Colorado College Tigers cannot match Minnesota-Duluth’s play in decisive second, fall in series-clinching rout

cc vs wmu2Fifth-ranked Minnesota-Duluth showed why it’s the two-time defending NCAA champions with a 6-1 rout of last-place Colorado College Saturday night.

The Bulldogs dominated the second period, potting four goals, including the game-winner just 59 seconds into the middle frame.

This weekend’s series sweep mirrored the one in Duluth in November — a close game won by the Bulldogs on Friday (4-3) followed by a rout on Saturday (5-0).

“We talked about that (Saturday) morning,” Tigers coach Mike Haviland said, referring to the team’s morning meetings. “This team across the hall elevates their game. You need to elevate our game and I think we did for the first 20 (minutes). But the game is 60.”

It’s a familiar pattern for the Tigers against the National Collegiate Hockey Conference powerhouse.

“In the last couple years against these guys we are really good against them on Fridays and on Saturdays they go to another level,” Haviland said. “We need to find that level. That’s the reason they’re two-time defending champs. They know how to go to that level and keep pushing you.”

The stats show it. With the win, Minnesota-Duluth improved to 91-2-3 (18-1 this season) since March 13, 2015 when taking a lead into the third period.

One of the few Colorado College highlights was when the Tigers spoiled UMD goalie Hunter Shepard’s shutout bid. A hard shot by Grant Cruikshank forced its way under the senior’s right arm and landed behind him. CC senior Nick Halloran tapped in his 11th of the season to make it 5-1 midway through the third. That excited the home crowd, but UMD scored about a minute later for the final margin.

Vernon stood tall against several quality scoring chances for the Bulldogs, making 11 of his 15 saves and allowing just the opening goal late in the closely-contested first period.

But the second was all Bulldogs (20-10-2, 15-5-2-0 NCHC).

An inauspicious start put UMD ahead 2-0 when Nick Swaney lifted in a wraparound attempt over Vernon’s left leg pad after seemingly surprising the freshman netminder. The tally came just 59 seconds into the middle frame.

That goal deflated the Tigers, who could not match UMD’s intensity and skill the rest of the second.

“The second goal is the one that really took the wind out of our sails,” Haviland said. “Verny (Vernon) needs to make that save. From there, they get all the confidence and we were on our heels. I didn’t see us with much bite there in the second. There were a couple easy goals our guys could have prevented, not meaning our goalie.”

A prime example came less than five minutes later when Luke Lohei split two flat-footed CC defenders and lifted the puck over Vernon’s shoulder by the near post. That ended Vernon’s night as Haviland tried to jump start the Tigers (11-19-2, 4-16-2-1) by putting in Ryan Ruck (23 saves).

But Ruck was rusty, having not played since Jan. 10 and not practiced much either.

UMD added two goals about four minutes apart. Noah Cates scored off a breakaway set up by a long pass by Scott Perunovich (31 assists) with 6:35 left. Quinn Olson and Cates then played back-and-forth with Olson burying the chance with 2:39 left for a 5-0 advantage.

CC almost got the break the Broadmoor World Arena crowd (3,043 announced) desired. When his penalty expired, Jack Gates jumped out of the box, but he over skated the pass and was unable to get off a quality shot during the final seconds of the period.  That summed up the second for CC.

Looking ahead to next weekend, postseason

Miami’s sweep of Omaha (3-0, 4-0) relegated CC to last place in the eight-team NCHC and set up an all-but-assured trip to top-ranked North Dakota for the first round of the playoffs on March 13-15.

CC plays No. 6 Denver in a home-and-home series next weekend with the Tigers needing a sweep to retain the Gold Pan Trophy. DU downed St. Cloud State 5-2 on Saturday to garner a road series split and keep its sights on garnering home playoff ice.

Ruck performed well at times, prompting Haviland to keep the door open on the transfer starting on Friday.

“We’ll reevaluate on Monday, but I certainly will think about it,” Haviland said.

First Leap Day loss

The Tigers are now 3-1-1 on Feb. 29th starting with a 5-5 tie against Michigan State in 1964. CC later won at Denver, 4-2, in 1980, at UMD, 5-1, in 1992 and downed visiting Minnesota State, 5-2, in 2008.

 

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: