COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Colorado College Tigers had gone more than two years without a victory against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. No longer.
That streak ended tonight as the Tigers held off a young but talented Gopher squad, 3-1. CC forward Bill Sweatt had a goal and an assist while linemate Andreas Vlassopoulos added two helpers. Minnesota defenseman Cade Fairchild scored the lone goal for the Gophers.
Behind a standout debut of 23 saves from freshman goaltender Richard Bachman, CC battled Minnesota the entire game, exhibiting lots of energy and poise, particularly from their backline.
“Our D-core was outstanding,” said CC coach Scott Owens. “Guys like (Nate) Prosser and (Brian) Connelly stepped up, and we had just enough to hold on and beat these guys. We don’t quite have the high-flying skill that we used to have.”
Early on, the Gophers had the early spark as they put the first two shots on net. Both teams appeared to be feeling each other out until the first penalty of the contest when CC drew a call at 2:56 of the first period on Minnesota’s Derek Peltier. The home team failed to convert on the first man advantage, despite a quick dash from the right wing by Sweatt.
CC drew the second power play of the game as well, but did not generate any shots and had to rely on freshman goalie Richard Bachman to make two short-handed saves on Minnesota’s Mike Howe.
After some hard hitting from Minnesota’s David Fischer and CC’s Jack Hillen, the Tigers made the Gophers pay though on its third man advantage. Following a penalty to Gopher freshman defenseman Stu Bickel, CC held position in the Minnesota zone. After more than a minute of cycling the puck, CC sophomore center Andreas Vlassopoulous found fellow sophomore Bill Sweatt in the middle slot where Sweatt slid a quick wrist shot past Frazee at 12:28 to make it 1-0.
Before CC fans could settle back in their seats, Minnesota came charging back. Left winger Ben Gordon led a rush in the neutral zone, sent a saucer pass to center Blake Wheeler who skated in from the left faceoff circle and found a wide open Cade Fairchild to the left of Bachman. Fairchild’s first goal of the season came at 13:07 of the first period. Ben Gordon had the second assist on Minnesota’s goal.
The Gopher attack kept coming as they drew a penalty on CC defenseman Brian Connelly at 13:26 of the first period. Minnesota peppered Bachman with three point-blank shots and a screaming shot from Derek Peltier, but was unable to convert on its first power play opportunity.
For several minutes thereafter, CC and Minnesota each tried to attack from behind the net, but neither was able to set up anything down low.
Seconds into the second period, Minnesota skated into the CC zone only to turn the puck over. CC left wing Scott Thauwald picked up the puck and hit RW Eric Walsky near the CC blue line. Walsky skated end-to-end untouched and fired a hard shot high past Frazee to make it 2-1 CC. Walsky, a transfer from Alaska-Anchorage, tallied his first goal with just 25 seconds left in the first period.
Minnesota’s young backline made great plays in the second, including a pass to Mike Hoeffel who found Kyle Okposo for a shot in the slot. Bachman stood tall on Okposo and on an odd-man rush one minute later. Following matching roughing penalties to CC’s Brett Wysopal and Minnesota’s Ben Gordon, Tiger center Chad Rau made a daring wraparound attempt to the right of Frazee, but was denied.
Led by their top line of Okposo, Jay Barriball and Mike Hoeffel, the Gophers put the clamp down for a moment with a two-minute rush. CC found itself in the penalty box at 11:18 from an Andreas Vlassopoulos holding penalty. But on this occasion, the Gophers were held to zero shots and nearly gave up a shorthanded goal.
CC’s Scott McCulloch found a vacant puck as he turned towards the Minnesota blue line. McCulloch skated one on one with Frazee deked to the right and shot a soft backhand that hit the near post. The goal light came on, but the goal was waived it off. After a quick review, the call stood and the game remained 2-1. CC didn’t catch a break there but it benefited from its strong play throughout the contest.
“The best team won today,” said Minnesota Head Coach Don Lucia. “I thought CC played on their toes-we played on our heels. They were the more assertive team tonight.”
In the third period, Minnesota failed to convert on an early power play and registered just one shot on the man advantage.
After a few moments of dumping and chasing by both teams, Blake Wheeler and Justin Bostrom each had chances from opposite faceoff circles in the CC zone, but both had their shots blocked by a pair of Tiger defensemen.
Back came the Tigers when Bill Sweatt came inches of scoring his second goal of the evening when his wrist shot from the left wing hit the left post.
Less than a minute later, Minnesota’s Evan Kaufmann skated around a CC defender and found himself with Bachman, but wasn’t able to hit the back of the net.
With both teams creating very few scoring chances, the Tigers made it a two-goal game at 11:04 of the third period. CC senior winger Derek Patrosso collected a failed pass from Vlassopoulos, caught Frazee going down early and fired a shot high from deep in the slot to make it 3-1. Sweatt added an assist on the goal. Patrosso was in the right place at the right time, but said his tally was nothing compared to the play of Bachman.
“I was impressed with the play of our freshman goaltender,” said Patrosso. The way he handled the pressure of coming into the first game playing the Gophers-I thought he handled himself well. He made some key saves.”
The Gophers pressed to get back in the game with a hard push, but were tempered by Bachman and strong defensive play from CC’s forwards and defensemen. Frazee kept the Gophers within striking distance of the Tigers, but did not think he had the complete game his needed to win.
I don’t think I played with energy in my position,” said Frazee. “I think I need to play with energy in order to play my best.”
CC and Minnesota continue their two-game series Saturday, Oct. 20 at the Colorado Springs World Arena. Game time is 7:07.