As Charles Dickens so eloquently wrote in "A Tale of Two Cities," it was the best of times and it was the worst of times for Minnesota on Saturday night.
After the Gophers jumped out to an impressive 3-0 lead in the first period, #19 Colorado College (8-8-2, 5-4-1 WCHA) scored three times in the third period - including the game-tying goal with 23 seconds remaining - to make off with a 4-4 tie Saturday. Alex Krushelynski and Rylan Schwartz each scored twice for the Tigers with Josh Thorimbert making 22 saves.
It was a crushing result for Minnesota (11-3-3, 6-3-3 WCHA), who despite ending the first half of the season second in the WCHA have yet to sweep an opponent.
"Disappointed. I mean I think we all are," Minnesota head coach Don Lucia told Fox Sports North following the game.
Things got off on the right foot when Tom Serratore, who scored the game-winner Friday, fought to get to a loose puck in front of the net and shot it past Thorimbert 4:39 into the game. The Colorado Springs native added a gritty element to the team that has been missing from the Gophers at times this year. Regardless, he continues to play his best hockey of his college career.
Thirty-four seconds later Erik Haula (Minnesota Wild) deflected a Kyle Rau (Florida Panthers) shot following a penalty to Michael King. With Seth Ambroz adding his fifth goal of the season 9 minutes later, the team entered the first intermission ahead 3-0 and playing as well as they have all season.
Whatever Tigers head coach Scott Owens said to this team during the break worked. Colorado College came out with a fire burning in their bellies and an extra step in their skates. After some back and forth play, Rylan Schwartz beat Minnesota goalie Adam Wilcox (Tampa Bay Lightning) to cut the lead to 3-1. It was the ninth goal of the season for the senior, who ended with three points on the night.
Freshman defenseman Mike Reilly (Columbus Blue Jackets), meanwhile, took advantage of a pinch in and sniped his second goal of the season to make it 4-1 Gophers. Pinches played both a good and bad role for Minnesota on Saturday as the defense remained aggressive. At the other end of the spectrum, Ben Marshall (Detroit Red Wings) was caught on one during a Minnesota power play in the third period which Krushelynski buried for a shorthanded goal.
But the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan native and Colorado College were not done.
Krushelynski scored his second goal of the night 1:47 later while not being picked up by Brady Skjei (New York Rangers) to bring the game within one at 4-3 and the Gophers were on their heels. While they didn't have the same spark throughout the second that they did in the first, Minnesota was much more passive in the third. The Tigers beat them to puck, out-shot them 9-5 and had a couple shots hit the post. It was almost a feeling of relief that after a dominant first period the Gophers would hold on for a road sweep.
With 23 seconds left, Krushelynski threaded the needle across the ice to Schwartz and the senior one-timed the puck past Wilcox to send the game to overtime. Just like that the freshman goalie, who made 23 saves, was not in line to get his 11th win and the Gophers came away with 3 points instead of 4,
Minnesota sees a four game winning streak in Colorado Springs come to an end with the tie.
The end result is that it ends up being frustrating to watch a game that featured such highs and lows. At their best, Minnesota has shown this season that they can make even the best of teams look a level below them and other players have stepped up in the last month. They were able to score seven goals this weekend without any from their top line but at the end of the half, the consistency of looking like that dominating team hasn't been that consistent. Colorado College has made a habit of being comeback kings (in fact, they came back from a 4-0 deficit against then #3 New Hampshire), however, this was the third straight Saturday the Gophers were holding on in the third period.
It was a point in the standings but that's not how Lucia is looking at it.
"There are ties that make you feel good and ties that don't make you feel good and tonight is one that we let slip away."
The Gophers next play Air Force in the Mariucci Classic December 29 at 7:00 p.m. CT and Boston College the following night.