GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Josh Thorimbert stood between the pipes as the overtime clocked ticked down, knowing any puck that slipped behind him could signal the end of a season.
However, the Colorado College goaltender stopped 44 shots and kept the Tigers’ (7-23-6) season alive en route to a 3-2 overtime victory over North Dakota (21-12-3) Saturday evening in front of 10,738 at Ralph Engelstad to force Game 3 on Sunday.
“It was a good hockey game and obviously Josh kept us in there to start the overtime,” CC coach Scott Owens said. “I thought for us to have success here, he’s got to be our best player —- and I thought he was our best player tonight. But I also liked the fact that we quietly went about our business.”
In much the same fashion of Friday’s matchup, the Tigers claimed the early advantage when Peter Stoykewich’s point shot was deflected into the net, his first goal since the overtime winner that sent North Dakota home at last season’s Final Five tournament.
With five shots apiece, the teams remained scoreless until the second period, when Colorado College followed suit of its two-goal lead it built Friday evening.
Scott Wamsganz carried the puck into the zone and snapped a shot from the top of the circle past Zane Gothberg (26 Saves) at 1:17 of the second frame.
North Dakota quickly responded, as Drake Caggiula went on to collect his second goal of the weekend on a tip of his own rebound in front of Thorimbert (44 Saves).
He wasn’t finished yet. With a 25-14 edge in shots to start the third, UND continued its rally, but couldn’t find the reflection on the scoreboard until Caggiula carried the puck into the zone. He left it back for Schmaltz, who shot it in on his backhand to keep North Dakota in the 2-2 hockey game.
“I thought we built our game throughout the 60 minutes,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “We probably wanted a little bit better start. We didn’t give up a whole lot, but we didn’t generate a whole lot in the first 10 minutes of the hockey game.”
After three periods, the clock signaled overtime, both teams suddenly in a race for the one goal that would send it ahead.
The Tigers claimed it first when Alex Roos’ shot beat Gothberg for the 3-2 win at 7:00 of the overtime, despite an 8-5 edge in shots for North Dakota.
“For a team that scores less than two goals a game, I thought we were a team that wanted to continue the season as long as we could,” Owens said. “I give them credit. When they get a couple of those lines going and when they get a rhythm, they’re really hard to contain, but I’m proud of our guys. On any given Sunday, anything can happen. It happened to us last year and we’re aiming to stay out and try to get to Minneapolis.”
With three of the four teams already set for the NCHC tournament next weekend, the Tigers are aiming to be the fourth lower seed team to clinch a spot.
At the same time, North Dakota’s drop in national rankings puts much the same pressure on the team.
“It’s do or die,” UND’s Jordan Schmaltz said. “I think we win, we put ourselves in a good chance to put ourselves in the national tournament. If we don’t, we can see our season end early.”
Overtime has become a familiar occurrence for the Tigers, but tonight proved a much different outcome.
“We’ve got about six or seven overtime losses,” Owens said. “But tonight, maybe we’re maturing a little bit and there was a sense of desperation. No one wanted this season to end, despite the fact that our record isn’t very good.
“Hopefully, we have some confidence from tonight and we’ll carry it over tomorrow, and we’ll get good goaltending again.”