Wilkie’s scoring outburst sparks Tigers during decisive third period versus Minnesota Gophers

WilkieCCH_MNDuluth020219_017_webColorado College coach Mike Haviland kept warning the media and fans not to forget about seniors Chris Wilkie and Nick Halloran.

Few are going to forget about them now, especially Minnesota.

Wilkie scored twice in 123 seconds and assisted the winning goal by center Ben Copeland to spark the Tigers to a 3-2 season-opening victory over the former league rival Gophers.

Wilkie was more concerned about Friday’s season-opening win than a hat trick, even if missing an empty-net chance stings.

“Obviously I would have liked to have the third one but we got the win so that’s all that matters,” Wilkie said. “I would have been kicking myself if they had gone down there and scored but it worked out.”

Tigers coach Mike Haviland cited the Tigers’ character as the hosts shrugged off a frustrating start and answered 10 seconds after Minnesota retook the lead on a goal by Scott Reedy midway through the third period. After being 1-0 for most of the game, the teams combined for three goals in 117 seconds to tie the game at 2-2.

Wilkie exemplified that, shaking off the frustration of seeing three of his shots clang harmlessly off the post, including two in the opening period.

“We were unfortunate early on with a couple pipes but we stuck with it,” Haviland said. “It is a great character win. That shows what we have in our room. (Wilkie) did not hang his head.”

“We were playing a good game right from the start,” Wilkie said. “It was just staying with it and keeping pucks going on net.”

Senior Nick Halloran recorded three assists as his speed – a welcome sign after hip surgery last season — helped create several scoring chances, which began to reach fruition during an entertaining final 10:50 of the nonconference game.

That line combination looks potent, especially with Wilkie and Halloran healthy. Halloran (13 points) and Wilkie (19 points) each played 20 games during injury-shortened campaigns. That led many prognosticators to overlook the offensive potential coming back that could offset those lost to graduation.

The line, including Copeland, recorded a combined eight points out of the nine for CC.

“We’re excited to be playing together,” Wilkie said. “Those guys bring so much speed and skill. I’m excited about what’s to come.”

Minnesota opened the scoring when defenseman Tyler Nanne ripped a shot from atop the circles to beat CC goalie Ryan Ruck (28 saves). He would bounce back with some strong saves to keep the game at 1-0 heading into the third.

The Gopher did a good job counterattacking off CC turnovers. Both teams suffered unforced turnovers as well – typical of a season-opener.

“They have a lot of skill – give them credit for that,” Wilkie said. “We have to be a little smarter with the puck and manage it better. Tomorrow is going to be an even tighter and better game.”

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

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