Mar 19, 2011 12:47 AM by Jordan Mason
SAINT PAUL, MN. --- North Dakota's top-seeded Fighting Sioux supplied a little order to the chaos, but it took an often-chaotic semifinal before the Sioux claimed a 4-3 victory over Colorado College before 15,008 at Xcel Energy Center.
The victory leaves the upsets behind and the top two seeds -- North Dakota and Denver -- will play in Saturday night's WCHA Final Five championship game.
North Dakota (29-8-3) powered its way to a 38-21 edge in shots, but Colorado College goaltender Joe Howe played heroically with 34 stops, and the outcome wasn't decided until Matt Frattin scored with 5:40 remaining in the third period to break a 4-4 standoff. Colorado College dropped to 22-18-3, but likely to still gain an NCAA tournament berth, which North Dakota and Denver are also assured of.
The Sioux didn't need any help in starting out as if to dominate, but they got help anyway when they charged the CC net and Tigers defenseman Gabe Guentzel was called for holding at 0:24 when he tried to help. Colorado College killed off the penalty, but 20 seconds after it expired the aroused Sioux scored.
Danny Kristo carried up the right side, looking for a pass receiver, and, finding none, he snapped a wrist shot from the circle that beat CC goaltender Joe Howe high to the short side at 2:44.
For the next 10 minutes, the Sioux pretty well put on a forechecking clinic, checking the Tigers back on their heels and rarely letting them get out of their zone. North Dakota had a 9-4 edge in shots at the 12-minute mark, and had a couple of flurries after that. But when Corban Knight was penalized for high sticking, Colorado College got its first chance on the power play.
Setting up around the periphery, Guentzel passed from center point to the left circle, and Stephen Schultz blasted a one-timer past goaltender Aaron Dell for the 1-1 equalizer at 17:24.
Outshot 15-7 for the opening period, the Tigers had earned a standoff, and had a threat at the buzzer, but Dell stopped Joe Marciano's try at the left edge. The quick but lighter Tigers were taking a heavy dose of contact at every confrontation with the aggressive Sioux, but they were resilient and ready for opportunities.
The next opportunity came at 5:14 of the second period, when CC gained a 2-1 advantage. Dell stopped a shot by Ryan Lowery, but Rylan Schwartz scored with a follow-up shot and the puck trickled across the line moments before Stephen Schultz hurtled over Dell in the crease.
Chances were at a premium in the fast, tough tempo, but North Dakota got the 2-2 equalizer at 14:55. Andrew MacWilliam and Joe Gleason worked hockey's version of a reverse in the left corner, and the resulting feed to the slot found Brent Davidson, who plinked his wrist shot into the upper right corner of the net.
The third period offered a little bit of everything. Five minutes in, North Dakota's Evan Trupp got the puck flat on his stick blade and skated through the neutral zone and into CC's end, carrying the puck 3 feet off the ice all the way. When he got to the right circle, he fired a lacrosse-style shot on goal that Howe saved.
At 6:41, while on the power play, North Dakota freshman Brock Nelson was called for checking from behind, a 5-minute major and game disqualification. That negated the Sioux power play and left CC on the advantage a minute later. But Chay Genoway flipped a pass to Matt Frattin, who broke around the defense for a short-handed chance. CC's Rylan Schwartz took Frattin down, and he slid into goaltender Howe, knocking him clear of the crease to the right. The Sioux went to the net like bees to a hive, and Brad Malone scored into the empty net at 8:30, with the short-handed goal boosting the Sioux ahead 3-2.
In addition, the Sioux got a power play because Rylan Schwartz still had to serve his penalty. Fortunately for him, when he returned to the ice, the Tigers were still on the major power play, and Rylan Schwartz scored a colorful goal. Stationed to the right of the net, he knocked a bouncing puck out of the air and across in front, then hurtled past goalie Dell and jammed the puck in as he fell to the ice for a 3-3 tie.
With 5:40 remaining, Sioux winger Evan Trupp went behind the net on the left and snapped a sharp-angle pass out to the slot, where Frattin promptly scored his 34th goal to break the 3-3 deadlock.
Colorado College gained one last power play, but the Sioux withstood it to reach the final minute, when they also had to fight off CC's six-skater attack to the final buzzer.