DULUTH, Minn. – Whistled for a ho-hum interference penalty late in the third period, David Civitarese cracked his stick off the ice, then unloaded an earful on two referees on his way to the box. The frustration for Colorado College is finally beginning to boil over.
Another second-period deficit Saturday proved too much for CC to conquer, and with Joe Howe again unable to stop hardly anything and playmakers who couldn’t finish when it mattered, the No. 16 Tigers lost 5-2 against No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth at Amsoil Arena.
Winning the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five – something that CC has never done – might be the only way the Tigers (16-14-2, 13-12-1 WCHA) can survive to play past mid-March, as they fell two spots to 21st in the PairWise rankings, six spots out of the 16-team NCAA Tournament. With only next weekend’s home series vs. Michigan Tech remaining, CC is tied for fifth in the WCHA, requiring one win against the Huskies to secure home ice for the March 9-11 best-of-three first round of the WCHA playoffs.
“We need to address our game,” said CC coach Scott Owens, whose team fell for the fifth time in six outings. He didn’t question his decision to start Howe over Josh Thorimbert, insisting Howe “played every bit as good as Thorimbert would have played on the second night. The problem is that we haven’t had an answer for their power play in four years.”
Like Friday in a 4-3 overtime defeat, CC dug itself too big of a hole, overwhelmed by the lethal mix of speed, skill and size that powered defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth (22-7-5, 16-6-4) on a seemingly smaller-than-normal NHL ice sheet. The second-place Bulldogs were more physical; more opportunistic in claiming a 37-27 shot edge and inducing three third-period penalties; and more poised, with a five-game unbeaten streak.
CC losing for the fourth straight time on the road – Howe (5-8-1) was in goal for three of the defeats, having backstopped the Tigers when they were swept this month by Bemidji State – probably wasn’t a shock. After all, CC is now 3-10-2 in the past 15 games against Minnesota-Duluth, and the Bulldogs possess the nation’s highest-scoring offense at 3.76 goals. Plus, Kenny Reiter (20-6-5) has been helped by a defense that’s rapidly improving.
The Tigers managed a 1-1 tie in a back-and-forth first when Rylan Schwartz marked on the power play with 90 seconds left for his team-high 22nd goal to counter Mike Seidel’s score. But Howe came undone in allowing a power-play goal to Seidel and a goal to J.T. Brown in a two-minute stretch in the second, and Minnesota-Duluth stormed to a 5-1 lead in the third when Caleb Herbert tallied and Travis Oleksuk struck with a power-play goal.
“Any time you’ve got one win in six games, nobody is happy, and nobody likes to lose,” Schwartz said. “We’ve got to fight through that. We were tied 1-1, and we can’t get that goal to get us going. … We didn’t get many pucks on net, hardly any quality chances.”
Civitarese said the season has turned so drastically that “instead of finding ways to win, we’re almost finding ways to lose at this point, and it’s definitely concerning.” He added, “We’re taking two steps forward and one step back. We’re not firing on all cylinders.”
MINNESOTA-DULUTH 5, COLORADO COLLEGE 2
Colorado College 1 0 1 – 2
Minnesota-Duluth 1 2 2 – 5
First period – 1. Minnesota-Duluth, Seidel 13 (Connolly, Reiter), 9:40. 2. CC, R. Schwartz 22 (Rapuzzi, Harstad), 18:30 (pp). Penalties – Bergman, Minnesota-Duluth (tripping), 6:39. Flaherty, Minnesota-Duluth (cross-checking), 16:33.
Second – 3. Minnesota-Duluth, Seidel 14 (Lamb, Connolly), 7:59 (pp). 4. Minnesota-Duluth, Brown 20 (Herbert, Reiter), 9:46. Penalties – Hall, CC (cross-checking), 7:15. Olson, Minnesota-Duluth (elbowing), 10:17.
Third – 5. Minnesota-Duluth, Herbert 12 (Smith, Brown), 9:19. 6. Minnesota-Duluth, Oleksuk 21 (Connolly, Lamb), 18:54 (pp). 7. CC, Hamburg 2 (Boivin, Harstad), 19:35. Penalties – Basaraba, Minnesota-Duluth (boarding), 9:54. Brown, Minnesota-Duluth (holding), 11:59. Lamb, Minnesota-Duluth (roughing), 14:09. R. Schwartz, CC (roughing), 14:09. Hall, CC (interference), 14:59. Civitarese, CC (interference), 17:22.
Shots on goal – CC 9-11-7-27. Minnesota-Duluth 9-16-12-37. Power-play opportunities – CC 1 of 5. Minnesota-Duluth 2 of 3. Goalies – CC, Howe 8-14-10 (37 shots-32 saves). Minnesota-Duluth, Reiter 8-11-6 (27-25). Attendance – 6,808. Time – 2:20. Referees – Scott Bokal, Craig Welker. Linesmen – Jeff Schultz, Tony Czech.
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