Tigers battle back to tie No. 4 Minnesota (with interview video)

Minnesota was only 20 minutes from reclaiming a spot atop the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings as it headed into its holiday break with a road sweep of Colorado College on Saturday night.

The Tigers would have none of that.

The never-say die Tigers rallied with three unanswered goals to stun No. 4 Minnesota and pick up a huge home point with a 4-4 tie after entering the third period trailing 4-1. CC senior Rylan Schwartz completed the rally when he ripped a one-timer past Minnesota freshman goalie Adam Wilcox with 24.6 seconds left in regulation after CC junior Alexander Krushelnyski, another Tigers hero in the third period, sent a crossing pass from along the near boards to the far post where Schwartz was unmarked.

Schwartz finished with two goals and an assist, including two points in the third period, while Krushelnyski recorded two goals and an assist in the final 16 minutes of regulation.

“Every night, certain guys step up and spark the team,” Krushelnyski said. “It just happened to be my turn. You have to give credit to Rylan for burying that puck to tie it. You also have to give credit to (Thorimbert) for shutting them out over the final 45 minutes.”

The comeback was big for a Tigers squad that has now gone 1-5-2 over its last eight games to drop into seventh place in the WCHA with two fewer league games played than most of the league. CC travels to third-place St. Cloud State, which is tied with Minnesota State, this weekend.

“We took a little step in the right direction,” Schwartz said.

Saturday’s result was comparable to the 4-4 tie against then-No. 5 New Hampshire, which had the Division I’s best scoring defense then. This time the rally came against the WCHA’s best scoring defense (11.88 goals),

Despite Denver’s 6-3 loss at North Dakota, the Pioneers are one point ahead of the Gophers (11-3-3, 6-3-3) as DU heads into its final weekend before the holiday break. UM is idle until it plays Air Force in the Mariucci Classic Dec. 29 while Denver (9-5-2, 7-3-2) travels to Bemidji State Dec. 14-15. DU’s winless streak is now at six games, the program’s longest such stretch since the 1999-2000 season.

“Some ties feel good and others feel like a loss,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. “This feels like a loss. We were up 4-1 and could have made it 5-1 but we didn’t put it away and to their credit they battled back. It is disappointing we let a point slip away.”

Colorado College (8-8-2,-5-4-1)  got back into the game when Krushelnyski scored a shorthanded goal with 15:46 left and scored again 1:47 later to trim the Minnesota lead to 4-3. Krushelnyski’s first goal of the night came after Rylan Schwartz collected a loose puck in the Tigers zone and passed to the junior to  start a 2-on-1 breakaway. Krushelnyski fired the shot past Wilcox’s glove attempt to energize what had been a silent announced crowd of 6,954 fans at World Arena.

They were quiet no longer.

Krushelnyski’s second tally came after CC senior defenseman Mike Boivin fired a hard shot that went off Wilcox’s leg pad and ended up in front where Krushelnyski beat a UM defender to the puck to knock in the rebound.

And suddenly, Minnesota was battling to hold on. CC drew a penalty a couple minutes later but was unable to generate more than one shot (Krushelnyski). The Tigers continued to harass Wilcox but Minnesota weathered the storm.

CC came close to tying the game with 1:23 prompting a video review when Wilcox had to reach back to grab a loose puck in the crease. It was ruled the puck did not cross the line.

The rally continued a pattern of the Tigers falling behind only to battle back, usually falling short during this stretch, which included losing last Saturday against North Dakota after leading in the third period and falling after entering the third tied on Friday against the Gophers. CC has led in only 14 if its 18 games this season.

“It is starting to get kind of embarrassing,” Schwartz said. “We need to start better.”

“We know we can come from behind,” Krushelnyski said. “It’s a good asset to have. If we could add good starts we could be unbeatable.”

“It is a big point for us, especially after last Saturday and last night.” Tigers head coach Scott Owens said. “It reinforced a few things we have been talking about. I am proud of the team’s effort.”

Earlier, Schwartz scored the Tigers’ fourth power-play goal since the Bemidji State series in October. His wrister whizzed over Minnesota freshman goalie Adam Wilcox’s shoulder to make it 3-1 with 11:30 left, coming only 11 seconds into the man advantage.

The Gophers regained control when Mike Reilly scored an unassisted goal after collecting a loose puck in the Tigers zone and beating CC junior goalie Josh Thorimbert on a hard-angle shot inside the far post.

Minnesota seized control early when Tom Serratore, the Colorado Springs native who scored the game-winner on Friday, banged in a rebound after Nate Condon’s shot caromed off Thorimbert’s chest pad into the air and landed to Thorimbert’s left in front of an open net with 15:21 left in the first period.

