COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — After a disappointing weekend last week at Michigan Tech, the No. 6 Colorado College Tigers looked to regroup at home. Coach Scott Owens mixed up his lines, and a new top line of Mike Testwuide, Chad Rau and Bill Sweatt lead the Tigers to a 5-2 win over the No. 10 Clarkson Golden Knights. Testwuide had two goals and 11 shots on goal, while Sweatt had two assists.
“It was nice to get back home on the big sheet, and it was very nice to score five goals,” said Owens. “It was even nicer to have the puck in their end most of the time. I think that Billy has the outside speed and can open things up, Chad’s just a solid player, and Testwuide, as long as he’s doing things like a power forward, he’ll be effective. They were able to sustain very well.”
The game started slowly, with both teams feeling each other out on the ice. The Golden Knights pounced first on a crazy bounce. Adam Bellows took a slap shot from the right point that hit a Tigers’ skate in front of the net. The puck came right to Chris D’Alvise in the slot, and D’Alvise took one stride to his left and fired it top corner stick side at 1:58.
“I thought we had a good start to the game,” said Golden Knights’ coach George Roll. “We had some real good chances in the first, but they wore us down. Offensively, we haven’t seen a team like that that cycled the puck as well as they did.”
The Tigers absorbed that blow however, and started peppering Golden Knights’ goaltender David Leggio. At 10:48 of the period, Tyrell Mason was whistled for slashing when Mike Testwuide got behind the defense on a breakaway and cut across the crease. Mason’s slash disrupted Testwuide just enough that he couldn’t get his backhand past Leggio.
As the ensuing power play ended, the Golden Knights failed on a clear and the puck came to Jimmy Kilpatrick in the left corner. Kilpatrick passed it to Eric Walsky at the bottom right of the left circle, and Walsky fed it cross-crease to Scott McCulloch alone on the far post. McCulloch fired it into the empty net at 12:49.
The Tigers built on that momentum, and spent most of the rest of the period keeping the Golden Knights bottled up in their zone with an aggressive forecheck. However, despite firing 14 shots on net in the period, twice that of the Golden Knights, they were unable to grab the lead.
The second period opened up a little more. Bryan Rufenach made a nice defensive play with his stick to break up a Tigers’ two-on-one chance early.
Clarkson regained the lead at 4:03 when Brandon DeFazio sprung David Cayer on a breakaway. Cayer skated low, cut to his backhand and lifted it top corner stick side.
“We’re just not used to playing on that ice,” said Roll. “We tried to stay inside in the dots, but I think the biggest problem with us was the transition game. We threw a lot of pucks up the middle of the ice, and against them, that’s where they burn you. We have to do a better job of keeping the game along the wall.”
The Golden Knights couldn’t build on that momentum however, as the Tigers quickly used their speed to start generating more chances.
“We used the width of the ice,” said Testwuide. “Tonight we were using both sides of the ice.”
At 8:31, Bill Sweatt came flying down the left side. As he cut to the net, he fell to the ice, but still slid the puck on net. Leggio tried to poke check it away, but it came right to Testwuide at the bottom of the left circle, and he backhanded it in along the ice.
“The bounces were there tonight,” said Testwuide. “Billy made an unbelievable rush. He has such great speed wide and he got a shot to the net, and I went five-hole on my backhand.”
Buoyed by the goal, the Tigers started flying all over the ice. Scott Thauwald had a chance from down low, but got tied up by a Clarkson defender. Leggio made two huge saves with his glove, one on a laser from Andreas Vlassopoulos from the left circle, and a highlight reel save when Sweatt came flying down the left side and fed it to Testwuide coming down the right side. Leggio somehow managed to scoop up Testwuide’s tip-in try from the slot.
“We finally got to turn it into a big sheet game, and I think that was key for us,” said Owens. “We had a lot of people chipping in.”
It seemed to be only a matter of time at that point, and the Tigers struck late. Kilpatrick picked up the puck low on the left side and banked a pass behind the net to Vlassopoulos in the right corner. Vlassopoulos one-timed a pass to McCulloch in the slot, and McCulloch lifted it top corner stick side at 17:16 to give the Tigers the lead heading into the third.
“I thought he (Leggio) kept us in the game and gave us chance to win,” said Roll. “It was a barrage against him tonight.”
The Tigers continued forechecking and got a power play opportunity at :32 of the third. Sweatt and Testwuide quickly capitalized. Sweatt skated down the right side and cut hard to the net, then threw it into the crease, where Testwuide stuffed it past Leggio at 1:49.
“It was a relief to get the fourth goal,” said Owens. “Their sticks are so good; they’re very opportunistic. You’re sitting there at 3-2, and even though you’re outshooting them, you’re worried about it, so that was a big goal for us.”
Tigers’ forwards continued to buzz for chances. Thauwald had an open net from the low slot, but his shot dribbled wide when Dan Reed got him tied up. Leggio continued to come up big, robbing Rau on a one-time chance and making a big glove save on Tyler Johnson’s chance after a giveaway by Rufenach.
With just over seven minutes left, the Golden Knights got their first power play and looked to close the gap. Instead, the Tigers nabbed a shorthanded goal. When a Clarkson forward couldn’t handle a pass at the bottom of the left circle, Brian Connelly came racing up and grabbed the puck and skated down the right side. He skated low before passing the puck through the slot to Thauwald, who backhanded it into the near side at 13:31.
“I thought he (Thauwald) played well all night long,” said Owens. “Maybe a fresh look on his line, and he gets on that shorthanded situation, he’s a different player; he plays like a big skill guy out there. It’s nice to see him get rewarded.”
The two teams faceoff again Saturday night at 7:05 p.m.