It took Colorado College nearly five-sixths of Friday’s game to beat Western Michigan goaltender Austin Cain, but that was time enough to sneak away with a win.
It was the Tigers’ top line, not nearly as potent of late, that finally broke through midway through the third period. Mason Bergh buried a one-timer from Nick Halloran.
“We’ve had our chances, it just hasn’t gone our way,” Bergh said. “We’ve kind of been shut down a couple games here. We started to play a little more confidently and had a little more poise with the puck.”
Defenseman Cole McCaskill took another pass from Halloran and came up with the winner in a 2-1 victory over the Broncos.
Alex Leclerc, who earned the nod in goal despite backing up freshman Alec Calvaruso for most of last weekend’s series at Omaha, kept the Tigers in it with 33 saves. He hit the splits to stop a 2-on-0 attempt and slid over to stop a point-blank chance in the waning seconds.
“They’re both No. 1s, I feel, but ‘Clarky’ has got more experience, and with so much on the line, that was our decision,” coach Mike Haviland said.
The Tigers were sluggish and disjointed in the first period, with sloppy passing and few good scoring chances. Western Michigan’s Austin Rueschhoff did the only permanent damage, though, when he took a cross-ice pass from Josh Passolt at the bottom of the right circle and ripped a shot past Leclerc.
That 1-0 lead lasted more than two periods.
Bergh finally got Colorado College on the board. The “13-14-15” line he centers cruised across the blue line in order of number, Halloran - No. 13 - with the puck. Halloran sent a pass behind Trey Bradley and right to Bergh.
The last time the three of them connected on a goal was Jan. 27 against Miami.
“Trey made an unbelievable play at the blue line, then ‘Hal’ found me late,” Bergh said. “It felt good as a team and also as an individual. I’ve kind of been snake-bitten lately.”
“Hopefully that will get (Bergh) going again,” Haviland added. “If they were not getting grade-A chances, I think we would have broken them up to give us a little more balance.”
With 2:50 left in the game, 13 seconds into a 4-on-4, assistant captain McCaskill took a pass directly in front of the net and sent it home.
McCaskill’s two goals this season have come in CC’s first and last home series. The other was also a game-winner, but in a 6-1 win over Alaska-Anchorage.
This one was a bit more dramatic.
“I remember a couple (game-winners) in juniors. I’ve been more of a defensive guy the last couple years,” McCaskill said. “To win it and come back, and the smiles in the room, is pretty big.”
Western Michigan was one of the two teams CC (14-14-5, 8-11-4-3 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) was tied with in the conference standings. The Tigers left the Broncos behind for at least a night, and moved into a three-way tie for fourth place with North Dakota and Omaha. They can still finish anywhere from fourth place to seventh.
“It wasn’t one of the prettiest games for both teams, maybe, but we found a way,” Haviland said.