The University of Minnesota (26-8-5) worked hard to move the puck around the perimeter, searching for a way to expose their man advantage. Their opponent, however, was persistent in getting sticks in the way and taking away lanes. Despite hitting a post the 3:32 opportunity to score went along the wayside as Colorado College (18-18-5) took away yet another major scoring chance.
And that wasn't even a penalty kill for a 5 minute major. Or even a penalty kill.
The Tigers killed 3 penalties Friday night, including a 5 minute major in the 3rd period, while senior goalie Joe Howe saved all 35 shots in a 2-0 win over the #2 Gophers. Colorado College got second period goals from Rylan Schwartz and Charlie Taft as they keep their season and hopes for the school's first Broadmoor Trophy alive.
"We played pretty well. I thought for us our defensive sticks were as good as they were all season long," Colorado College head coach Scott Owens said after the game. "We were playing above the puck defensively and doing some good things down low.
"For us it's a good team win."
Minnesota jumped out to a strong start Friday night when both Kyle Rau (Florida Panthers draft pick) and Christian Isackson had good chances in front of the net that Howe was able to save. CC was able to grab back momentum, but the senior goalie faced another challenge when Thursday night hero Peter Stoykewych was called for hooking Isackson. Despite the Gophers having chances, they ended the period tied while out-shooting Colorado College 12-6.
"It wasn't a bad first period. We didn't let the crowd into it," Owens said about his team's play in the opening 20 minutes.
That turned out to be important.
Rather than a give Minnesota the advantage of 18,949 screaming fans, the Tigers silenced the Xcel Energy Center 59 seconds into the second. Schwartz took a pass from Stoykewych, moved around and shot a puck Gophers goalie Adam Wilcox (Tampa Bay Lightning) never saw for a 1-0 lead. He was followed 3:25 later by Charlie Taft beating the freshman goaltender with a shot between Wilcox's legs.
"I think their team is playing very well right now. They have confidence in their goaltender," said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. "They kind of waited for their opportunities. Rylan Schwartz made a nice shot.
"They want to extend their year."
Those were the only two Colorado College shots in a 7-2 stretch during the first 5 minutes of the second period. They were the only two goals the Tigers would need.
"Things have been going our way a little bit but we've been playing a team game. We're sticking together," said Schwartz, who scored his 19th goal of the year. "We're not panicking at all so I think it's kind of paying off for us too.
The Plymouth, Minnesota native stood tall on separate shorthanded breakaway chances by Nick Bjugstad (Florida Panthers) and Erik Haula (Minnesota Wild)
"For me there's no incentive," Howe said. "It's just another hockey game."
More importantly, Howe didn't allow the Gophers a great chance during their times with the man advantage. He got some help from a penalty kill unit that is 9 for 9 in two games this weekend. Colorado College's biggest moment was 4:50 into the third period when Joe Marciano was called for a 5 minute cross-check on Colorado Springs native Tom Serratore.
Rather than stress out about facing the #1 power play in the nation for 5 uninterrupted minutes, Schwartz and the Tigers took the challenge in stride and then some. The Gophers had trouble setting up and only were able to muster one shot during the 5 minute power play.
"The guys definitely didn't get down," he said. "We were kind of amped for it - we haven't really seen a 5 minute cross-check penalty before but we went up against it. All 6 penalty killers up front and all the D did their job. Howe made some big saves too."
"Like Rylan said, we didn't let them get set up," added Howe. At other times our forwards were up there putting pressure on them. It wasn't just for a minute or two, it was for all 5 minutes.
Minnesota tried one last chance to get on the board when Lucia pulled Wilcox, who made 18 saves Friday, with 3:32 remaining but it was in vain. Mike Reilly (Columbus Blue Jackets) the post and Howe celebrated his third shutout of the season.
With the win, the Tigers face Wisconsin in the WCHA Final Five championship game Saturday night. The winner will get the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament while the loser sees their season end.
Follow Nate on Twitter @gopherstate.