Minnesota-Duluth converts critical power play, holds off CC’s comeback attempt

Colorado College goalie Matt Vernon and his 35 saves put the Tigers in position to knock off No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth on Friday.

But the last-place Tigers could not record the tying goal in an eventual 4-2 home loss to the two-time defending NCAA champions.

“I thought we were coming and we had some chances,” Tigers coach Mike Haviland said. “We had the push that we needed. We just didn’t get the third one. When you are that close against the No. 5 team in the country, you have to find a way to score there.”

vernon new jersey2

Duluth did convert thanks to the third major penalty called against CC versus the Bulldogs (19-10-2, 14-5-2-2-0 NCHC) this season in National Collegiate Hockey Conference play.

UMD defenseman Dylan Samberg put the Bulldogs ahead for good with 2:19 left in the second period during a 5-minute power play. That man advantage was set up by an interference call against CC senior Chris Wilkie, who leveled Tyler Laderoute at center ice. It also drew a game misconduct that ended the NCHC scoring leader’s night.

“I don’t have to agree with it (the penalty call) but we have to be smarter,” Haviland said. “That’s the third time we have taken a major against them and they made us pay. In the game up there on Friday, they had a score to beat us late (4-3, Nov. 22) and tonight it’s the game-winning goal.  It’s 2-2 and we cannot take that penalty.“

Vernon made eight saves during the extended power play to keep the Tigers in the contest.

“He settled down and did a good job,” Haviland said. “We have had a merry-go-round back there with injuries. He has given us a chance over the past 6-8 games.”

Minnesota-Duluth scored two early, but the hosts battled back.

Jack Gates tied the contest at 2-2 with 6:38 left in the second period. Wilkie cut the Bulldogs lead in half, 2-1, when he scored with 4:52 left  in the first period.

Two minutes earlier, UMD took a 2-0 lead with 6:52 left in the opening period when center Justin Richards won the offensive-zone faceoff cleanly, which led to a hard shot by Cole Koepke that resulted in a rebound for an unmarked Laderoute to tuck in past Vernon.

Koepke opened the scoring just 3:38 into the game when he knocked in his own rebound after another faceoff win for Richards.

Looking ahead to the NCHC playoffs

Miami picked up a 3-0 home win over Omaha on Friday, pushing the RedHawks up into seventh place at 4-14-3-2-0 league, 7-19-5 overall after enduring an 11-game winless streak. Last-place CC will play at either UMD or top-ranked North Dakota in the first round March 13-15.

Surging St. Cloud State knocked off No. 6 Denver 5-1 on Friday, moving within a point of the fourth-place  Pioneers in the standings and two behind third-place Western Michigan, which lost 3-1 at North Dakota.

Hockey Fights Cancer Night

As part of Hockey Fights Cancer Night, Janell Price-Smith, wife of former CC professor Andrew Price-Smith, and their children Will and Tori, took part in the pregame puck ceremony.

Last July, Andrew Price-Smith, who served as the team’s faculty advisor, succumbed to cancer at the age of 50. Price-Smith joined the school’s faculty in 2005 and was the founding director of the Global Health Initiative at CC.

Both teams used purple stick tape and wore helmet decals in support of Hockey Fights Cancer.

Ice chips

Omaha’s 24 shots were the second-fewest allowed by CC this season behind 22 by St. Cloud State on Nov. 15. Not coincidentally, both were Tiger victories. … UMD now holds a 105-82-10 advantage in the all-time series including a Bulldog sweep in Duluth earlier this season. … Wilkie entered the weekend leading the NCAA with 153 shots and shots per games (5.10). He recorded five shots on Friday.


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

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