Only 28 seconds later, a CC penalty set up Kyle Rau’s power-play goal only six seconds into the man advantage. Zach Budish won the faceoff, sending the puck back to Nate Schmidt who passed to the opposite faceoff circle from where Rau wristed a shot over Thorimbert’s shoulder as he slid over. That score made it two Gopher goals in only 34 seconds.

The game was the final WCHA regular-season game between the two programs with Minnesota leaving for the new Big Ten league and CC headed to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with the start of the 2013-14 season.

Seth Ambroz fired a hard shot through traffic from the right point with 5:28 left to make it 3-0.

No. 4 Minnesota 4, No. 19 Colorado College 4

Minnesota          3              1              0              0              –4

Colorado College             0              1              3              0              –4

First period – 1. Minnesota, Serratore (Condon, Ambroz) 4:39; 2. Minnesota, Haula (Schmidt, Budish) 5:13; 3. Minnesota, Ambroz (Schmidt, Boyd) 14:32. Penalties – CC, King, tripping, 5:07; UM, Helgeson, cross checking, 12:21; CC, Skalbeck, slashing, 12:21; CC, Rapuzzi, roughing, 19:22.

Second period – 4. Colorado College, Schwartz (McDermott, Winkler) 8:30 (PP); 5. Minnesota, M. Reilly (unassisted) 15:41. Penalties – UM, Ambroz, holding, 1:32; CC, Schwartz, slashing, 5:59; UM, Haula, tripping, 8:19; CC, Collett, tripping, 10:59; UM, Isackson, hooking, 15:52; CC, Boivin, roughing, 16:15.

Third period – 6. Colorado College, Krushelnyski (Schwartz) 4:14 (SH); 7. Colorado College, Krushelnyski (Boivin, Rapuzzi) 6:01; 8. Colorado College, Schwartz (Krushelnyski, Winkler) 19:36 (EX). Penalties – CC, Bradley, high sticking, 2:30; UM, Isackson, roughing, 8:56.

Overtime – No scoring. Penalties – none.

Power play – Minnesota 1-6, Colorado College 1-4. Shots on goal – Minnesota 11-10-5-3 — 29; Colorado College 11-6-9-1 – 27. Saves-minutes – Minnesota, Wilcox 11-5-6-1- 65:00; Colorado College, Thorimbert 8-9-5-3- — 64:01. Referees – Bokai, Thul. Linesmen – Stankevich, Stodgell. Attendance – 6,954.

Saturday’s lines: Minnesota at CC

rp_primary_2012-13_Rapuzzi_MN1Minnesota

LW-C-RW

Rau-Bjugstad-Isackson

Warning-Haula-Budish

Serratore-Condon-Ambroz

Reilly-Boyd-Holl

LD-RD

Parenteau-Schmidt

Marshall-Alt

Helgeson-Skjei

Goalies — Wilcox, Coyne

Colorado College

LW-C-RW

Skalbeck-Schwartz-Rapuzzi

Krushelnyski-Winkler-Taft

Wamsganz-Bradley-Hamburg

Morin-Collett-Hanson

LD-RD

Stoykewych-Boivin

Marciano-McDermott

Young-King

Goalies — Thorimbert, Howe, Lockwood.

Serratore lifts Gophers past Tigers in third

serratoreNo. 4 Minnesota kept up the pressure and the Colorado College defense finally cracked, with hometown boy Tom Serratore scoring on a shot through traffic with 6:37 remaining in the third period to lift the visiting Gophers to a 4-2 victory on Friday night.

“For Tom, it’s big to score the game-winner in his hometown,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. ”He has been such a good solider. We moved him up to the third line and he has been producing.”

The goal came 47 seconds after a CC clearing attempt failed and the tiring Tigers could not clear the zone before the puck ended up in front for a shot CC goalie Joe Howe did not appear to see clearly with the four players locked up in front screening him. Serratore, the son of Air Force head coach Frank Serratore, was happy to bang the loose puck in.

“It is always good to score against the Tigers,” he said.

Minnesota’s Zach Budish scored an empty-netter with 1:08 left for the final margin.

The loss drops CC to 1-5-1 in its last seven games during a stretch of 10 straight games against ranked opponents to close out the first half. The Tigers have struggled to close out the close games, dropping to 4-6-1 in one-goal games (not including empty-netters).

“We have to find a way to win those close games,” said Tigers head coach Scott Owens. “I like the team. It was 6:37 left and we were right there. I would like to see someone step up and take charge.”

The Tigers held a upperclassmen-only meeting following the loss.

