COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — After finding themselves down 2-0 to start the game, the Colorado College Tigers scored five unanswered goals to beat the Minnesota State University, Mankato Mavericks Friday night 5-2 at World Arena.
“We got beat by a a good team tonight; they played good too,” said Mavericks’ coach Troy Jutting.
The Mavericks started off the scoring just 48 seconds in when Chad Rau coughed up the puck in the defensive zone to Kael Mouillierat, who fired a low shot from the left circle to beat Tigers’ netminder Richard Bachman (33 saves).
“I thought Mankato was as good as advertised,” said Tigers’ coach Scott Owens. “They won a majority of the puck battles, they were getting to pucks quicker than we were. We were very fortunate to win the game. We won the special teams game [and] Bachman was phenomenal in the second period. The game could have very easily been over at that point.”
13 minutes later, Mick Berge put the Mavericks up 2-0 after tapping in a Jon Kalinski cross-crease pass.
The Tigers cut the lead back to one three minutes later. With Kalinski in the box for slashing, Chad Rau one-timed a Jack Hillen pass past Mavericks’ goaltender Mike Zacharias (26 saves) to make it 2-1.
“We’re up 2-1 going into the second period, and we come out and had numerous opportunities to make it a 3-1 game at that time and kind of take some momentum,” said Jutting. “We couldn’t get it in.”
After CC’s goal, both teams had a flurry of chances and the Tigers almost tied it up on a late first period power play, but Zacharias held fast. Instead, the Tigers capitalized on the remaining bit of power play and tied it up 25 seconds into the second period off a Hillen blast from the high slot.
“That first goal I was really embarrassed to score because I had my head up and the puck just kind of jumped on me; a kind of Johan Santana change-up into the net,” said Hillen. “But hey, I’ll take them whenever I can.”
The second period was very back and forth, with both teams getting chances. However, Brian Connelly would break through with three minutes to go in the middle frame, giving the Tigers their first lead of the game on another power play.
“We had a great second period,” said Jutting. “20 shots on net; I don’t remember the last time we’ve had 20 shots on net in a period. Their goaltender did a great job.”
After a back and forth third period, CC extended its lead to 4-2 off Hillen’s second goal and fourth point of the night. Hillen took a bobbling pass from Eric Walsky and backhanded it past Zacharias.
“[Hillen is] a difference-maker out there all the time,” said Owens. “He’s got a positive impact on the game and tonight, offensively, defensively, calmness back there on a night that it was a little disheveled, to say the least. He settled things down.
“He’s playing great hockey right now. He may be the best or one of the best defensemen in the country right now.”
The Mavericks got a chance to tie it up with a late power play, but Rau sealed the victory with an empty-net goal with 22.4 seconds left.
“5-2 was not indicative of the game,” said Owens. “They deserved a little better fate.”
“I thought we played a good third period,” said Hillen. “That fourth goal was huge because they were just going to keep coming. We played 20 minutes tonight so we can be a lot better. We can try to put 60 minutes together.”
If the Tigers can manage a full 60 minutes, or even just another good period or two, they can clinch at least part of the MacNaughton Cup, awarded to the WCHA team with the best regular season record.
“I’m excited that we’ve given ourselves a chance to clinch a piece of the Cup, and I didn’t think I’d be saying that after the first period or halfway through the game,” said Owens. “But we’re excited to do that, to play, to get a piece of that Cup.”
The two teams face off again tomorrow night at World Arena. Puck drop is at 7:05 Mountain Time.