Grand Forks, ND – It’s very hard to end a team’s season. Especially in the National Colligate Hockey Conference. Saturday night, the University of North Dakota had the intention of ending the Colorado College Tigers season. With a win, UND would head to the Target Center for the Frozen Faceoff.
Colorado College entered Saturday’s game with a 6-25-3 record. Based on the Tigers’ Pairwise Ranking, they needed to win the conference tournament to make the NCAA playoffs. It didn’t take long to figure out that the Tigers weren’t going to go quietly into the night. Record aside, the Tigers put up a good fight in game two.
“Remember this: Colorado College was playing for their season tonight,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “They played hard. I will go back to when they came in here in January. They were playing well, they were playing loose. Now you add to the equation that they’re playing to extend their season. It was a hard game to win. I thought we had a little bit of bend, but we found a way to win.”
During the first period, UND and C.C. traded scoring chances. The Tigers would get on the board first with a goal from freshman defenseman Teemu Kivihalme at the 15:23 of the first period. UND would answer and less than a minute later with a goal from Jordan Schmaltz.
In the second half the first period, the Tigers pushed the pace and started generating some changes against UND. In the closing seconds of the first period, UND goalie Zane McIntyre stopped a couple of grade “A” opportunities by the Tigers. UND would outshoot C.C. 12-8 in the first period.
At the 05:32 mark of the second period, C.C. was awarded a penalty shot. It was ruled that Brendan O’Donnell cover the puck in the crease with his hand. Cody Bradley was awarded the shot and he was stopped by McIntyre.
Senior forward Brendan O’Donnell who’s known for scoring big-time goals, scored his 13th goal of the season to give UND a 2-1 lead. C.C. would outshoot UND 12-9 in the middle period.
The Tigers would push back in the third period and would finally be rewarded for their efforts. At the 06:10 of the third period, Luc Gerdes would bang home the game-tying goal from tight angle.
Gaarder scores another big-time goal
With the game tied at the 18:38 mark of the third period, Connor Gaarder took a cross-ice pass from Austin Poganski and buried the puck behind Tigers goalie Tyler Marble to give UND a 3-2 lead sending the Ralph into a frenzy.
Coming into tonight’s game, Gaarder had scored four game-winning goals. With his eighth goal of the season, Gaarder would add another game-winning goal to his total. Gaarder has scored five goals in the last six games, four of which have been game-winning goals. Gaarder’s five game-winning goals also leads UND.
After the game, Gaarder was all smiles. “I don’t know, we’re heading to Minneapolis I guess,” Gaarder said.
Breaking down the game-winning goal, “I don’t really know who chipped it up the wall, but Pogo saucered one over there and I chipped one in there,” Gaarder said, “I was a little surprised at first. It was a great feeling, and the crowd went wild.”
Head coach Dave Hakstol wasn’t surprised that Gaarder was the one that scored the game-winning goal.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it was anybody with this group,” Hakstol said. That’s the way it’s been. Somebody else has stepped up at different times. That line was pretty good tonight. They set momentum for us – they had good shifts and then they made the play at the end of the game.”
Hakstol continued, “I think he’s just been a real good player for us. That line has been real good for us over the long haul. It’s playoff type hockey, look at the types of goals that are scored. You’ve got to go to the dirty areas, rebounds or tips and plays like tonight. It was a speed play at the crease. Those are the kinds of goals that are scored at playoff time. Those are the kind of goals that Connor is scoring.
During his four-year career at UND, the Green and White are 22-0-1 when the senior forward scores a goal.
With the loss, C.C.’s season is over. The Tigers end the season with a (6-26-3) record.
With the win, UND (27-7-3) advances to the Frozen Faceoff.