ST. CLOUD, Minn. - Brett Sterling was held in check for the sixth straight game. Joey Crabb had his four-game scoring streak snapped. And Marty Sertich was quiet offensively until the third period.
On most nights, that spells trouble — if not disaster — for Colorado College. Several unlikely contributors came to the rescue and goaltender Matt Zaba recovered from a few hiccups Friday as No. 8 CC downed St. Cloud State 6-3 at the National Hockey Center. Five players scored, including freshman center Chad Rau, who scored twice six days after he recorded his first career game-winner in a 3-2 victory against No. 11 North Dakota. The Tigers — who ended St. Cloud State’s six-game winning streak and jumped into fourth place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association — also received goals from Sertich, Lee Sweatt, Brandon Polich and Jimmy Kilpatrick. Before Friday, Sweatt, Polich and Kilpatrick had combined for seven goals, less than one-third of Sterling’s total. CC and St. Cloud State each are 11-9-1 in the WCHA, but the Tigers (19-11-1) own the first tiebreaker because they have clinched the season series with the Huskies (16-10-3). CC has won all three meetings. Sixth-place North Dakota, which is idle this weekend, trails CC and St. Cloud State by one point. The top five teams earn home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs. Kilpatrick scored the gamewinner five minutes into the second period after Rau won a faceoff. Kilpatrick’s shot from near the goal line bounced off Bobby Goepfert’s leg pad. Two of St. Cloud State’s goals came on the power play, and Zaba stood strong after left wing Billy Hengen made it 5-3 with 9:48 left. Zaba finished with 27 saves. Rau’s first multi-goal game was exactly what CC coach Scott Owens wanted when he shuffled the line combinations before the Feb. 4 game against North Dakota, moving Rau from the top line to the fourth line. “He’s got a little bit of the weight of playing with Sterling and Crabb off his shoulders,” Owens said of Rau. “He seems to be playing a little more carefree, and that (fourth) line has good chemistry right now.” Players from the fourth line, which includes Kilpatrick and right wing James Brannigan, have contributed four goals and five assists the past two games. Rau has 10 goals, sixth among WCHA freshmen. That’s one more than Sertich had in 42 games as a freshman. Sterling was the last CC freshman to score double-digit goals, posting 27 in 2002-03. “I’ve been getting the bounces that I hadn’t been getting,” said Rau, who beat Goepfert to the left post for his first goal after captain Casey Borer didn’t clear the puck in the defensive zone. “I’m not really concerned about playing fourth line. We just do what we can.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0256 or firstname.lastname@example.org