COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — North Dakota left World Arena with a sense of satisfaction after Dillon Simpson’s goal with 13.2 seconds left in regulation and freshman Drake Caggiula’s goal 51 seconds into overtime capped a comeback to salvage a road split against Colorado College with a 3-2 overtime win Saturday night.
The No. 18 Tigers (8-7-1, 5-3 WCHA) were left wondering what might have been if they had only cleared their zone one last time before an announced crowd of 7.021 at Colorado Springs World Arena.
CC was going for its first sweep of No. 7 North Dakota since January 2005.
“It is as tough as it gets,” said Tigers’ coach Scott Owens. “You’re 13.2 seconds away from sweeping the No. 7 team in the country [and] then you end up not getting a point. They get the tying goal and the bubble burst in overtime. It’s really tough right now.”
North Dakota put together its second complete game in a row, but looked headed to another frustrating loss with 1:28 left when coach Dave Hakstol pulled junior goalie Clarke Saunders for the extra attacker.
CC goalie Josh Thorimbert made two big saves over the next minute before a clearing attempt by CC defenseman Mike Boivin ended up short of the Tigers’ blue line. North Dakota (7-5-2, 4-2-2) retained possession and kept up the pressure, capped when Simpson one-timed a pass from behind the net from Corban Knight that beat Thorimbert high, knocking the water bottle off the top of the net.
For North Dakota, it was just a matter of staying patient.
“We played good hockey both nights,” Hakstol said. “Getting the win tonight helps us grow as a team.”
“This was big for us,” added North Dakota senior captain Andrew MacWilliam. “We worked hard and played well all weekend, but we were looking at leaving here with no points. This was an important weekend even though it can’t tell from the [game] points because [earlier this season], we would come out hard Friday and often lay an egg on Saturday. This weekend, we played [almost] 125 minutes.”
Simpson’s tally set up the overtime which lasted only 51 seconds with North Dakota controlling play against a Tigers squad that was trying to hold on since midway through the third period and was unable to cash in its best scoring chance with 11:45 remaining.
The momentum was firmly with North Dakota when Caggiula found himself alone entering the left CC faceoff circle.
“They gave me some room, so I skated in and shot toward my favorite spot [high glove],” Caggiula said. “Then it was just a matter of waiting to see if it went in.”
Thorimbert managed to get his glove on the shot, but was unable to squeeze the puck. It rolled over the top and bounced into the net to send the pro-North Dakota crowd into wild cheers.
Neither team could find the net during the second period, which saw North Dakota outshoot the Tigers 11-5. Thorimbert made one big save with both squads missing the net on decent scoring chances.
CC senior Rylan Schwartz’s wrist shot from the left faceoff circle beat Saunders, who finished with 18 saves, to tie the game at 1-1 with 15:46 left in a wild first period.
Knight scored only 34 seconds in when his crossing pass went in off a CC defenseman’s skate.
Thorimbert did not let the fluke affect him with a big save on UND freshman Rocco Grimaldi with 11:06 left on a shorthanded breakaway and on Connor Gaarder less than two minutes later to keep the game tied. He finished with 38 saves.
“From that point on, he shut the door,” Owens said. “We wasted a very good performance from Josh Thorimbert.”