Tigers’ Hot Streak Continues Against Mankato
In its past 14 games, Colorado College has looked downright invincible at times.
That trend continued on the road against Minnesota State as CC’s unbeaten streak extended to 15 games with a 6-3 victory over the Mavericks (4-7-4, 3-5-3 WCHA).
Colorado College (14-1-2, 9-0-2 WCHA) received a two-point effort from five players, and goaltender Curtis McElhinney stopped 23 shots to lead the Tigers. Peter Sejna, Joe Cullen and Tyler Liebel each had a goal and an assist for CC. Noah Clarke and Colin Stuart each had two assists.
Despite a slow first period, the Tigers were able to regroup from a 1-0 deficit and ride a four-goal second period to remain unbeaten in league play.
Yet it was MSU who looked stronger in the first as the Mavericks came out ready to play in front of the home crowd of 3,218.
Minnesota State came close to taking the lead on the power play late in the first period. Captain B.J. Abel got the puck in close and fired the puck past McElhinney. However, Abel’s shot found the post and bounced harmlessly away.
But MSU was finally able to cash in with 1:30 left in the period on a hard forechecking effort. The play started as the Tigers were unable to clear the zone. Maverick freshman Ryan McKelvie stole the puck from Tom Preissing in the right corner and passed it to Grant Stevenson. Stevenson tossed the puck through the crease and deflected it off defenseman Mark Stuart.
Finally, MSU’s Adam Gerlach finished the play as he collected the puck in front and backhanded it past McElhinney for his second goal of the year to give the Mavericks a 1-0 lead.
The goal was a rewarding note for one of the best periods the Mavericks have played so far this season. They played poised, puck-possession hockey and outshot the Tigers 10-6 in the first.
“I think we were just really flat,” Sejna said. “We weren’t moving the puck really well. We were kind of turning it over pretty much in every single zone. We took some stupid penalties, and that cost us pretty much the whole first period. They played really well. I give them credit.”
CC head coach Scott Owens gave his team a pep talk during the first intermission. Evidently he made his point.
“I was disappointed with the way we weren’t prepared to play,” Owens said. “We were fortunate to be only down 1-0. You can’t come on the road and expect to win games when you come out that flat and that poor.”
The turnaround started as Colorado College knotted the score early in the second with a rebound goal.
Richard Petiot started the rush as he carried the puck across the MSU blue line. Petiot fed Colin Stuart on the left wing, who fired a shot on net. Maverick goaltender Jason Jensen made the save, but the puck bounced to the right side and freshman Aaron Slattengren put the puck into the empty right side at 1:38 of the second.
CC continued its dominant second as it scored three goals in a span of 2:40 to take a 4-1 lead.
Cullen started the onslaught as he gave his team a 2-1 lead 10:45 into the period. He gathered the puck in the CC zone, skated into the Maverick territory, and ripped a low shot off the post from the top of the slot for his eighth goal of the year.
Colorado College then took advantage of two power-play chances to go up 4-1.
On the first goal, Liebel gathered the puck in the right corner and looked for an open teammate. He then skated out to the front and put the puck over Jensen’s shoulder for his third goal of the year at 12:52.
“I just walked out from the corner, saw no one else was open, so I just shot upstairs because he was down on the ground,” Liebel said. “It managed to go in. … Finally. I’ve had a lot of opportunities throughout the games this year, and finally it seemed to go in for me tonight, which felt really good.”
Just 1:03 later, CC’s leading scorer Sejna gave his team a three-goal cushion. Positioned just under the goal line on the right side, Sejna slid the puck towards the crease. The puck bounced off Jensen’s skate and between his legs for Sejna’s 17th goal of the season. Sejna now has a goal in each of his last eight games.
“I think coach did a really good job in the locker room during the first intermission,” Sejna said of his team’s turnaround. “We just stepped on the ice and worked really hard. We were playing more loose in the second period. I think we were a little more tense in the first period. Things weren’t going our way. We were turning the puck over a little too much.
“When things don’t quite go our way, we just have to go and work harder. That’s what we did, and things started going our way.”
MSU came back and brought the score to within two goals with a late power-play tally in the second. Freshman Jeff Marler took the puck into the CC zone and beat three Tigers before feeding teammate Dana Sorenson on the right side. Sorenson put the puck high on McElhinney to put the score at 4-2 at 19:10 of the period.
But Colorado College’s power play answered the goal early in the third as freshman Brett Sterling scored his 11th goal of the year. Sejna, from the right circle, sent a hard pass to Sterling who tipped the puck in on the left side of the crease at 4:25 of the third.
CC would later increase their lead to four with a goal from freshman Trevor Frischmon at 14:50 of the third. MSU’s Cole Bassett added a late power play goal with 2:52 left in the game, but it was too little, too late for MSU as they lost 6-3.
MSU coach Troy Jutting was obviously let down with his team’s performance after such a strong first period.
“I thought we played a very good first period, but we stopped moving our feet,” Jutting said. “The key to our success is when we move our feet and keep the pressure on. I was disappointed because I thought we played catch in the last two periods rather than went after them and forced them to defend us at times.”
Jutting was also upset with his team’s penalty kill, which ranks last in the WCHA. The team gave up three power-play goals on six chances.
“It wasn’t so much the penalties, it was our horrible penalty kill that put us behind the eight ball,” Jutting said. “We just didn’t do a very good job of killing penalties tonight. They move the puck well, and they find open guys. We just got to do a better job of knowing where those guys are.”
Meanwhile, CC’s hot streak is the talk of the league at the moment.
“[It’s] just different people contributing,” Owens said to explain his team’s recent success. “One night it’s been Sejna-Clarke, the next night it’s the power play, the next night it’s been the freshman scoring, the next night it’s been Curtis, the next night it’s been penalty kill. It’s really been multidimensional contributions we’ve gotten.”
“It’s been feeling really good,” Liebel added. “We’re getting together good as a team. We’re all good friends here and everyone’s playing for each other, which is the biggest thing.”