The game was delayed for seven minutes when Minnesota defenseman Justin Holl broke the Zamboni door glass as he tried to check CC junior wing Archie Skalbeck. Holl went high, missed the crouching Skalbeck and busted the glass to the delight of the announced crowd of 7,021 fans at Colorado Springs World Arena with 2:43 left in the third.

The Tigers awoke from their slumber in the second period thanks to their top line.

Senior captain William Rapuzzi took a pass as he skated across the face of the Minnesota net and backhanded the puck past UM freshman goalie Adam Wilcox to tie the game at 2-2 headed into the third period.

The goal was CC’s second in only 101 seconds.

“There were good things,” Owens said. “I like how the defensive corps played after (sophomore Aaron) Harstad went down.”

Harstad is out with an undisclosed upper body injury and will not play on Saturday, Owens said.

Rapuzzi’s ninth goal of the season came with 3:22 left, only 1:41 after Archie Skalbeck, who made the pass to Rapuzzi, scored off a pretty crossing pass from senior Rylan Schwartz to spark the host Tigers only 1:45 after Minnesota’s Sam Warning scored his second goal of the night and season. Skalbeck’s score made it 2-1 Gophers.

Warning scored three seconds after a UM power play expired on a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle to stake the visiting Gophers to a 1-0 lead in the first period.

He added his second goal of the night and the season when he corralled a loose puck in the left faceoff circle and wristed the puck under CC goalie Joe Howe’s arm as he slid over.

“It’s good to see Sam score,” Lucia said. ‘He had been hurt (nine games, upper body injury) and it took him a couple games to get back to speed. We needed him to score those two big goals or we would not have won.”

UM out shot the host Tigers 12-4 in the first period, but CC came back with a superior effort in the second to trim the advantage to 20-15. The Tigers, which gave up 88 sots last weekend and the 97 two weeks ago made some progress by allowing only 31.

“We did a good job keeping out of the box,” Owens said. “We had 2-3 pretty good efforts late but either (freshman goalie Adam) Wilcox came up with a play or we could not convert. I would like to have us get one goal on the power play.”

Notes

U.S. national junior prelim camp roster invitee Brady Sjkel of Minnesota was a coach’s scratch on Friday. … The Gophers’ ranks were depleted by the flu. … The Tigers held a seniors-only meeting after the game. … Last night’s CC lineup was identical to the previous Friday when it beat No. 9 North Dakota 5-2. … Minnesota coach Don Lucia served as head coach at CC from 1993-99, leading the Tigers to three WCHA titles, a 1996 national runner-up finish and a return to the 1997 Frozen Four. … UM sophomore Kyle Rau, younger brother of former Tiger standout Kyle, is a good harbinger of the Gophers’ success. They are 10-0-0 this season when he records a point. The Gophers won for the first time when he did not record a point. … Erik Haula’s two assists makes it 11 games in a row with a point or more. … Baseball Hall of Famer “Goose” Gossage, a Colorado Springs native, dropped the ceremonial first puck before the game. … Rapuzzi has recorded a point in eight straight games.

No. 4 Minnesota 4, No. 19 Colorado College 2

Minnesota          1              1              2 —         4

Colorado College             0              2              0              –2

First period – 1. UM, Warming (Marshall, Reilly) , 7:36. Penalties – CC, Hamburg, hooking, 5:33; UM, Isackson, boarding, 12:51.

Second period – 2. UM, Warning (Schmidt) 13:12; 3. CC, Skalbeck (Schwartz, Rapuzzi) 14:57; 4. CC, Rapuzzi (Skalbeck, Schwartz) 16:38. Penalties – UM, Reilly, interference, 3:29; UM, Haula, unsportsmanlike conduct, 6:33; CC, Bradley, unsportsmanlike conduct, 6:33; UM, Serratore, charging, 10:12; UM, Rau, unsportsmanlike conduct 17:10; CC, Hanson, unsportsmanlike conduct, 17:10.

Third period – 5. Minnesota, Serratore (Budish, Haula), 13:23; 6. Minnesota, Budish (Condon) 18:52 (EN). Penalties – UM, Holl, tripping, 6:54; UM, Helgeson, roughing,  19:50; CC, Taft, roughing, boarding. 19:50.

Power play – Minnesota 0-2, Colorado College 0-4. Shots on goal – Minnesota 12-8-11 – 31; Colorado College 4-11-11 – 26. Saves-minutes – Minnesota, Wilcox 4-9-11 – 60:00; Colorado College, Howe 11-7-9 – 59:48. Referees – Bokai, Thul. Linesmen – Stankevich, Stodgell. Attendance – 7,021.

