COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - For a third time this season, the top-ranked team in the country struggled against a seven-win squad that is last in its league.
But this time, No. 1 got the win.
Top-ranked Minnesota Duluth beat unranked NCHC basement-dweller Colorado College 2-1 on Friday night in front of 5,042 fans at Broadmoor World Arena, six weeks after tying and losing to the Tigers at Amsoil Arena.
Colorado College (7-20-2 overall, 3-14-2 NCHC) and UMD wrap up their regular-season series at 8:07 p.m. today in Colorado Springs with UMD still stuck in second place behind NCHC-leading Denver, whose lead remained a single point after a 5-2 win at Miami on Friday.
Once again the Bulldogs - who extended their unbeaten streak to eight games (7-0-1) - will find themselves in a must-win game with just three weeks remaining in a tight NCHC title race.
“We got momentum now so we just have to keep it rolling,” said UMD senior wing Alex Iafallo, who notched his 100th collegiate point by assisting on the game winner. “That was a huge goal. It definitely gives us momentum for the next game, like I said. For the league play, that’s an absolutely huge goal, especially on the power play. We’ve been working on the power play a lot. It gives us positive thoughts going into the next game.”
Freshman wing Joey Anderson forced the power play that led to the game-winner by UMD sophomore center Adam Johnson of Hibbing. While on a breakaway, Anderson drew a slash from Tigers junior defenseman Teemu Kivihalme.
With 4:44 remaining in regulation, Iafallo fed a pass to Johnson, who fired a wrister that was heavy on the mustard right down the pipe, past the screen of senior captain Dominic Toninato and into the Tigers’ net.
“We were moving it around well on the power play,” Johnson said of his game-winner. “I just wanted to get a shot on net so I rolled around. I think it was (Iafallo) who made a nice pass to me. I just tried to get it on net and (Toninato) had a great screen. We were lucky enough for it to go it. It was a big goal.”
UMD was unbeaten in nine straight against the Tigers going into the 2016-17 season, but that came to an end in a 2-1 loss on Jan. 7 in Duluth. The two teams tied 2-2 the night before.
UMD hasn’t lost since that series.
Like the first meeting in Duluth, the Tigers once again did what plenty others have struggled to do and that’s disrupt the Bulldogs’ flow up and down the ice. Colorado College got sticks in shooting lanes and bodies in front of shots on goal.
Tigers freshman goalie Alec Leclerc, who stopped 69 of 72 shots in two games in Duluth, finished with 27 saves Friday.
Tigers coach Mike Haviland said his team did a good job with the game plan, but a defensive mistake that led to Anderson’s breakaway was something that can’t happen with five minutes left. It left his team with no choice but to take the penalty, he said.
Haviland’s counterpart, UMD coach Scott Sandelin, also liked how his team played. There are always things to improve on, but he said it was a good win and good game for his team.
“I thought we could have done a little bit better job with a little more poise or moxie with the shots,” Sandelin said. “We fired some with our head down right into them, but they clawed and got up. They are good at blocking shots.
“We just have to do a little bit better job, but you know what? I don’t care. I don’t worry about how many shots you’re getting because I’d rather have the puck and make them defend. Hopefully we can do more of that and when you do that, maybe things will open up.”
The Bulldogs scored 10:55 into the game when junior wing Blake Young bounced the puck into the net off the post, shooting from a terrible angle. It was just the second goal of the season for Young, who was appearing in his 12th game this season.
The Tigers tied the game on a power play less than three minutes later after an unsuccessful clearing attempt by the Bulldogs. That led to freshman wing Bryce Van Horn scoring off a rebound for his third goal of the season.
Van Horn’s goal not only tied the game at 1-1, it quickly ended UMD freshman goaltender Hunter Miska’s attempt to earn his third shutout in six games and sixth of the season. Miska finished with 20 saves Friday.
Miska’s five clean sheets in 2016-17 are tied for the NCAA lead. He needs one more to set the single-season UMD record that he shares with Kasimir Kaskisuo (2015-16), Alex Stalock (2008-09) and Brant Nicklin (1997-98).
Miska - the first UMD goalie to start his college career 6-0-0 - entered the weekend with a 0.97 goals-against average and .967 save percentage in the last five games.
* The Bulldogs played two-plus periods with just five defensemen after senior Brenden Kotyk suffered a lower body injury during the first period. He remained on the bench the rest of the game, but didn’t play.
* Cloquet native and Tigers sophomore wing Westin Michaud finished pointless Friday, but he saved a goal. He took a hooking penalty in the second that saved a potential goal by preventing UMD senior center Dominic Toninato from getting open with Iafallo on a breakaway.
* UMD had to kill off a five-minute major penalty early in the third period after junior wing Karson Kuhlman of Esko was given a questionable major penalty for boarding when he and Michaud went into the boards together. Kuhlman wasn’t ejected for the hit, though.
* Sophomore wing Parker Mackay returned to the Bulldogs’ lineup after missing six games with an upper-body injury.
Minnesota Duluth.................... 1-0-1-2
Colorado College.................... 1-0-0-1
First period - 1. UMD, Blake Young 2 (Dan Molenaar, Jared Thomas), 10:55; 2. CC, Bryce Van Horn 3 (Sam Rothstein and Mason Bergh), 13:41 (pp). Penalties - Alex Berardinelli, CC (slashing), 8:23; Avery Peterson, UMD (slashing), 12:54.
Second period - No scoring. Penalties - Westin Michaud, CC (hooking), 12:39; Neal Pionk, UMD (slashing), 13:51.
Third period - 3. UMD, Adam Johnson 12 (Alex Iafallo, Dominic Toninato), 15:14 (pp). Penalties - Karson Kuhlman, UMD (major for boarding), 1:48; Matt Hansen, CC (interference), 8:46; Teemu Kivihalme, CC (slashing), 14:35; Bench minor, CC (too many men on the ice), 18:21; Willie Raskob, UMD (10-minute misconduct), 20:00.
Shots on goal - UMD 11-10-8-29; CC 5-11-5-21. Goalies - Hunter Miska, UMD (21 shots-20 saves); Alec Leclerc, CC (29-27). Power plays - UMD 1-of-5; CC 1-of-3. Referees - Tom Sterns, Joe Sullivan. Linesmen - Chase McGee, Steve Stankevich. Att. - 5,042.