Instead, the Bulldogs have to settle for being one of the WCHA's hottest. After giving up a tying goal with 2:45 left, Caleb Herbert scored on a rebound with 1:43 to go, lifting UMD to a 3-2 win over Colorado College Friday night in front of over 7,000 at World Arena.
Herbert also assisted on UMD's first goal, a power-play goal by Justin Crandall. On that play, a power play that had done nothing scored when Herbert took the puck on the half-wall and bulldozed to the net, putting it through CC goalie Joe Howe. Crandall was free on the weakside to jam the puck in from its position on the goal line.
UMD came out flying, aided by an early power play, but couldn't score despite an early 10-0 edge in shots on goal. The Tigers scored late in the first for a 1-0 lead before Crandall equalized in the second.
The Bulldogs outshot CC 11-4 in the second period and 38-26 for the game. Howe was great early in the game and solid throughout, but the last two goals may be ones he'd like to have back.
At 9:53 of the third, senior Mike Seidel intercepted a pass at the Tigers blue line and broke into the slot, where he beat Howe on a back-hander to give UMD a 2-1 lead.
Mike Boivin tied it for CC at 17:15, but then Herbert capped one of his better games this season with the winner. Adam Krause stole a puck in the neutral zone and ripped a shot at Howe that trickled through his pads. Herbert jammed it home after driving the net on the shot.
Herbert was active in all three zones. He only had three shots, but he drove the net on numerous occasions, causing trouble in front of Howe and showing the kind of jam that makes a highly-skilled player very dangerous. He wasn't great on faceoffs, losing more than half of the 16 draws he took. But he made up for it by competing for pucks, making smart plays, and being aggressive in the offensive zone.
The play he made on the Crandall goal can't be overstated, either. On a power play that did nothing, Herbert basically said "F this, I'm going to the net."
And no one could stop him. By getting the puck to the goal line, he was able to set up Crandall for the team's first goal.
This line with Herbert, Crandall, and Krause is working. Tony Cameranesi's line had an average game, and Jake Hendrickson's line was a surprising minus in the game. But all three had their moments, chances, and all three of them made plays. Max Tardy's line had some good shifts, too, though their chances were generally kept to a minimum.
With the win, UMD moved into a tie for fifth in the league standings with North Dakota at 19 points, two points back of first-place Minnesota. The Bulldogs continue to be in an increasingly good position, and they've done with quality play as of late.
UMD is now 7-1-1 in its last nine WCHA games, including five straight wins in league play.
Expect a big push from CC Saturday, especially its older players. Boivin led the team with nine shots on goal, but top-line guys Rylan Schwartz, Alexander Krushelnyski, and William Rapuzzi only had five between them. Senior center Scott Winkler's line was on the ice for the winning goal.
If UMD can find a way to win, things will set up quite nicely for the stretch run, during which UMD will play on six straight weekends (five of them in WCHA play).
The WCHA got nuttier on Friday. With the way things played out, check out this scenario for Saturday.
North Dakota beats Minnesota.
Denver ties St. Cloud State.
If those things happen, the standings would look like this.
Denver 21 points
North Dakota 21
St. Cloud State 21
Seriously. A five-way tie for first place could very well happen on Saturday.
Also, a UMD win means the Bulldogs would go into next week's bye in no worse than fifth place in the standings.
Those games on Friday went like this:
Nate Condon had three points and five different players scored for Minnesota in a 5-1 win over North Dakota. Adam Wilcox outplayed Clarke Saunders in goal.
St. Cloud State got two goals from defenseman Nick Jensen in the third period to break open a 2-2 game on the way to a 5-2 home win over Denver.
Pheonix Copley pitched his third shutout in five starts as Michigan Tech beat Bemidji State 4-0. Blake Pietila had two goals and one assist for the Huskies.
Minnesota State blew a 3-1 lead and had to settle for a 3-3 tie at Alaska Anchorage. Blake Tatchell and Bobby Murphy scored :40 apart late in the third for UAA.
Wisconsin got a third-period goal from Joseph LaBate and held off Miami 1-0. Goalie Joel Rumpel got the win with 26 saves.