In a thirty second stretch Friday night, 10,027 people at Mariucci Arena went from being louder than most rock concerts to deflated after being punched in the stomach. It's hard to blame them either.
Tim Hall scored his second goal of the season with 36 seconds left in the game to give Colorado College (14-8-1, 11-6-0 WCHA) a 2-1 win over Minnesota (16-9-1, 12-5-0 WCHA) Friday night in Minneapolis. Sophomore Nick Bjugstad scored his 20th goal of the season while the Gophers had an extra man with 1:17 left but 38 saves by Tigers goalie Josh Thorimbert and a failed five minute power play in the third period proved to be their downfall.
"Obviously a loss like this is hard," said Bjugstad. "[As a team] we have to be more detailed...mental lapses cost us at times."
Despite both teams having two of the more high-powered offenses in the WCHA, Friday's game featured a display of defense and goaltenders. Neither team was able to get on the scoreboard in the first period with Minnesota's Kent Patterson and Colorado College's Thorimbert overcoming rough starts to hold their own. Thorimbert turned away 15 Gophers shots, including five shots on their only power play of the period.
Before that Jake Hansen had a golden opportunity on a rebound but despite an empty net, Thorimbert was able to get his pad in the way for a remarkable save.
"[Thorimbert] was real good tonight. He played solid all game," said Bjugstad afterwards.
With Minnesota continuing to get chances in the second period, it was Colorado College who got on the board first. Captain Nick Dineen took advantage of a missed pass from the Minnesota blue line by Hansen, picked the puck up unguarded and beat Minnesota goalie Kent Patterson five-hole 4:04 into period to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Thorimbert continued to stand tall against Gopher chances. He thwarted Nate Condon's attempt for his fourth shorthanded goal of the year on a breakaway, a couple saves on rebounds and even got some love from the Hockey Gods when a shot from Kyle Rau hit the post.
Rau had an eventful second period himself; besides hitting the post he laid out CC's Archie Skalbeck in an open-ice hit which rejuvenated the Mariucci faithful and laid out to block a shot. It was part of an all-out defensive effort for Minnesota.
"I thought our penalty kill did a great job and kept the Schwartzes (Jaden and Rylan) off the board," said head coach Don Lucia.
The third period contained much of the same defensive effort until Skalbeck's penalty with 12:23 left. They had a couple great chances against the Tigers penalty kill, getting four shots on net, but for the third time in four games the Gophers were unable to take advantage of five minute major given by the opposition.
"We need to get the puck on net more," said defenseman Mark Alt when asked about what Minnesota needs to do about kickstarting their power play. "Just move it around and make things happen. I thought we did some of that tonight but have to get the puck on net more."
The Gophers continued getting shots on Thorimbert throughout the third but it seemed like the Colorado College goaltender would steal a game before Nick Bjugstad tied the score with 1:17 left in regulation. Bjugstad's goal came twelve seconds after Patterson left the crease for an extra attacker and found its way through traffic. There was concern Josh Thorimbert was interfered with but after a review, the referees allowed the goal to stand.
It was however, all for naught. Minnesota came close to getting a second goal past the Tigers goalie before CC worked its way into the Gopher zone. All of a sudden Hall was there on Patterson's doorstep, got to the right of Patterson and a game that was heading to overtime with Minnesota's momentum was over.
"Our guys made a mistake off the face off and it cost us the game," said Lucia. "It's disappointing. You work so hard to get yourself back."
With how the game ended, it will be interesting to see how the Gophers respond tomorrow. Tonight wasn't their best game of the season but they were able to shut down one of the most dangerous lines in the WCHA in Jaden Schwartz, Rylan Schwartz and Jeff Collett while making Josh Thorimbert stand on his head at times. In most cases this would be a moral victory but with how the game ended giving up the winning goal thirty seconds after tying things up, it's enough for anyone to feel like they've been punched in the stomach.
In Minnesota's case, they better hope it's not a feeling repeated at the end of the season because of this one.
Both teams play again tomorrow evening at 5 PM as part of Hockey Day Minnesota. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports North and on the radio at ESPN 1500.