just a well executed play.”
The first half of the second period was characterized by almost complete domination by Colorado College. The Tigers largely maintained control of the puck throughout the first ten minutes, peppering St. Cloud’s Bobby Goepfert with shot after shot while giving Zaba a respite on the other end.
In fact, it was not until a length-of-the-ice clearing attempt near the period’s midway point that SCSU was able to record their first shot on goal, while CC was approaching 10 shots on net.
Goepfert was weathering the storm calmly throughout the onslaught, making difficult saves look somewhat routine, but CC’s persistent pressure paid dividends about eleven minutes into the second.
With Goepfert screened in front, freshman defenseman Kris Fredheim took a shot from the top of the slot that hit the back of the net and rocketed back out, just avoiding Goepfert’s outstretched leg as he tried to move left to right across the crease.
“[Mike] Testwuide got it over to [Brandon Polich],” said Fredheim, recounting the circumstances of his first collegiate goal. “I’d had it earlier and fortunately I was right in the same spot to receive the pass.”
“CC carried the play in the second period,” said St. Cloud head coach Bob Motzko. “We turned the puck over and over in the second two nights in a row. It got set in our rhythm and just couldn’t get out of it.”
After giving up the tying goal, St. Cloud State (18-5-5, 12-5-5) found a new resurgence and began their own assault. This time, it was Matt Zaba’s turn to show off between the pipes. Fredheim would take a tripping penalty with six minutes left to play in the period, giving a boost to the Husky attack.
With some of their best looks of the game, St. Cloud started firing away from point blank range, but Zaba stood tall throughout. The closest St. Cloud State was able to come to scoring was a blast by Gordon, standing in the middle of the slot, that rang off the crossbar. In all, Zaba made 11 saves during the middle frame, nearly all coming after Fredheim’s goal.
“They’re an excellent team on the transition,” said Nodl. “They’re a good skating team and they took advantage of our turnovers throughout the second.”
Failing to find the net on their first three opportunities with the man advantage, Colorado College went to work early in the third period looking to take their first lead of the weekend. Holding the zone long enough to cycle the puck a few times, senior Lee Sweatt dished the puck to his younger brother, Bill.
The freshman forward had the puck on a string as he weaved his way around the SCSU penalty killers, skated to the top of the slot, and fired a wrist shot behind a screen supplied by fellow freshman Addison DeBoer. The puck slipped through Goepfert’s five-hole and put the Tigers ahead 2-1 about five minutes into the period.
“We actually lost the puck right before that,” said Bill Sweatt. “Our power play unit has been getting harped on to retrieve those loose pucks. Lee took it back and we got what we needed.”
After a series of near-misses and with the home crowd getting restless, St. Cloud State found the tying goal midway through the third. With the draw in the CC zone, a tieup in the faceoff dot left the puck sitting in the center of the circle.
Freshman Andreas Nodl rushed in and tapped the puck to Gordon near the boards, who promptly shot the puck on net, beating Zaba on the far side using the disintegrating faceoff setup as a screen.
“That was instinct on Nodl’s part,” said Gordon. “When you have a hockey brain like he has, things like that come real easy.”
Colorado College pushed late to retake the lead, but were stonewalled by Goepfert 13 times during the third.
The game ended after a fairly even overtime period. Both teams had opportunities to develop set plays with less than fifteen seconds to play in the additional stanza, but neither were able to control faceoffs in their attacking zones.
Goepfert had a total of 30 saves for the game, while Zaba finished with 23.
St. Cloud State enjoys a two-point cushion over third-place Denver, and sit four points behind Minnesota in the race for the MacNaughton Cup. Colorado College is just a point behind the Pioneers and lead fifth-place North Dakota by three points. Both teams have six games remaining in the regular season.
Colorado College returns home next weekend for another important WCHA series, facing No. 2 Minnesota.
“We know we can carry some momentum out of this game and into next weekend,” said Bill Sweatt. “If we play our gritty style, we can compete with anyone in the league and I think we showed that this weekend.”
St. Cloud State travels to Madison, Wis. for a pair of games with defending national champions Wisconsin.
“We don’t want to be sitting on the couch rooting for other teams,” said Gordon. “We’re still in a position where we control exactly where we finish and the longer that stays true the better off we will be.”