COLORADO SPRINGS - The Gophers looked like they had their first WCHA series sweep all but put away -- they took three-goal leads into both intermissions Saturday night at World Arena. Instead the Gophers settled for a tie.
The No. 19 Tigers refused to go down without a fight, sending the game to overtime at 4-4 on a late goal by Rylan Schwartz with 24.6 seconds to go against the fourth-ranked Gophers (11-3-3, 6-3-3).
"We just made some colossal mistakes and when you do that and let 13 [Schwartz] have the puck, that's not the guy you want to have it," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "It's disappointing. Sometimes ties feel good and sometimes they feel like a loss. This one felt like a loss."
Schwartz scored twice for CC, cutting Minnesota's lead to 3-1 in the middle of the second period on his first tally. Mike Reilly answered for the Gophers minutes later, putting them back on top by three and giving the U a comfortable cushion going into the third. Perhaps it was too comfortable.
"We might of sat back a little too much there," said Seth Ambroz, who gave Minnesota a 3-0 lead late in the first with a hard shot from the point. "We had them where we wanted them. Up 4-1 going into the third is a good position to be in, on the road especially. ... We just didn't play the way we know how to play in the third."
Alexander Krushelnyski scored two goals for the Tigers in a span of 1:47 in the third period to cut the Gopher lead to 4-3 with 13:59 left and CC kept the pressure on from there, eventually tying it up with goaltender Josh Thorimbert watching from the bench.
The Gophers got off to a fast start and appeared they were going to skate away with a series sweep. Just hours removed from last night's game-winner, Tom Serratore found the back of the net 4 minutes and 39 seconds in. Erik Haula then wasted no time at all in pushing the lead to 2-0, placing one over Josh Thorimbert's left shoulder a mere 34 seconds later.With the tie, the U heads into its holiday break one point behind first-place Denver. The Pioneers mustered only one point this weekend in North Dakota, after tying UND 2-2 on Friday and falling 6-3 Saturday night.
DU, winless in its past six, has had a similar recent fate to its Front Range counterpart after both started strong. CC is 1-5-2 in its past eight games. Minnesota, meanwhile, is 6-1-3 in its last 10 contests.
After seeing only four shots in the opening period in the first game of this series, Gopher goaltender Adam Wilcox (23 saves) saw a lot more action Saturday.
"I think our best player has been our goaltender," Lucia said. "Tonight wasn't his fault. He didn't have a chance on any of the four goals. And that's what you want to see, they were all good clean goals."
This is only the second best comeback CC has had this season. On Nov. 23, the Tigers trailed New Hampshire 4-0 and scored the next four goals for a 4-4 tie in their arena.
The Gophers had to know that.
"When you start the weekend," Lucia said, "you come out and say if we are going to get three points you feel good about that, it's just disappointing to let one slip away, As disappointed as I am, the first half is over. We had a good first half, we've won a lot of games and only lost three. I still think we can play better than what we've played, though."
The Gophers return to action Dec. 29-30 when they host Air Force (5-7-4, 4-4-2 Atlantic Hockey) and No. 2 Boston College (9-2-1, 11-2-1 Hockey East) in the Mariucci Classic. BC coach Jerry York needs one victory to become the all-time leader.