Thursday reading: CC, TV, WCHA, UAA, CCHA, Hockey East, Army

TV imageCC fans: Please remember to bring a new or gently used stuffed animal for Saturday’s Teddy Bear Toss during first intermission of the Minnesota game.

Here are the preview notes for CC, including news that ROOT Sports will broadcast Friday’s game as will FS North and FS Southwest.

UM freshman goalie Adam Wilcox is the national Rookie of the Month for November. UNO’s Ryan Walters (15 points) was the player honoree, beating out a strong candidacy for CC senior Scott Winkler (14 points).

Minnesota closes out the first half of the season in Colorado Springs. Here are the preview notes.

Here is this week’s USCHO column on the WCHA, including a short feature on UND captain Andrew MacWilliam.

Bowling Green’s struggles are the subject of this week’s CCHA column.

Alaska-Anchorage lost a little-used walk-on player to Canada or the Division III ranks, where he can play more often.

The Hockey East coaches’ letters to Santa were intercepted once again by the USCHO columnist.

The Army captain is a Rhodes finalist.

CC falls to No. 18 in USCHO poll

After a home tie and loss, Colorado College dropped to No. 18 from No. 14 in the USCHO poll and still received some votes from USA Hockey.

Here is the latest Pairwise rankings, which show the Tigers (19th) are 0-6-1 against teams under consideration for the NCAAs. That has to change.

Minnesota is the top-rated WCHA team at No. 3 in both polls. New Hampshire moved up from No. 3 to No. 2 in both rankings while Yale made its first appearance in both.

The future National Collegiate Hockey Conference teams had seven of eight ranked. Idle Miami moved up from No. 5 to No. 4 in both polls while Denver dropped three spots to No. 5 in the two weekly rankings released on Monday.

North Dakota, CC’s foe this weekend, stayed at No. 7 in the USCHO rankings but fell to No. 8 according to USA Hockey’s 34 voters.  Idle Western Michigan dipped one spot to No. 10 in both polls.

Nebraska-Omaha is 13th according to the 50 USCHO voters and 14th in USA Hockey’s estimation.  St. Cloud State fell to No. 14 in USCHO’s poll and No. 15 in the USA Hockey ratings.

Saturday reading: Friday recaps, Enga, Heil, Roos, Slavin

Here is The Gazette’s game story on No. 2 Denver’s 6-5 road win over No. 14 Colorado College from Friday night and the Denver Post’s take.

Not surprisingly, all four WCHA games were very tight, decided by a total of two goals in two wins with two ties.

From the WCHA …

No. 3 Minnesota 2, Wisconsin 2

MINNEAPOLIS – Junior forward Michael Mersch scored his second goal of the game at 5:06 of the second period to lift Wisconsin into a 2-2 tie with Minnesota on Friday night at Mariucci Arena.

Minnesota Duluth 4, No. 5/6 North Dakota 4

GRAND FORKS — Senior defenseman Drew Olson scored at 14:08 of the third period to propel Minnesota Duluth into a 4-4 tie with North Dakota on Friday night at Engelstad Arena.

Michigan Tech 5, Bemidji State 4 OT

BEMIDJI — Freshman forward Alex Petan scored 2:12 into overtime as Michigan Tech scored the final four goals of the game to emerge with a 5-4 victory against Bemidji State on Friday night at Sanford Center.

This may cheer up a few CC fans. The USHL Chicago Steel are enjoying an 8-3-1 start entering  league play this weekend and three future Tigers are a big reason why.  CC signee Alex Roos leads the team in scoring with 13 points (7 goals) in 12 games, while Christian Heil leads the team in goals with 10 (12 points).

Both Roos, a 17-year-old Prairie Grove, Illinois native, and Heil, an 18-year-old who hails from Westminster, Colo, are joined by former Tiger and Steel assistant coach R.J. Enga and Carolina draft pick Jaccob Slavin, of Erie, Colo., also a Tigers signee. Enga and Slavin, a defenseman, missed games to win gold for Team USA at the the recent World Junior A Challenge.

CC moves up to No. 14, Denver now No. 2 in USCHO poll

Colorado College enjoyed the biggest improvement of any WCHA team in the weekly USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll, jumping five spots from No. 19 to No. 14 this week.

Denver improved from No. 3 to No. 2, passing Minnesota. North Dakota remained at No. 6.

St. Cloud State remained at No. 15 while Nebraska Omaha re-entered the rankings at No. 18. Minnesota Duluth fell out of the poll.

Thanks to an eight-game win streak, Boston College received all 50 first-place votes and retained the No. 1 ranking. Previously unranked Dartmouth (5-0-1) of the ECAC made its poll debut at No. 12.