GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The finale for Colorado College proved to be an example of the Tigers' entire season.
CC battled to the very end but fell short in a 4-3 loss at No. 10 North Dakota in the decisive Game 3 of a best-of-three playoff series.
"It's hard to swallow right now but it did sum up this season," freshman Alex Roos said. "We battled each game and never quit, but we came up short."
The Tigers (7-24-6) came oh so close to pulling off the upset. Roos redirected a shot on net by rookie defenseman Jaccob Slavin for a goal with 1:29 remaining and senior goalie Josh Thorimbert (26 saves) pulled for the extra attacker before 10,054 suddenly nervous fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena. CC was unable to battle through a packed-in UND zone for another shot and a challenging season came to an end.
"We hung in it together like brothers the entire year and never gave up," Thorimbert said.
The win sends No. 2 seed North Dakota on to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's Frozen Faceoff to take on No. 8 seed Miami this Friday and No. 5 seed Western Michigan will face No. 6 Denver.
UND pulled away after a CC turnover led to a goal for Brendan O'Donnell with 17:31 left and a 4-2 lead.
That goal proved decisive after CC battled back with a strong second period.
Tigers senior wing Michael Morin forced a turnover in the UND zone when he harassed a UND defenseman into clearing the puck toward senior Jeff Collett.
The Tigers center stopped the rubber and quickly passed back to Morin for the tip-in to make it 3-2 with 2:43 remaining in the second period.
"He got some payoff for that," Tigers coach Scott Owens said. "Our seniors played well tonight."
North Dakota seized control early when junior defenseman Nick Mattson knocked in a rebound off a leg pad save against Stephane Pattyn on a 2-on-1 breakaway with 16:19 left for a 1-0 lead.
"Their defensemen did a good job activating and stepping forward on offense," Owens said.
But the Tigers would answer when senior wing Alexander Krushelnyski pounced on a loose puck in front to lift a hard rising shot past UND sophomore goalie Zane Gothberg's glove three minutes later to tie the game.
But it proved to be only be a hiccup for an otherwise dominant opening period for North Dakota (22-12-3). Soon after, UND went ahead 3-1 with 7:38 left on goals by freshman defenseman Troy Stecher and Pattyn.
"We knew they would come out hard but we came back with an excellent second period and in the third period it could have gone either way," Owens said. "We gave a good account of ourselves for nine periods. It's too bad we couldn't have kept this going in Minneapolis. I am proud of how the team played hard and never quit."