Opportunistic Tigers rely on defense to knock off No. 3 Minnesota Duluth

cc full rinkColorado College fans had waited since Dec. 8 to see their Tigers play at home. The Tigers made sure the crowd felt it was worth it.

A strong defensive performance by the hosts led to Minnesota-Duluth turnovers and sparked CC to a 4-1 victory Friday night at The Broadmoor World Arena.

CC extended its win streak to a season-best three games. It was also the highest ranked opponent CC has defeated at home since Feb. 4, 2011, a 3-2 victory over then-No.2 Denver, under former coach Scott Owens.

On Friday, it started with good defense all over the ice. The Tigers (11-12-3, 5-7-2 NCHC) did a good job harassing the Bulldogs, taking away time and space to force turnovers and generate pressure that led to some unforced miscues as well. Not coincidentally, CC has allowed just 17 goals in its 11 wins and 53 in the other 15 games (0-12-3).

“We played a smart, direct, simple hockey game and you have to play that against them,” CC coach Mike Haviland said. “Guys are understanding and buying in that we have to limit their chances. We have limited our mistakes in the past month and a half. You guys haven’t really seen us, but we have played pretty well. It was nice to get rewarded because they are playing well and playing the right way.”

The first two CC goals came almost immediately after UMD turnovers. A misplayed pass off the boards from Scott Perunovich to Nick Wolff led to a scoring opportunity for Christiano Versich, who passed over to a wide-open sophomore Troy Conzo for a 2-0 lead and the eventual game-winner with 12:47 left in the second period.

Earlier, the opportunistic Tigers went ahead 1-0 when Trey Bradley collected a UMD turnover behind the Bulldogs net, skated around front and fired in one smooth motion with 15:34 left in the first.

“He has been outstanding,” Haviland said. “Trey plays with that little edge. He is a competitor. I love his game right now.  He has been a major part why we have it going a little bit here,”

A good performance by UMD goalie Hunter Shepard (24 saves) kept it close early. He stopped two CC breakaways following turnovers and made another desperation save late in the opening period following another miscue behind the Bulldogs net. Shepard’s play offset an otherwise poor first 20 minutes for the Bulldogs (16-7-2, 9-5-1 NCHC).

But Duluth cut the Tigers’ lead in half when Peter Krieger deflected Noah Cates’ shot low and past CC goalie Alex Leclerc (40 saves) to make it 2-1 with 7:41 left in the second. UMD seized the momentum at that point, prompting a CC timeout with 3:36 left in the second.

It paid off.  While on the rush, Bradley found Conzo for a cross-ice pass for a 3-1 lead with 2:41 left, exactly five minutes after UMD’s tally.

“The first one was kind of a lucky bounce but the second one, Trey made a great pass to me and I just tried to get it the back of the net,” Conzo said. “The key for us was getting out to a good start, getting that first goal and playing with the lead. We were really good structure-wise tonight.”

CC sealed the win when freshman Grant Cruikshank fired in a rebound with 14:48 left in the third for his fifth goal this season.

“We played kind of brain dead a little bit,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “It was as bad a hockey game we have played all year.”

Ice chips

The loss dropped UMD into third place while CC (17 standings points) remained in sixth, pulling away a little after losses earlier Friday by Miami (12 points) and Omaha (11). … CC’s program record nine-straight road games ended Friday. … UMD is now 13-2-3 in its last 17 games against CC. The previous Bulldogs loss was 2-1 on Jan. 7, 2017 in Duluth. … CC senior Westin Michaud could play in his 100th NCAA game on Saturday. … UMD is 9-3 on Fridays and 7-3-2 on Saturdays (0-1 Sundays) this season. … Bradley recorded a career-plus-4 since he was on the ice for all four CC goals.  Chris Wilkie (one assist) tied his career-best at plus-3. … It was the second two-goal game of Conzo’s career (Feb. 9, 2018 at North Dakota).

cc vs wmu2

About paisleyhockey
I am a freelance writer specializing in sports with about 25 years of professional experience.

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