COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Colorado College found itself in an unfamiliar situation; they were comfortably ahead at home and there were no white-knuckle moments to be had during the third period.
The Tigers (10-14-2, 7-10-1) could get used to that feeling.
“It was huge for us,” said CC sophomore Peter Stoykewych, who scored his first college goal, which proved to be the eventual game-winner in a 5-1 win over Minnesota-Duluth before an announced crowd of 6.923 at Colorado Springs World Arena. “We don’t get a lot of these fun wins.”
Stoykewych fired a hard wrist shot from just inside the blue line through traffic past a screened UMD freshman goalie Matt McNeely to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead with 14:59 left in the second period.
Sophomore right wing Charlie Taft was in front of the UMD net and appeared to obscure McNeely’s view of the shot, which came off an assist from senior center Rylan Schwartz.
That made it 2-1 and for the first time in a while, the Tigers added to their lead. Rylan Schwartz made a nice pass to an open Alexander Krushelnyski six minutes later to make it 3-1 headed into second intermission.
“Honestly, I really expected to come out harder for the first period, but they got better as the game went on,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin.
With his third assist, Schwartz moved past Pete Geronazzo, Tom Preissing,2 and Steve Strunk (87 apiece) and into a tie with Jay McNeill for 25th place on CC’s all-time list with 89 for his career. CC assistant Eric Rud is 24th with 90.
“I’m coming after him,” Schwartz joked.
He wasn’t kidding when he talked about the team’s more determined play and stronger overall team defense that keyed the win. That determination stemmed from a poor team performance in Friday’s 3-2 loss to the Bulldogs (10-11-3, 8-7-3) and a streak of 12 winning seasons that remains in jeopardy.
“We were a little pissed off,” Schwartz said. “We don’t want to be the ones to end that.”
Senior captain William Rapuzzi clinched the win — CC’s second in two weekends but only its third in 16 games (3-11-2) — with a hard shot past McNeely’s glove three minutes into the third period.
Finishing off an opponent is something CC had not done since home wins over Bemidji State in early November.
“We were not playing at a level we need to be,” Stoykewych said. “We know we can compete with anybody. We had to prove it to ourselves again.”
A turnover and little bad luck had erased an early Colorado College lead during the first period.
Minnesota-Duluth’s Keegan Flaherty forced a turnover by CC’s Jared Hanson and fired a centering pass on net that went in off Tigers defenseman Ian Young with 2:03 left in the opening period to tie the game 1-1.
It was the only goal senior goalie Joe Howe allowed.
He finished with 40 saves while the Tigers hit the ice to block 15 shots, including nine in the decisive second period.
“The guys did a great job blocking shots,” Howe said. “I created some of my own saves (off rebounds) but they played hard the whole game, even when we were up 5-1.”
“That was huge,” said Tigers coach Scott Owens. “Things were teetering a bit, especially after they scored that fluky goal with (two) minutes left in the first.”
“Their goalie was good all night and special when they needed him to be,” Sandelin said. “They capitalized on their chances and we could not. The game did not feel like a 5-1 game until the third period. They played well with the lead.”
The fluky goal erased an early 1-0 CC lead when senior defenseman Mike Boivin scored his 11th of the year when he skated over a step and fired a hard shot high glove side from between the circles to beat McNeely. That power-play goal was just the second McNeely has allowed in his last 10 starts.