NCHC: Leclerc stands tall in CC's 3-0 win over North Dakota

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The shot totals on the scoreboard could tell you everything you needed to know about tonight’s NCHC battle between Colorado College and North Dakota: 45-20 in the favor of North Dakota, which unfortunately ran into the red-hot goaltending of Alex Leclerc and lost 3-0 to the resilient Tigers.

Leclerc was poised all night long and while he was the beneficiary of a couple of shots that hit the post, he had excellent rebound control all night long and withstood everything the Fighting Hawks had to throw at him for 60 minutes, including five power-play opportunities that produced 16 shots on goal.

The first period was played heavily in the CC end of the ice, with North Dakota carrying a 16-5 shot advantage, but the Tigers got the only break they would need in the final minute of play when Luc Gerdes, skating to the right of North Dakota goalie Matt Hrynkiw on the goal line, fired a pass toward the front of the goal that deflected off the defenseman’s skate and slipped past Hrynkiw for the 1-0 lead that would be all Leclerc would need.

The second period may have been Leclerc’s best, as North Dakota peppered the net with 21 shots but couldn’t solve the Tigers netminder. Forward Brock Boeser may have had the best opportunity during the second power play for North Dakota in the period. From the right faceoff dot, Boeser had time and an unobstructed path to the net after some quick puck movement by the power-play unit, but his snap shot found the far post and bounded harmlessly away.

“The guys were great in front of me all night,” said Leclerc, who recorded a personal high in saves for a single game with 45, eclipsing his previous best of 43 against Minnesota-Duluth back in early January. “They really let me see the puck well and when there were rebounds they cleared them out for me. They were really good blocking shots and active with their sticks and didn’t let them get too many screens set up in front of me.”

The third period was more of the same, with the Tigers keeping the Fighting Hawks to the perimeter and giving their netminder good looks at shots coming in from all angles. After killing their fifth power-play advantage, North Dakota pulled Hrynkiw and again the sound of metal favored Leclerc and the Tigers, as Chris Wilkie hit the far post. Shortly after the near miss, the Tigers captain, Sam Rothstein scored on the empty net with an assist to Gerdes at 19:09, and that goal was followed by a second empty-netter from Alex Berardinelli to close out the 3-0 shutout upset over the No. 12 Fighting Hawks.

“We really needed this win,” said Leclerc, who was the clear top star of the game. “This is a big lift for our team and I hope we can build something positive off this win. After last night where we gave up a lead to this team, we really came out strong in the third period and were determined to hold onto the lead.”

The win for Colorado College was their first this season on home ice and their first win over North Dakota since March 15, 2014, breaking a drought where they were 0-13-1 until tonight’s win.

NCHC roundup

No. 2 Minnesota Duluth 2, vs. St. Cloud State 1 (OT)
The Bulldogs took the North Star College Cup Championship with an overtime 2-1 win over St. Cloud State. Will Borgen got the Huskies out front in the first period and that was all of the scoring in the game until the third period. Alex Iafallo scored in the first minute of the third period and goalies Hunter Miska and Jeff Smith kept the game deadlocked until the extra session. Overtime by tournament rules was a full 20-minute session, and at the six-minute mark, Kyle Osterberg, with assists from Neal Pionk and Joey Anderson, won it for Minnesota-Duluth.

No. 3 Denver 5, No. 18 Omaha 0
The Pioneers raced to a 3-0 first period lead on goals by Colin Staub, Matt Marcinew and Logan O’Connor.  Matt VanVoorhis and Staub again on a power play, padded the lead to 5-0 and Denver cruised to an easy win over Omaha with Tanner Jaillet and Evan Cowley combining on the 22-save shutout.

Miami 4, at No. 10 Western Michigan  3
The RedHawks built a 4-1 lead over the first two periods behind a power-play goal and penalty shot goal from Josh Melnick, as well as single markers from Grant Hutton and Willie Knierim, but faced a frantic Broncos comeback in the third period. Sheldon Dries and Neal Goff pulled Western Michigan within a goal at 4-3, but goalie Ryan Larkin made 15 saves in the final period where Miami was outshot 17-5 to help Miami hold on for the win.

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Tim Costello joined USCHO as a correspondent in 2003. A former collegiate goaltender, he is entering his 11th season covering D-II and D-III conferences in New England and provided features spanning D-I and other special interest stories.