COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Coming into tonight’s contest, Colorado College, Minnesota-Duluth and Denver were in a three way tie for second place in the WCHA. At the end of the night, CC moved past Duluth and Denver into a tie with Michigan Tech for first place in the conference. Andreas Vlassopoulos and his CC linemates were too much for the Bulldogs, as Vlassopoulos scored his first goal of the season and added two assists to propel the Tigers past UMD 5-3. Chad Rau had the game-winner for CC.
Tigers’ freshman goaltender Richard Bachman made 24 saves to improve his record to 4-1-0, while Duluth’s Jordan Fulton had a goal and an assist. Alex Stalock made 25 saves for the Bulldogs but fell to 4-2-1.
The contest began with a penalty-free seven minutes and some solid back-checking by both teams. The best chance for Duluth to grab the lead came nine minutes in when the Bulldogs’ Jordan Fulton and Justin Fontaine each had a close-range shot on Bachman, but neither could put the puck past him.
CC got on the board first when Vlassopoulos rifled a Derek Patrosso feed past Stalock at 14:07 of the first period. Vlassopoulos known by his teammates as “Dre,” along with Patrosso and Bill Sweatt, combined to score two goals and five assists on the evening.
“They’ve probably been our top line the last three or four games in a lot of different areas,” said CC coach Scott Owens. “That line has good chemistry, they’re in sync and now they’re starting to get a little bit of payoff for their hard work.”
Duluth returned the favor moments after Bulldogs’ defenseman Trent Palm was put in the box. Following a CC turnover in the Bulldog zone, Nick Kemp sent a last-second pass near the right hash mark to Matt McKnight who one-timed it past a confused Bachman.
In the second, CC grabbed a 2-1 lead at 5:28 on a power-play goal by freshman forward Stephen Schultz. The fourth line winger fired a deceptive shot from the point where it looked like the puck changed direction and skipped by Stalock. The play was reviewed for a potential high stick, and after about two minutes the goal stood and CC led 2-1.
The Tigers padded their lead three minutes later on a tally by Patrosso. Sweatt sent a turnaround pass to Vlassopoulos who found a streaking Patrosso alone in the slot where he shot a hard one-timer into the back of the net, making it 3-1 CC.
“These past couple of weeks we’ve been working hard in practice and I think we are at a point right now where we know where each other are without looking,” said Vlassopoulos. “We’re clicking right now.”
With things looking a bit bleak, UMD got the lead down to one off a CC miscue. The Bulldogs forechecked in the CC zone and Fulton corralled the puck off the back wall, turned and tucked in near the right post past Bachman.
Less than two minutes later, CC’s Chad Rau made it 4-2 Tigers. Rau gathered the puck in the neutral zone untouched, skated alone on a breakaway into the Duluth zone and beat a sliding Stalock low glove side.
“I thought the fourth goal was the turning point in the contest,” said Duluth coach Scott Sandelin. “After our second goal we started pressing a bit and made some bad decisions. They (CC) made some good plays and made us pay.”
The scoring didn’t end there for the Tigers. Fourth line center Brian McMillin scored an unassisted short-handed goal at 19:06 of the second period. McMillin took a shot close to the back of the net that caromed off of Stalock and across the goal line.
Duluth began the third period with a rocky start, surrendering two point-blank chances to Scott McCulloch and Tyler Johnson, respectively, but Stalock stood tall for the Bulldogs and his counterparts rewarded him with a quick goal by Fontaine at 2:14. Fulton and Josh Meyers each had an assist on the tally.
After a few minutes of dump and chase hockey and a sloppy play in the Duluth zone, CC tried to put the game away, but took one too many hits out on the opposition. Patrosso skated after Duluth defenseman Jason Garrison only to hit him from behind. Patrosso received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. The Bulldogs put a few shots together on the ensuing power play, but nothing came from close range.
The Tigers killed off the long penalty kill, and even drew subsequent penalties on Palm and Meyers. CC failed to score on the abbreviated power play or the 5-minute major to Meyers.
Duluth then had a small window late in the period to cut the lead to one, but Bachman made two keys saves, one on a penalty kill and one with the Bulldogs skating with Stalock on the bench for the sixth attacker.
Minnesota-Duluth and Colorado College finish up their series Saturday, Nov. 10 at the Colorado Springs World Arena. Game time is 7:07.