Colorado College may have the nation’s best power play, but on Friday, the Tigers relied on their five-on-five play to stage an improbable comeback.
Four even-strength tallies and an empty-netter in the final two periods helped No. 3 Colorado College rally from a three-goal deficit and pull out a 5-3 victory over top-ranked North Dakota before a season-high sellout crowd of 7,671 at the Colorado Springs World Arena.
The Tigers increased their lead atop the WCHA standings to six points over North Dakota, improving to 13-1-5 in conference action and 20-2-5 overall. The Fighting Sioux drop to 21-3-3, 11-3-3 in league play.
“No doubt, because of the magnitude of this game, this was our best win of the season,” said Colorado College coach Scott Owens. “This is a huge confidence builder for us.”
The Fighting Sioux dominated play in the first period in building a 3-0 lead. Parise opened the scoring on the power play just 1:04 into the contest, as a shot from sophomore Andy Schneider was deflected by a Colorado College defender to Parise in front, before Parise deposited the wrister.
Parise struck again six minutes later. The Hobey Baker candidate won a faceoff back to sophomore Matt Jones, who fired a shot from just inside the blue line. Parise redirected Jones’ attempt through the legs of Tigers’ netminder Curtis McElhinney for his 20th goal of the season.
With Tyler Liebel in the penalty box, North Dakota tallied its second power-play goal of the contest with 2:05 left in the opening period. Senior Jason Notermann, stationed just outside the crease, took a cross-ice pass from sophomore Nick Fuher and converted on the one-timer.
The goal marked just the third time this season that Colorado College has allowed three goals in one period, and just the fourth time the Tigers have trailed after 20 minutes.
“We were all over the place [in the first period], and we needed to harness our energy a bit,” said senior captain Tom Preissing. “There’s no panic on our team this year, and since we’ve been so productive offensively, we knew we weren’t out of it.”
Colorado College began its rally by clamping down defensively in the second period, holding the Fighting Sioux without a shot for the first half of the stanza. Meanwhile, the Tigers scored twice in that span, with Liebel, playing in his 100th career contest, having a hand in both.
Seven minutes into the period, Liebel made amends for two first-period infractions by gathering his own rebound along the boards. He circled out in front and, while falling down, backhanded a shot to the right of Fighting Sioux goaltender Jake Brandt.
“He seemed possessed on that shift,” said Owens. “It was that line that got us back in the game.”
The Tigers cut the deficit to one 2:35 later with another even-strength goal. Senior Joe Cullen took a pass from along the boards and rifled a wrister from inside the left faceoff circle that beat Brandt top shelf.
“We decided to work harder as a team, get a goal or two and make a game of it,” said Cullen. “We won the second period and went from there.”
The home team again came out strong to start the third period, scoring the equalizer 2:23 into the frame. Preissing, who committed the penalty that led to North Dakota’s first goal, fired a long shot that squeaked through the five hole of Brandt.
“I had no expectations that would go in,” said Preissing, who leads all blueliners in the country with 18 goals. “When they go in, they go in.”
Colorado College had several chances to take its first lead, finally doing so with 7:53 remaining. Senior Noah Clarke gathered an errant shot that caromed off the end boards and stuffed the puck past Brandt for his 150th career point.
The Fighting Sioux had a couple chances to tie the contest, and applied pressure during a late power-play opportunity. However, McElhinney was perfect in goal over the final two periods, and Cullen sealed the win with an empty-net tally.
Junior Peter Sejna, with his team-record 27-game point-scoring streak in jeopardy, earned an assist on Cullen’s empty-netter.
McElhinney finished with 19 saves for the Tigers, who are unbeaten in their last nine contests. Brandt stopped 31 shots in losing just his second game of the season.