Staying home for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs is supposed to be an advantage. Then again, Colorado College hasn’t taken advantage of much of the second half of the season.
The same script rewrote itself Friday as No. 6 seed St. Cloud State proved most opportunistic in beating No. 5 seed CC 2-1 for a 1-0 lead in a best-of-three, first-round WCHA playoff series before an announced crowd of 6,502 at World Arena. The Tigers (23-14-2, 15-12-1 WCHA) had won 10 straight first-round WCHA playoff games, all at World Arena, since they were swept by Minnesota in the 1999-2000 sea- son. Two of those wins came in a sweep of St. Cloud State last season. If St. Cloud State (19-14-4, 14-13-2) beats CC in Game 2 at 7:07 tonight, it will advance to next week’s WCHA Final Five in St. Paul, Minn. If CC wins, Game 3 will be at 7:07 p.m. Sunday. Despite the loss, CC moved from 13th into a tie for 12th in the USCHO.com PairWise rankings, which are used to predict which 16 teams will make the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers are seventh after bonus points are added. St. Cloud State goaltender Bobby Goepfert hardly was challenged until center Brock Hooton was ejected midway through the third period for checking from behind. Goepfert (17-12-4) didn’t flinch during the five-minute major penalty. He also stood strong after St. Cloud State was penalized for having too many men on the ice with 54 seconds left. Center Michael Olson scored the game-winner on a short-handed breakaway less than two minutes into the second period after right wing Joey Crabb turned the puck over in the neutral zone. “We got what we deserved,” said CC coach Scott Owens, whose team managed 26 shots and went 0 for 4 on the power play. “It was a waste of a great goaltending effort (by Matt Zaba). We looked sluggish, and we couldn’t pass the puck very well. It was a very poor effort and a very poor game.” Left wing Brett Sterling, who returned after missing the March 3 regular-season finale against Denver because of a left leg injury, called CC’s power play “awful.” He wasn’t pleased with his performance either, even though he took a team-high four shots. “I don’t know what we were doing out there as a whole, myself included,” Sterling said. “We didn’t play. We didn’t skate. We didn’t work hard. Zaba (19-12-2) made 32 saves, including nine in the first period when the game was tied 1-1 after goals by CC left wing Jimmy Kilpatrick and St. Cloud State right wing Konrad Reeder. Zaba also batted away shots on more than a handful of odd-man rushes and deflected Olson’s third-period penalty shot. CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0256 or firstname.lastname@example.org