COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A soccer game broke out at the World Arena Friday night in Colorado Springs, Colo. The #3 Colorado College Tigers won a tight defensive game over the Michigan Tech Huskies before 6,430 fans.
“All in all, it was a hard-fought WCHA win against a good defensive team,” said Tigers’ coach Scott Owens. “I had the same thought (that they made us play their game). We were pretty physical tonight actually. We weren’t able to play a real speed game, and that was a little bit them and a little bit us. We weren’t able to get in our rhythm.”
The Huskies started strong, outshooting the Tigers 6-1 through the first 12 minutes, helped by several power plays. Early on, Alex Gagne had an open net to shoot at high with Bachman sprawled on the ice, but Gagne hesitated and tried to position himself a little better, allowing Nate Prosser time to knock Gagne and the puck into the right corner.
“They came out really, really well,” said Owens. “They came out really strong, and we came out flat again. It’s been a problem of ours on Friday nights, and we dodged a bullet, because it wouldn’t have been that difficult to be down to them 1-0, and when you’re down to them, it’s a different game. Credit them, but we hung in there and persevered.”
The Tigers gradually started to tilt the play more towards the Huskies’ end of the ice, and Nolan was called on to make several big saves. Chad Rau buzzed the net while on a power play, circling from the right side goal line out into the slot with the puck, but his shot was blocked by a Tech defender.
“I thought we had a good first period,” said Huskies’ coach Jamie Russell. “I thought we had some great chances on the first power play. Gagne had Bachman down and out and he just didn’t get it up and over him. I thought Robbie Nolan was outstanding. I think when you’re playing Colorado College, they’re such a good team in transition and if you try and force plays in the middle of the ice, they’re going to transition and come right down your throat. You’ve got to keep it on the wall and avoid costly turnovers. ”
The Tigers finally got on the board late in the first period. Scott McCulloch got behind the Huskies’ defense on a partial breakaway, skating in with the puck on his forehand, then shifted to his backhand and beat Nolan five-hole at 17:54.
“We came out slow and got a talking to in between the first and second,” said junior forward Bill Sweatt, who had an assist. “We came out and started playing our game and forcing our game on them and started to take it to them.”
In the second, looking at shots, the Tigers appeared to dominate, outshooting the Huskies 18-5. They did have several good chances, but the Huskies’ defense was more than willing to clog the shooting lanes and blocked six shots, and repeatedly collapsed down low to prevent the Tigers from taking advantage of the big ice sheet at World Arena.
“We knew coming into this that they’re a really tough team to play against,” said Sweatt. “They block a lot of shots down low. We knew we had to get ugly goals, We don’t get frustrated out there. ”
While on a power play, the Tigers had several good chances, but Nolan came up big. First, he stoned Sweatt as Sweatt cut to his left across the crease, then robbed Rau’s attempt from the left post off a great cross-crease pass by McCulloch. Sweatt had another attempt from the center of the crease, but Nolan made the stop.
“We needed a power-play goal bad,” said Owens. “We had them running a couple of times. McCulloch had that shot in the slot, and we had a couple others, and (Stephen) Schultz missed the back door one-timer. That would have opened up the game tremendously for us, but that’s been a little bit the way things have been going for us the first two weeks of the season and we just have to fight our way through it.”
The pattern continued in the third period, with CC carrying the play and the Huskies trying to keep it close. Even when they had a five-on-three for almost a minute, the Huskies chances were mostly limited to shots from the point. Bachman did make one nice stop on Gagne from right in the crease.
The Tigers finally built on their lead near the midway point of the third on a nice play by Sweatt. Sweatt carried the puck along the left side boards and went behind the net, and as he came out from the right side he threw the puck into the crease off Nolan. The puck squirted over to Rau in front, and he got the easy tip-in into the empty net at 9:48.
“I noticed their defenseman went down,” said Sweatt. “I just came around, I just tried to stuff it and Rau made a great play. He stuck his butt in front of the net, didn’t let the guy move him and just banged away the rebound, It was a great goal.”
The Huskies had one more late chance to close the gap with a power play at 17:11 when Tigers’ captain Jake Gannon was called for holding. However, once again Bachman made saves when he had too, and the Tigers kept the play to the perimeter.
“It shows a lot of character for your team when you can win a 2-0 game, a 1-0 game,” said McCulloch. “Those are important because in the playoffs those are the types of games you play. I think it’s a good experience for the young guys and the team and I think it will help us down the stretch.”