On a night where Colorado College’s top offensive duo of Rylan Schwartz and William Rapuzzi was held to just one point, the Tigers’ second line of Alexander Krushelnyski, Scott Winkler and Charlie Taft roared to life, and goaltender Joe Howe was a stone wall in net.
The trio combined for three goals and eight assists to break open a 1-1 game and teamed with Howe’s season-high 44 saves to lead No. 18 Colorado College past WCHA foe No. 7 North Dakota 5-3 Friday night at World Arena.
“That line got better and better as the game went on,” said Colorado College coach Scott Owens. “Their chemistry grew so that by the third period they had unbelieveable offensive chemistry.”
Krushelnyski (1 goal, 3 assists) rallied the Tigers (8-6-1, 5-2 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) in the second period after UND’s Joe Gleason tied the game at 1-1 with 13:49 left in the second off a point shot following a Corban Knight faceoff win. North Dakota (6-5-2, 3-2-2) had begun to pick up steam before Krushelnyski, with three UND defenders around him, scored top shelf on a beautiful backhander to give Colorado College a 2-1 lead with 10:28 left in the second. Winkler made a nice pass to his winger from the right boards and Krushelnyski maneuvered in between three UND defenders.
Charlie Taft also recorded the first of a career-high three assists.
“It was a good turning point for us,” Krushelnyski said. “Fortunately, it was what we needed at the time and gave us a little boost and seemed to open the flood gates.”
“It kind of sent a message that we’re coming right back at them,” Owens added. “Krush has the ability to make those plays. He has such a good stick.”
Krushelnyski then notched his second point of the night when he passed the puck from behind the net to Winkler, who tried to poke a shot past Saunders near the left post. But Rapuzzi grabbed the loose puck and fired it into the right side to give CC a 3-1 lead 1:03 into the third period.
Yet despite the offensive outburst, Owens credited Howe for keeping CC in the game as North Dakota outshot the Tigers 30-15 through the first two periods.
“Joe Howe was outstanding,” said Owens, whose Tigers snapped a four-game winless streak. “He set the tone right away and he let everyone know he was going to give us everything he had tonight. He gave us a little bit of confidence.”
Howe made a series of clutch saves in the final five minutes of the first period to preserve an early 1-0 lead after Jared Hanson gave the Tigers their first lead to start a game since Nov. 9 against Bemidji State. Hanson beat Clarke Saunders (21 saves) high glove side 7:35 into the game.
“It’s a bigger reflection of how the team played in front of me,” Howe said. “You can look at it and say I made a lot of saves, but our forwards stepped up and did a tremendous job. There were especially a couple of shifts where it wasn’t just one blocked shot it was three or four in a row.”
Winkler earned his team-leading ninth and 10th goals of the year in the third. The first, a tip in, made it 4-1 at 13:02. Twenty seconds after UND’s Drake Caggiula made it 4-2 with 7:18 remaining Winkler scored on a wraparound goal for a 5-2 lead.
“I was happy with our mentality and our compete level in the third because they were throwing a lot at us,” Owens said. “We bent a little bit, made a couple of plays and got on top of them.
“It’s a good league win for us against a quality opponent.”