GRAND FORKS, N.D. — After a 6-2 thrashing at the hands of North Dakota on Friday, Colorado College coach Scott Owens challenged his team to play like the veterans he knew they were.
The result was a 4-1 conference win on the road that enabled the Tigers to gain a split, ending a three-game losing streak and snapping the Fighting Sioux’s string of 11 unbeaten games at Ralph Engelstad Arena dating back to last season.
“We talked about not competing and not battling,” Owens said. “They had us on our heels so quickly last night, I was disappointed that as a veteran team, we didn’t bounce back. We challenged them to play like veterans play on the road, and I thought they responded.”
Senior defenseman Jack Hillen said it wasn’t so much doing anything differently, it was just doing things better.
“It really wasn’t the x’s and o’s that killed us last night,” he said. “It was not winning the little battles and not being tough enough and gritty enough.”
The Tigers won the special teams battle, holding the Sioux 0-4 on the power play, scoring a power play goal and notching a shorthanded goal.
“They came on top of that, and thats going to dictate a lot of games,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol. “Our power play just wasn’t as sharp tonight. We weren’t crisp.”
The Tigers also won the goaltending battle as freshman goalie Richard Bachman made 32 saves on 33 shots while Sioux senior goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux stopped 18 of 21 shots he faced.
Owens said Bachmans performance in goal was an important difference between the Saturday and Friday games.
“Not only does it keep them off the scoreboard, but it gives the team confidence,” he said. “You get a feeling that, hey, we got a shot here tonight, as good as this team is. He made some really good saves in the first period and he didn’t have to make a ton in the second or third.”
UND dominated the scoring chances in the first period, but CC came out of it with a 1-0 lead on a shorthanded goal by senior forward Scott Thauwald. Immediately after Bachman made a big save during a Sioux power play, Thauwald led a three-on-one rush down the left side, sniping a wrister past Lamoureux from the circle at 17:14.
“That wasn’t my intent, but I’ll take it,” he said. “I was trying not to let them go back door and I just kicked it out to our players and they took off with it. I was just lucky it hit me first.”
“That’s what we’ve tried to do on the penalty kill, be extremely aggressive,” Thauwald said. “Overall, being aggressive led to a few more scoring chances.”
Although UND ended the period with an 18-4 advantage in shots on goal, the Tigers had the lead, thanks to Bachman’s outstanding performance. Unlike the previous night, when the Sioux struck for three goals in the first period against junior goalie Drew OConnell, Bachman thrived on the early pressure.
“Actually, I enjoyed it,” he said. “I thought it was nice getting right into the game quickly. It takes everything away. It keeps you focused.”
“We put a lot of pucks on net, but we didn’t get to the top of the crease and put in any rebounds,” Hakstol said. “We needed to be a little bit hungrier in the first period and it might have been a little bit different outcome.”
UND tied the game in the second period, but the Tigers responded with a power play goal and an even-strength goal to take a 3-1 lead.
Sioux junior forward Matt Watkins received a pass from defenseman Joe Finley deep in UND’s zone that sent him in alone on Bachman. He got the goalie down and slid a backhander in behind him to tie the game 1-1 at 5:52.
It took CC just 8 seconds to capitalize on a power play opportunity after Sioux defenseman Robbie Bina was whistled for interference. Senior forward Scott McCullouch tipped defenseman Brian Connelly’s wrist shot from the point past Lamoureux at 9:54 of the period.
With UND back on its heels, CC struck again just 49 seconds later. Tigers’ freshman center Tyler Johnsons pass found junior forward Eric Walsky in the slot and his quick wrist shot beat Lamoureux high glove side to put the Tigers up 3-1.
CC continued to frustrate the Sioux through the third period. UND’s last gasp came on the power play with just under three minutes left. Hakstol pulled Lamoureux for a 6-on-4 advantage, but the Sioux couldn’t solve Bachman.
After the penalty expired, Tiger sophomore forward Bill Sweatt put the final nail in the coffin with an empty net goal with 11 seconds remaining, giving CC a 4-1 road victory.
Questioned about the goalie rotation between Bachman and OConnell, Owens said it’s part of a plan to slowly bring along the freshman. He said if Bachman would have played Friday night, he wouldn’t have been able to play Saturday.
“He (Bachman) plays mature, and we’ve been able to get him some situations where we felt he could have some success,” he said. “There was bound to be a little bit of a letdown by North Dakota after they handled us so well last night. We thought this was a good spot to put him in.”
Watkins said the Sioux, also a veteran team, learned an important lesson.
“You know in the WCHA that nobody’s going to take the second night off,” he said. “We’ve got to learn to put back-to-back efforts together and make sure we’re focused after a big win.”