COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. The few hundred Michigan Tech fans were the only ones making noise at game's end, and with good reason.
The eighth-seeded Huskies are now only a win away from the program's first trip to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five since March 2007 after defeating host Colorado College 3-1 before 5,455 fans at the World Arena Friday.
Colorado College junior center Rylan Schwartz, who scored his league-high 23rd goal on a 5-on-3 power play only 39 seconds into the third period, had tied the game at 1-1, setting the stage for an exciting final frame.
It was not for most of those fans with MTU outshooting CC 11-3 for the remainder of the playoff contest and 29-17 for the game.
"The key for us was getting through the second half of that 5-on-3," said Huskies coach Mel Pearson. "We played well defensively as a team."
The Huskies' Dennis Rix scored on a great pass from Bryce Reddick, who looked to be attempting a wraparound goal but instead passed diagonally out in front to a wide-open Rix for a hard one-timer from between the circles. CC goalie Josh Thorimbert had no chance to make the save with 16:19 left on the eventual game-winner.
MTU (15-18-4) added an insurance goal with 9:39 left when Alex MacLeod scored off assists from David and Jacob Johnstone.
"We just had to get the puck on net and go at it," said freshman David Johnstone, who finished with a goal and assist. "We know they're going to come out playing hard (Saturday) so we'll need to match their intensity, maybe surpass it."
Game 2 of the best-of-three first-round playoff series is tonight at 9:07 p.m. Eastern.
Earlier, David Johnstone stole the puck from CC's William Rapuzzi in the Tigers zone, rushed in alone and jammed the puck between the post and Thorimbert with 2:48 left in the second period to give the visiting Huskies a 1-0 lead.
"I was just lucky the puck squeaked through," Johnston said.
The unassisted score was the first goal scored by a MTU forward against CC (18-15-2) this season; a total of 157 minutes and 12 seconds including last weekend's regular-season series.
"That was a gigantic gorilla, not a monkey, off our backs," Pearson said. "David picks their guy clean, goes to the net and scores. That right there is the biggest key. Josh (Thorimbert) was on a roll. After five or six periods of not scoring on him, it starts to creep into your heads."
The goal highlighted a dominant second period. Michigan Tech outshot CC 7-0 in the first 10:17 and 11-4 for the period. Thorimbert kept CC in the game by making three big saves during a MTU power play.
"I thought they had great jump," Tigers coach Scott Owens said. "They were quick to the puck. I was disappointed with our inability to get the puck to the net. I mean 17 shots against any team is not acceptable."
Neither team could seize the early advantage after both had shots go off iron during a two-minute span midway through the first period.
Jacob Johnstone's shot went off the crossbar and rolled over with 13:17 remaining to keep the game scoreless. With 15:33 left, a rebound attempt by CC sophomore defenseman Eamonn McDermott hit the post and then the crossbar to bounce harmlessly away.
The Tigers drew the first penalty of the game, but were unable to set up an effective power play with the Huskies doing a good job pushing the puck outside and pinching the puck-handler against the boards to force turnovers.
McDermott's rebound attempt early in the first period was the only clean carom the Tigers were able to track down. Rebounds were being allowed by senior goalie Josh Robinson (16 saves), but at least two Huskies were in front to clear the puck away. After the first period, CC managed only nine shots and even fewer rebounds.
"We had our chances but their forwards did a good job getting back and clogging up the slot," Owens said.
CC had a great chance to score only 57 seconds into the game when CC sophomore standout Jaden Schwartz split two Tech defenders and faked a shot toward the MTU right post. Instead he went to his backhand as he cut across the goal face and tried to flip the puck over Robinson, who stuck out his right leg pad for the huge save.
"A couple big saves by Josh (Robinson) helped us get our feet under us," Pearson said.