The Colorado College bench was building with anticipation Saturday night as the final seconds began to tick off the clock as the Tigers were seconds away from a weekend sweep of North Dakota for the first time since 2005.
Then North Dakota’s Dillon Simpson sucked the energy away from Colorado College by scoring from inside the slot with 13.2 seconds remaining in regulation and Drake Caggiula scored 51 seconds into overtime as No. 7 North Dakota stunned No. 18 Colorado College 3-2 in front of 7,021 at the World Arena.
“It is hard. It is extremely hard,” Colorado College coach Scott Owens said. “Thirteen seconds away from a great weekend and a sweep over the No. 7 team in the country, and a big WCHA win, and you don’t even get a tie out of it.”
North Dakota (7-5-2, 4-2-2 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) pulled goalie Clarke Saunders (18 saves) with 1:28 remaining, trailing Colorado College (8-7-1, 5-3) 2-1 after Archie Skalbeck broke a 1-1 tie seven minutes into the third when he scored from the left slot after a pass from Mike Boivin.
But as the final seconds ticked down in regulation, North Dakota continuously pressured CC goalie Josh Thorimbert with a series of shots. The Tigers then failed to clear the puck from the defensive zone before Corban Knight fed Simpson from behind the net to force overtime.
“We had battled pretty good out there with those guys for 35 seconds,” Owens said. “A lot of pressure and that turnover ends up keeping the puck alive, and then eventually they have got us outnumbered and make a skill play and score the goal.”
In overtime North Dakota continued to pummel Tiger goalie Josh Thorimbert, who stopped 38 of 41 shots, before Caggiula’s shot from the right slot trickled in off his shoulder.
North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol said it was important for his team to escape with two points.
“It was an important outcome for us, but I think more importantly overall throughout the weekend it was an important performance for our entire team,” Hakstol said. “We played good hockey both nights, but obviously tonight getting the win is very important.”
The tough loss spoils an otherwise outstanding effort from Thorimbert, who came into the game allowing four goals in back-to-back games and two goals in the first period of his past four starts.
Owens was pleased with how Thorimbert rebounded after allowing a goal 34 seconds in after Knight’s pass got redirected off a CC defender.
“It was a big-time answer,” Owens said. “From that point on boy he shut the door. He used his legs well and moved well out there.”
Thorimbert made an excellent save on Rocco Grimaldi’s breakaway when the Tigers were on the power play in the first period and made a nice left arm save on Jordan Schmaltz on another CC power play in the third.
Skalbeck nearly had a chance to make it a two-goal game for the Tigers with 11:45 remaining when he stole the puck from Nick Mattson in the offensive zone and had a one-on-one chance with Saunders denied.
“It’s a tough loss. Everyone is pretty disappointed,” Skalbeck said. “(Josh) kept us in the game and everyone is upset we didn’t play for him there at the end.”
Rylan Schwartz tied the game at 1-1 4:14 into the first period from the top of the right circle with his eighth goal.
Owens and the Tigers will take the week to regroup before No. 3 Minnesota comes to town Friday.
“We just have to let it sit for a day or two and then just try and get back on it,” Owens said. “Minnesota is going to be every bit as good as these guys. It’s just really really tough right now.”