Colorado College shuts out Gophers in WCHA semifinal

Minnesota is still locked in as one of four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament.

Colorado College defender Eamonn McDermott takes down Minnesota forward Nate Condon on Friday, March 22, 2013, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Bridget Bennett

Colorado College defender Eamonn McDermott takes down Minnesota forward Nate Condon on Friday, March 22, 2013, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Drew Claussen

The Gophers had their place in the NCAA tournament locked up entering Friday’s WCHA Final Five semifinal matchup with Colorado College. The Tigers were in a different boat.

“They have nothing to lose,” Gophers senior Seth Helgeson said. “They need to win out to make the tournament.”

It was pretty evident Friday who wanted to win more.

Colorado College defeated the Gophers 2-0 and advanced to the WCHA championship game Saturday night.

While the win meant everything for Colorado College, the loss meant relatively little for Minnesota, which is locked in as one of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament.

The two teams seemed content to feel each other out in the first period, and Minnesota needed some time to adjust to playing at the Xcel Energy Center.

The Tigers attacked early in the second. Rylan Schwartz put Colorado College up 1-0 less than one minute into the game’s middle period. Three and a half minutes later, Charlie Taft doubled the lead.

Despite holding a 26-14 shots advantage after two periods, Minnesota looked lifeless at many times throughout the game.

Pucks slid off sticks, passes weren’t completed and shots were blocked. A string of completed passes was rare. When the Gophers did cleanly possess the puck, they frequently surrendered it to Colorado College. Taft’s goal was the direct result of Mark Alt not being able to clear the zone.

Considering the sloppiness of its play, Minnesota managed a decent amount of opportunities. But they squandered many of them, and Colorado College goalie Joe Howe stopped many others.

On one play, Sam Warning whiffed on a cross-crease pass from Erik Haula with a wide-open net in front of him.

“It just kind of summed up our night,” Lucia said. “We had some looks but just couldn’t get much on it.”

Minnesota was gifted a golden opportunity in the third period when Colorado College’s Joe Marciano was given a five-minute major for checking from behind. The Gophers managed one shot on the power play.

“The way we looked on the power play was kind of how some of our guys played tonight,” Lucia said. “They just couldn’t find a rhythm to their game.”

Minnesota went 0-for-3 with the extra man Friday.

“It was embarrassing how bad our power play was tonight,” junior forward Zach Budish said.

Howe continued his impressive playoff run, stopping 35 shots in the shutout.

Through the first four games of the Final Five, all four teams that finished the game with more shots have lost.

Albeit in different fashion, the Gophers were also defeated in the semifinals of last year’s Final Five. Last year’s team rebounded by winning two games at its NCAA regional and advancing to the Frozen Four. 

“We’ve had a great season so far,” Lucia said. “We put ourselves in a great position.”