Rise of the Tiger
Colorado College Keeps Run Going with Win over UND
by Matthew Christians/CHN Reporter
ST. PAUL, Minn. Colorado College coach Scott Owens said it all following Thursday's 4-3 overtime win over North Dakota in the WCHA Final Five.
“If you would have said that on the fifth of January, after we got swept at UNO, that we’d be playing and winning games on Thursday night in St. Paul over North Dakota, I would say that you’re crazy.”
After starting off the season at a decent pace, the Tigers hit a few potholes, including a seven-game winless streak with goaltending issues at the root of the Tigers' problems.
But that was then, and this is now.
After upsetting Denver in the first round of the WCHA tournament, the Tigers pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent CC history, defeating North Dakota in overtime to advance to the Final Five semifinals where they’ll take on Minnesota.
Not only did Colorado College ruin North Dakota’s hopes of winning the Broadmoor four years in a row, but they also one step closer to the school's first Broadmoor Trophy, which they'll have to do to advance to the NCAA tournament.
The Tigers got on the board first after a power-play goal scored from scoring-leader Rylan Schwartz, which gave them a strong burst of momentum right out of the gate. Goals from Drake Caggiula and Danny Kristo, however, sent the Tigers into the locker room down one goal.
“The spirits were still high,” Owens said. “It’s tough to give up a goal to North Dakota with nine seconds to go in the period, but there was still 40 minutes to go.”
A short-handed goal by Alex Krushelnyski, his third of the year, put the Tigers right back into the game, and gave them momentum to finish off the period tied at two.
“We just try to use our speed and our breaks and pick our heads up before we ice just to see if one guy is open before we dump it,” said Krushelnyski.
Hunter Fejes gave Colorado College the lead 3 minutes, 42 seconds into the third, but North Dakota’s Caggiula evened the score up, putting his second goal of the night by CC goalie Joe Howe, sending the game into overtime.
“Our saying since playoffs started has been ‘no regrets’ and leave everything out there; leave nothing to chance,” said CC captain William Rapuzzi. “We just needed to leave everything out there and make sure that at the end of the day we knew we did everything we could.”
As it turns out, Rapuzzi was right. Near the five-minute mark of overtime, Peter Stoykewych put a shot by North Dakota goalie Clarke Saunders to win the game 4-3.
“In overtime anything can happen,” said Stoykewych. “I just tried to get it on net and through and luckily it found the back of the net.”
Someone that has gone unnoted thus far, but played a crucial role in Colorado College’s victory tonight was Joe Howe.
The netminder made 29 saves in the win. Not only did he take away countless scoring chances for North Dakota by making acrobatic saves, but he did so with UND creating constant traffic.
“He’s been on fire,” Rapuzzi said of Howe. “He’s really been the backbone of our team here lately, and we couldn’t be more happy.”
Howe, who’s started the last the last 15 games previous to tonight, has posted a 2.80 goals against average and a .922 save percentage during that period. Nothing too special, but he’s kept Colorado College in games and has been on fire through playoffs.
“Phenomenal,” said Owens about his goaltender's performance. “He’s making great saves. He’s been dialed in, and he's been like this for the last 15 or 16 games. It’s very, very encouraging.”
With the excellent goaltending and ability to score timely goals, the Tigers look to have all the tools they’ll need to make the trek to the championship game on Saturday night, but they'll have to get by the Gophers first.
“It’s been lose or go home for the last four games now so we’ve been playing in that desperation mode that’s helped our game,” Rapuzzi said. “We’re still not happy with where we are, and we still want to keep moving and make a run at this tournament.”