COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — It wasn’t a fan-friendly game, especially for the Colorado College faithful.
Michigan Tech executed its shutdown style of defense to perfection and took advantage of a CC defensive lapse early in overtime to gain a 1-0 series lead with a 2-1 win in the opening round of the WCHA playoffs.
Just 39 seconds into overtime of a 1-1 game, Michigan Tech right wing Jimmy Kerr redirected a pass off his skate to the tape of his stick and slid a wrist shot far side to beat CC goalie Matt Zaba. The puck passed Zaba, hit the inside right post and just crossed the goal line.
“We’re not looking to change our game in overtime,” said Michigan Tech coach Jamie Russell. “We still talked about getting pucks to the outside. We were able to get the puck in their zone and capitalized off the turnover.”
A solid all-around defensive performance by the Huskies left CC struggling to create offensive opportunities. Michigan Tech goalie Michael-Lee Teslak backstopped the win with 26 saves, and his team helped lighten the load by blocking 18 shots.
“It was the type of game we expected,” said CC coach Scott Owens. “They played very well — they play a very good system and they’ve got it down during this time of the year.”
“They’re a team that tries to frustrate you with their style of play and I think we did a good job not getting frustrated,” said senior left wing Scott McCulloch. “A couple of missed plays on our part and not bearing down late in the game and they capitalized on us.”
In a scoreless game after one, CC got on the board first in the second period on its fourth power-play attempt. McCulloch scrapped his way to a rebound off a point shot from Chad Rau that deflected off the pads of Teslak. McCulloch broke to the loose puck and chipped it over a diving Teslak for his 18th goal of the season.
Michigan Tech responded 10 minutes later on a well-executed second-chance play off a 3-on-2 rush into the Tiger zone.
Defenseman Lars Helminen held the puck inside the blue line on the right side and banked a shot off the boards just wide of the net and onto the stick of right wing Tyler Shelast. Shelast circled around the net and fed a pass to Peter Rouleau, who fired a wrist shot from the top of the left circle that made it through traffic. Zaba was down on one knee and never saw the shot coming, and the puck found the wide-open top right corner of the net.
Colorado College is 0-4-3 on the season when tied after two periods.
It was the Huskies’ first playoff victory since March 14, 1998, and their first win in 16 appearances at the World Arena.
“I thought the second and third period we were the better team,” Owens said. “We thought we could jump out on top of the series, and now it’s a do or die situation for us tomorrow.”
“We’re still scoring goals and the power play is still there,” said McCulloch. “We’re going to need a lot better start tomorrow and we have to get a 5-on-5 goal.”