Colorado College snapped a nine-game losing streak at the expense of Minnesota Duluth on Thursday at Amsoil Arena, winning 2-1 in a makeup game from December’s NCHC Pod in Omaha.
The Tigers, who were held to just 14 shots on goal Thursday, scored twice in the third period to rally from a 1-0 deficit while freshman goaltender Dominic Basse made 42 saves to give his team the season sweep of the Bulldogs.
Originally happy for the quick turnaround after 4-0 and 4-1 losses last weekend at Western Michigan, Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin described his program as “pissed” Thursday night with seven days off now before closing the regular season with a home-and-home against St. Cloud State on Feb. 26 in St. Cloud and Feb. 27 back in Duluth.
“There’s a lot of pride in our room, there’s a lot of pride in our coaching staff and there is pride in this program,” Sandelin said. “We didn’t get it done tonight. We can sit and dwell on it or we can move forward.
“Right now we’ve put ourselves in a position where we probably have to win the (NCHC) tournament. We’ve got to figure out a way to become a better team quick and we need to use the weekend when we play St. Cloud to build some mojo and confidence in this group moving forward.”
The Tigers tied the game on a power play six and a half minutes into the third as freshman wing Matthew Gleason of St. Paul — playing in just his third game this year — picked up his first collegiate goal to knot the game at 1-1.
CC senior center Troy Conzo scored the game-winner with 2:29 remaining in the game, putting a puck in off the blocker of Bulldogs sophomore goaltender Ryan Fanti for just his second goal of the year.
Senior wing Nick Swaney got the Bulldogs on the board 19 seconds into the second period, sending a shot in low to beat the 6-foot-6 Basse — a Chicago Blackhawks draft pick — for his 10th goal and team-leading 24th point of the season.
The Bulldogs dominated possession in the first period, topping Colorado College 17-2 in shots on goal and 30-6 in shot attempts. UMD was on a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:42 in the first period, but failed to score, making this the third week in a row the Bulldogs had a lengthy two-man advantage they failed to convert on.
“I thought for the most part, for the first two periods we controlled the game, but we couldn’t build on the lead,” Sandelin said. “In the first period we have a 5-on-3 again and a chance to take the lead and we don’t do that.
“We come out of the period 0-0, Swains gets a nice goal, but we can never build on the lead. You can almost feel it, those are the games where I think we are the better team, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter because the scoreboard.”
Thumbs down to not getting to the net
The Bulldogs have scored just two goals in their last three games, while putting 90 total shots on Broncos goaltender Alex Aslanidis and CC’s Basse.
And while shots are nice, like the 43 on Thursday, many of those chances are not what Sandelin would consider “Grade-A” opportunities. UMD isn’t getting many second or third chances off rebounds.
To do that, the Bulldogs need to get more bodies to the front of the net, and when they’re there, they need to battle for better positioning, Sandelin said.
“You got to be really determined around that area to score,” Sandelin said. “You can’t go into those areas hoping to score, you got to go in there wanting to score and doing the things you need to do to score.”
Bulldogs junior center and captain Noah Cates said he’d like to simplify and get a body to the net first before firing pucks on net. The team needs to create more traffic in front as well to screen goaltenders better.
“Can’t stop what you can’t see,” Cates said.
The Bulldogs offense appeared to be in good shape on Feb. 5 when it posted eight goals against Miami, but in the four games since, the Bulldogs have just five goals. When you take away the empty netter in the 3-1 win over Miami on Feb. 6, it’s four goals in four games.
“It’s tough scoring one goal in our conference and to win games,” Swaney said. “It’s the end of the year. You got to find ways to win games. We just have to keep chipping away, building on things and hopefully we can improve coming into next weekend.”
Thumbs down, again, to the power play
Two-man advantages don’t come around very often for teams, especially ones lasting 60 or 90-plus seconds.
The Bulldogs have had three in the last three weekends spanning 5 minutes and 42 seconds. Those 5-on-3 advantages — including a pair of full two-minute, two-man advantages against Miami and Western Michigan — have produced zero goals.
“The 5-on-3, we had plenty of opportunities,” Swaney said of the latest two-man advantage Thursday. “It just comes down to bearing down and doing whatever it takes to find the back of the net.”
The Bulldogs have struggled in general on advantages, not just two-man ones.
UMD’s power play was clicking early on this season, going 4-for-8 in the first two games of the Pod and 7-for-25 (.280) overall when UMD was 5-0-1 through six games in Omaha. It’s 9-for-58 (.155) now in the 16 games since.
UMD finished Friday 0-for-3 on the power play Thursday and is 0-for-10 in its last four games.
“Early in the season we were scoring huge power play goals, it was winning us hockey games in the Pod,” Swaney said. “In the postseason, at the end of the year, special teams is such a huge thing. The little things add up and it’s something we have to continue to work on and keep building on because down the stretch it’s so big for us.”
Matt’s Three Stars
3. CC freshman Matthew Gleason — His first college goal in his third college game tied it at 1-1.
2. CC senior center Troy Conzo — Scored the game-winner with 2:29 to go in the game.
1. CC freshman goalie Dominic Basse — Made 42 saves Thursday after stopping 30 Bulldogs’ shots in a 4-1 win in the Pod. Basse and the Tigers gave up just two goals against UMD in two games this year.
Freshman wing Connor Kelley returned to the Bulldogs lineup Thursday after missing both games at Western Michigan last weekend. While UMD wasn’t happy overall with the amount of shots getting through from the point, Kelley put two on net Thursday while his defensive partner, senior Matt Cairns, put three on goal.
A potential Bulldogs goal was reviewed late in the third period that would have tied the game at 2-2. The initial call was no goal and the officials stuck with that decision even though the puck was in the Tigers' net. Sandelin said the reason he was given was the referee was in the process of blowing his whistle when the puck crossed the goal line.
With the loss Thursday, the Bulldogs were officially eliminated from the chase for the NCHC’s Penrose Cup. UMD led the league briefly a week ago after winning six straight games.
Colorado College 0-0-2—2
Minnesota Duluth 0-1-0—1
Saves — Dominic Basse, CC, 17-11-14—42; Ryan Fanti, UMD, 2-7-3—12.
Power plays — CC 1-3; UMD 0-3. Penalties — CC 3-6; UMD 3-6.