COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Michigan Tech allowed only two goals, but that was enough for Colorado College to turn the tables on the Huskies with a solid defensive performance en route to a 2-0 win to force a Game 3 in WCHA playoff action Saturday.
Plenty of scoring chances and superb goaltending on both ends highlighted Game 2, but CC came out on top by playing a physical game backstopped by goalie Matt Zaba’s 10th career shutout.
The Tigers got both goals during five-on-five play, something they haven’t done in their past two games.
Colorado College got the coveted even-strength tally on a second-chance goal at the 15:02 mark in the second period.
Michigan Tech goalie Michael-Lee Teslak thwarted an odd-man rush with a diving poke-check on Jimmy Kilpatrick that deflected to the corner, but Tiger left wing Braydon Cox followed up on the puck and fed it to Scott Thauwald, who banged in the one-timer. Kilpatrick, who was credited for the second assist, now has eight assists in his last seven games for a team-leading 25 helpers.
“Second-effort [goals] are huge,” said Thauwald. “We needed to be strong around the net, get those rebounds and bury that puck — that’s something we didn’t do last night.”
Colorado College’s power play, ranked third in the nation, has kept it in games throughout most of the season. Entering Saturday’s match, the Tigers had converted at least once on the man-advantage in its past 11 games.
Scoring opportunities come few and far between against the Huskies’ shutdown style of play. Michigan Tech has allowed just two goals or less in 23 games this season and leads the WCHA in penalty-kill percentage
“We talked about driving their D wide and finishing checks on their D, and I think we accomplished that tonight,” Thauwald said.
With a 1-0 lead after two, the Tigers gained momentum early in the third after a lucky bounce saved Michigan Tech. A shot from the point cleared traffic, deflected off a sprawling Teslak and bounced off the crossbar.
Less than a minute later, CC freshman center Andreas Vlassopoulos picked up a loose puck deep in the offensive zone and floated to the top of the point before releasing a subtle wrist shot. It appeared that Teslak didn’t see the puck through traffic as it beat him high glove-side.
Zaba posted another fine performance with 29 saves for the Tigers.
Like the Huskies in Game 1, CC players blocked multiple shots and kept the Michigan Tech offense in check throughout the third period.
“The guys feel good because they were able to give something back to Zaba. He’s been playing so well for us — he’s our go-to senior guy. Tonight he made several big saves in the second period and one in third.”
Zaba also had the puck bouncing in his favor and out of the net.
Michigan Tech had a close call just one minute into the second. A forced turnover in the corner created a wide-open one-time shot from the slot. Zaba blocked the point-blank shot and fell on his back to smother the puck as it rolled toward the goal line.
It wasn’t the only puck that nearly found the net in the game.
The Tigers missed a grand scoring opportunity in the closing minutes of the first when Teslak found himself out of position and Chad Rau’s wrist shot slid through the crease.
As the first two games of the series went scoreless after one period, there’s little doubt that getting the first goal in the deciding game will be crucial.
“We need to establish ourselves and hopefully rise to the occasion tomorrow,” said CC coach Scott Owens. “They’re going to continue to be very methodical with their system and it’s hard to get through.”
Sunday’s contest will mark the fourth time that CC has played a Game 3 in school history. The Tigers lost to St. Cloud last season and Michigan Tech in 1994, and beat Minnesota-Duluth in 1992.
The puck will drop at 7:07 p.m. MT at the World Arena.