Down, but not out, the Colorado College Tigers scratched and clawed their way out of a seemingly insurmountable hole Friday night.
Seniors Rylan Schwartz and William Rapuzzi scored in the final 3:32 of regulation to help the 14th-ranked Tigers erase a 4-0 deficit and earn a 4-4 overtime tie with No. 3 New Hampshire in front of 6,794 at the World Arena. Rapuzzi’s equalizer came with just 1:55 on the clock and helped CC (7-5-1) overcome yet another slow start against a top-five team.
“Considering you’re down 4-0 to the best defensive team in the country and don’t get a power play in 65 minutes, it’s a good tie,” CC coach Scott Owens said. “We could have won that thing, and we could have lost it. A loss would have hurt us after coming back like that.”
Rapuzzi scored off a rebound of a Schwartz laser that ricocheted off the boards and slid back in front of the net. Schwartz cut the lead to 4-3 off an Archie Skalbeck pass with 3:32 remaining.
“It was another terrible start for us, but it was a great job for our team to come back and tie it up,” said Schwartz, who also assisted on the Tigers’ first goal. “I think part of it was them breaking down a bit here at altitude, and we were firing on all cylinders. We needed something out of this, because we were 0-and-5 against (top 10) teams.”
Senior netminder Joe Howe made 27 saves – including a trio of top-notch tie-preservers in overtime – after coming on in relief of junior Josh Thorimbert, who surrendered four goals for the second consecutive start. Howe didn’t appear to be too relieved about the tie following the inspired comeback.
“There’s no such thing as a really good tie,” Howe said. “It’s better than a loss, but it’s not nearly as good as a win. We needed a win tonight after, frankly, embarrassing ourselves last weekend against Denver.”
It was the fourth consecutive game in which CC had to battle its way out of a deficit, and the Tigers know they need to make some changes in order to get off to better starts.
“We put ourselves in a position we shouldn’t have,” Owens said. “(Getting behind early) has been a pattern 10 out of our last 12 games. It’s just taking us a while to get into it.”
The Wildcats (8-1-2), who boast one of the nation’s top defenses and premier goalies in sophomore Casey DeSmith, dominated the first 30 minutes. Casey Thrush put his own rebound into the net just 1:58 into the game to give the Wildcats a 1-0 advantage, and the lead ballooned to four goals after Scott Pavelski slammed home a pass from Dan Correale 10:02 into the second.