With the NCHC's worst offense matching up against the league's second-best defensive team, it wasn't expected that Colorado College would score much. But the Tigers offense exploded for five goals in the first two periods of Saturday's game against St. Cloud State to cruise to a 5-2 victory over the Huskies.
St. Cloud State controlled the game everywhere but in the scoring column. They outshot the Tigers 51-23, but Colorado College freshman goalie Jacob Nehama was outstanding making 49 saves in the winning effort.
It was a back-and-forth first period with Colorado College's Teemu Kivihalme, a native Minnesotan, scoring in his home state to give his team an early lead. St. Cloud State answered back when David Morley finally capitalized on a rebound during a very long shift in the Colorado College zone.
Colorado College regained a lead they would not relinquish at 12:30 of the first period when Hunter Fejes scored off a mad scramble in front of the net. St. Cloud State would ring the goal post twice towards the end of the first period, but could not tie the game.
The Tigers opened up the game in the second period with Tanner Ockey and Ben Israel each scoring their first career goals and Sam Rothstein tallying on the power play to give Colorado College a 5-1 lead heading into the third period.
The Huskies controlled play in the third period, but could only manage one goal from Jimmy Schuldt, falling well short of a dramatic comeback.
The win was just Colorado College's fifth of the season, bringing them to an overall record of 5-17-0, while St. Cloud State remains tied with North Dakota for first place atop the NCHC standings, though the Fighting Hawks now have two games in hand on the Huskies.
Notes and Thoughts:
-The Tigers had scored just 18 goals in their first 11 NCHC conference games, but exploded for five in the first two periods tonight. On the flipside, St. Cloud State had allowed just 22 goals in 11 conference games.The offense came from a couple nice shots from the point and winning some battles in front of the net.
Meanwhile, it was a very disappointing defensive effort from St. Cloud State. The Huskies had the long holiday break with their only games being against an overmatched Arizona State and an exhibition game against the NTDP, where nobody really cared about the defensive effort. Some bad habits may have formed. The Huskies were brilliant defensively in the first half of the season, but they did it with effort, because they don't necessarily have the talent back there to get away with coasting. Getting Will Borgen, who sat out this weekend after the World Juniors, back should be a big help in that regard as well.
-As lopsided as the score was, shots and possession numbers suggest the game was just as lopsided at even strength in St. Cloud State's favor. The Huskies controlled the puck for long stretches in the Colorado College zone, especially once they were able to establish possession of the puck below the goal line. Colorado College dressed five freshmen and one young sophomore on the blue line and they were physically dominated most of the night.
Credit Colorado College goalie Jacob Nehama, who made 49 saves, including many from close in and did an excellent job controlling rebounds. Also credit his goal post, which the Huskies hammered three times, including twice in the first period when they had an opportunity to tie the game.
-This is a young Colorado College team, and for as bad as they were in the first half of the season, it would be great if this was the start of a more respectable second half of the season for them. After starting the year 0-13-0, the Tigers are now 5-4-0 in their last nine games. It's a bit of a Catch-22 for the rest of the league. You never want a team as bad as CC was in the first half, but it's not going to help the rest of the league nationally if they're able to start stealing these types of games in the second half of the year.
-Colorado College's second goal was a bit of a strange one. A shot hit the post, bounced off Charlie Lindgren's back and laid in the crease for what felt like a very long time. Three or four players converged on the loose puck and knocked each other out of the way, allowing Hunter Fejes to knock the puck in.
Seconds later, the Huskies almost scored on a similar play, but put a pair of shots off the goal post that both bounced back and landed safely under Nehama rather than sitting free. You need a couple bounces to go your way if you're going to get outshot that badly and win, and Colorado College got a few breaks tonight.
-A tough night for St. Cloud State's Ethan Prow. He picked up an assist to help his race with Providence's Jake Walman for the nation's top scoring defenseman, but hit three goal posts that easily could have been goals tonight. Prow is so exceptional at changing shooting angles to avoid shot blockers and getting pucks through to the net. He's quietly been an outstanding player.
3:08 Teemu Kivihalme unassisted 1-0 Colorado College
Kivihalme collected a failed clearing attempt at the right shot, took two strides towards the center of the ice and fired a slap shot that beat Lindgren over the shoulder for the goal
7:58 David Morley from Ethan Prow 1-1 tie
During an extended stretch in the Colorado College zone, Prow took a slap shot from the left point. The rebound kicked out to Morley at the right circle and he deposited the rebound in the net for a goal.
13:30 Hunter Fejes from Jake Emilio and Sam Rothstein 2-1 Colorado College
Emilio's shot from the high slot beat Lindgren, but bounced off the post and landed behind Lindgren, just inches from the goal line. After a scramble of bodies collided in front of the net, Fejes was able to find the loose puck and put it into the net.
2:07 Tanner Ockey from Trevor Gooch and Jake Emilio 3-1 Colorado College
Gooch made a quick pass from behind the St. Cloud State net to a wide open Ockey who jammed home his first career goal.
9:51 Ben Israel from Trevor Gooch and Mason Bergh 4-1 Colorado College
Israel fired a high wrist shot from the top of the left circle that beat Lindgren over his shoulder into the upper corner of the net.
17:45 Sam Rothstein from Luc Gerdes and Teemu Kivihalme (power play) 5-1 Colorado College
Rothstein was parked in front of the net on the power play and was able to win a loose puck battle to jam a puck past Lindgren.
6:35 Jimmy Schuldt from Niklas Nevalainen and Jimmy Murray (power play) 5-2 Colorado College
Schuldt's slap shot from just past the top of the circle made it through traffic and beat a screened Nehama for the goal.