GRAND FORKS, N.D. - A third-period goal by Chad Rau lifted Colorado College to a 4-4 tie against North Dakota on Saturday at Ralph Engelstad Arena.The Tigers lost a 3-2 lead but recovered for an impressive draw. North Dakota had won its previous four games by a combined score of 18-8. The Fighting Sioux is 11-1-3 in its past 15 games. CC is 16-9-9 overall and 12-8-6 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
CC travels this weekend to North Dakota, which is home to what is possibly the best arena in college hockey. North Dakota plays at Engelstad Arena, which is universally praised, even by opponents.
“It’s impressive,” Owens said. “It’s like a small NHL building. Everything was done first class.”
Owens said the arena reminded him of the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, which is home to the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. WIthout a doubt, the plush arena helps North Dakota in recruiting.
“Big time, big time,” Owens said. “It’s a beautiful building with all the bells and whistles.”
CC can’t afford to not pick up any points this weekend, not with so many teams within a few points of the Tigers in the standings. The problem is the Tigers have one of their stiffest challenges of the season, going to North Dakota for a couple of games against a Fighting Sioux team that has lost once since Jan. 1.
“There’s very deep at the forward position, they have a good power play and they can generate five-on-five,” CC coach Scott Owens. “Defensively, they’re big, they play well on the smaller sheet, and their goaltender, (Brad) Eidsness, is putting together a good season. They’re as complete a team as we’ll see. That’s why they were my preseason pick to win the league.”
Furthermore, the Tigers haven’t had much success playing on the smaller NHL-sized rink this season, which North Dakota has. However, a win and a tie on the NHL sheet a few weeks ago at Michigan Tech could help their confidence.
Despite making some progress and coming back to practice on a non-contact basis this week, center Nick Dineen is considered doubtful for this weekend’s series at North Dakota, according to CC trainer Jason Bushie. Dineen missed last weekend’s series against Minnesota. Bushie said Dineen could possibly return for the Tigers’ Feb. 7 game against Denver.
Drew O’Connell, who injured his shoulder in third-period duty Jan. 16 at Wisconsin and hasn’t played since, had surgery on Tuesday and is out for the season. He faces a recovery time of three to four months. Unfortunately, the injury will end the senior’s career. He played in six games this season as Richard Bachman’s backup. Tyler O’Brien will finish the season as CC’s backup.
CC center Nick Dineen, out with a shoulder injury last weekend, practiced on Monday. He was supposed to miss two-to-three weeks but is a bit ahead of schedule. He did wear an orange jersey, which means he was off limits for contact during practice. If Dineen can return, all of the Tigers’ forwards and defensemen will be available for this weekend’s series at North Dakota, which hasn’t been the case since very early in the season.
USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine
Men’s College Hockey Poll – #20
(first-place votes in parentheses)RankSchoolLast Week’s Ranking
2008-09 RecordWeeks in Top 15 1 University of Notre Dame, 494 (18)225-5-320 2 Boston University, 492 (16)123-5-420 3 University of Michigan, 415324-10-020 4 Northeastern University, 409520-8-417 5 University of Denver, 385819-9-420 6 Princeton University, 2981020-7-019 7 University of North Dakota, 291920-11-311 8 University of Vermont, 256617-8-515 9 Miami (Ohio) University, 250418-9-520 10 University of New Hampshire, 1881216-9-519 11 Cornell University, 1771117-6-414 12 Yale University, 171719-6-2
13 Colorado College, 87NR16-9-816 14 University of Minnesota Duluth, 77NR16-9-72 15 The Ohio State University, 381519-11-47
Others receiving votes: St. Lawrence University, 25; University of Minnesota, 13; U.S. Air Force Academy, 8; Rochester Institute of Technology, 2; St. Cloud State University, 2; University of Wisconsin, 2.
The CC coaching staff didn’t want to use their injury problems from late November to February as an excuse for the team’s disappointing record, but it obviously was an issue. Now, the only key injury CC has is center Nick Dineen (shoulder), and the team is playing better.
Center Andreas Vlassopoulos returned this weekend from a knee injury and played well. Defenseman Kris Fredheim also returned this weekend from a knee injury and had a very strong game on Saturday. His return also allows CC to use six experienced defensemen, which it hadn’t been able to do for weeks.
“We haven’t used it as an excuse,” CC coach Scott Owens said about the injury problems earlier in the season. “I’m hoping a full lineup and a goaltender (Richard Bachman) playing well and a tough schedule down the stretch is going to help make us a better team.”
Brian McMillin gave the Tigers a lead early in the third period, then after Minnesota tied it, Stephen Schultz gave the Tigers a 4-3 lead when he tipped in a shot that rebounded off UM goaltender Alex Kangas. The Tigers took a late penalty, but goaltender Richard Bachman made some nice saves during the Gophers’ power play. Scott McCulloch put the game away with a nice empty-net goal with 1:01 remaining.
The win, coupled with a loss by Wisconsin, puts CC in third place in the WCHA and brings the Tigers closer to clinching home-ice advantage in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
The Tigers have been outshot 26-11 and didn’t get their second shot of the second period until almost 15 minutes had elapsed. Somehow, they’re still in position to pick up at least a point against Minnesota tonight despite a pretty lackluster performance.
CC didn’t have much more energy to start the second period than it had in the first but scored on its first shot, 7:34 into the period. Mike Testwuide broke in all alone on UM goaltender Alex Kangas and beat him high to give the Tigers the lead. Later in the period, Tigers goalie Richard Bachman got a piece of a shot by Minnesota right wing Jay Barriball but the puck got past him for the tying goal.