SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Peter Stoykewych fired a screened shot from the right point at 4:52 of sudden-death overtime to give Colorado College a stunning 4-3 victory against North Dakota in the quarterfinals of the WCHA Final Five, sending the tenacious Tigers into Friday’s second semifinal against Minnesota.
Stoykewych got the puck when Jeff Collett won a right-corner faceoff and passed back. Because he’s a left-handed defenseman playing the right point, Stoykewych had to shift for a shooting angle, creating a screen of bodies at the net. His shot appeared to glance off a defenseman to elude goaltender Clarke Saunders.
The Tigers, who lost the first playoff game at Denver before rallying to win the next two and gain the Final Five after an eighth-place finish in the WCHA regular season, now have clawed their way to within one game of the .500 mark at 17-18-5 while ending North Dakota’s attempt at a fourth consecutive Broadmoor Trophy in the final Final Five under current WCHA structure.
To survive, CC used Joe Howe’s often-spectacular goaltending through the first two periods, when it was dominated by North Dakota (21-12-7). But Colorado College’s outright tenacity was equally important. Outshot 11-4 in the first period despite having three power plays, CC got the first goal of the game from Rylan Schwartz. But the Tigers had to rally from a 2-1 deficit in the second period, with Schwartz setting up a breakaway goal by Alex Krushelnyski, before gaining a 3-2 lead on a Hunter Fejes’ goal to open the third.
Drake Caggiula’s second goal of the game gained the 3-3 deadlock for North Dakota at 12:45 of the final period, but by then the Tigers had caught up to North Dakota’s rapid tempo and was battling UND on even terms.
North Dakota came storming out at a near-frantic pace to open the game, but the exuberance came at a price, when Caggliula was called for an over-aggressive charge that flattened a Tigers skater at 2:17.
Colorado College capitalized at 3:06, when Cody Bradley got loose in front, carried across the slot right to left, and attempted to make a blind pass backward to Schwartz. The pass hit a sliding North Dakota defenseman and the ricochet went toward the crease, behind Saunders, and Schwartz had an easy tap-in.
Caggiula’s spirits took a distinct turn upward later in the first period, though, when Carter Rowney forechecked the puck free and fed Rocco Grimaldi, who headed toward the net from the right circle, then passed across the slot to Caggiula, whose quick shot beat Howe in goal for a 1-1 tie.
The team formerly called the Fighting Sioux but now nicknameless ended the first period strong. After killing off successive penalties that overlapped for a 57-second, two-man CC power play, North Dakota struck for what appeared to be a pivotal goal when Danny Kristo curled out to the left faceoff circle and fired a bull’s-eye past Howe with 9.1 seconds showing, for a 2-1 lead.
CC was penalized for too many men on the ice at 7:42 of the second, but turned the game around with Krushenyski’s huge goal at 7:54. Schwartz made the penalty kill sing when he sent a perfect breakaway pass to Krushelnyski, who sailed in all alone and snapped his shot into the right edge to tie the game at 2.
It stayed that way until the third period, and then the opportunistic Tigers claimed a 3-2 lead at 3:42, when Fejes carried up the right side, crossed the blue line and pulled the puck abruptly to his left, firing past a screening defenseman to beat Saunders from 50 feet.
North Dakota, racking up a lot of shots, found Howe basically impenetrable through the second period and much of the third, but with 7:15 remaining and the hopes of the green-clad fans dominating the cavernous seating section fading with each minute, Caggiula rushed across the blue line and dropped a pass off to his right to Colten St. Clair, then broke up the middle to convert St. Clair’s deft return pass, with Howe having no chance of covering.
That sent the game speeding into its final minutes, with overtime looming as a distinct possibility. Both teams exchanged spirited rushes, with CC doubling its shot tally for the game in the third period, but Howe and Saunders continued to come up with the right answers.