Very seldom out of contention, Colorado College continued its two-month struggle to get over the hump on Friday.
The Tigers dropped another nail biter, falling 4-2 to the No. 4-ranked University of Minnesota in the opener of their two-game WCHA series at the World Arena.
Junior left wing Tom Serratore, whose dad and uncle both are Division I head coaches, snapped a 2-2 deadlock with his fifth tally of the season at 13:23 of the third period after the flu-stricken Gophers coughed up a two-goal lead late in the second frame.
Zach Budish scored into a vacated cage with 1:08 left in regulation to seal the triumph and hand CC its fifth loss in seven games, including four one-goal losses at home.
“We've got to find a way to win these close ones,” said head coach Scott Owens, whose squad has gone 1-5-1 since reeling off four straight victories the first two weekends of November. “We need someone to step up for us and make a big play, and we're just not there yet.”
Including three defeats in which its opponent clinched with a late empty netter, Colorado College now has been involved in 11 one-goal affairs in 2012-13, with a record of 4-6-1 in those outings after winning four of the first six. The hard-luck Tigers, now 8-8-1 overall and 5-4 in league play, also have played teams ranked among the nation's top seven for the last four weeks in a row.
And on Friday, they wasted another opportunity to beat a quality opponent. Shaking off an opening 20 minutes in which they managed to tie a season low with only four shots on goal, they used a pair of red lighters just 1:41 apart by Archie Skalbeck and William Rapuzzi to wipe out a 2-0 deficit and head into the final period all knotted up.
Sophomore winger Sam Warning, who had not scored previously this season, struck at 7:36 of the first period and again at 13:12 of the second to produce the early margin for UM.
Skalbeck's seventh goal of the season, a one-timer from the left side off a pin-point feed from Rylan Schwartz, came moments after senior netminder Joe Howe made a huge save on Serratore during a two-on-one rush at the other end on the ice to keep it at 2-0. Howe finished with 27 stops in all for CC, three more than Minnesota freshman Adam Wilcox, but it was Wilcox who made the defensive play of the night within a minute of Serratore putting the visitors ahead to stay.
The national rookie of the week robbed Scott Winkler from the high slot with a sprawling kick save near the far post after Alexander Krushelnyski feathered a pass onto Winkler's tape from the left corner. That would prove to be Colorado College best scoring chance in the final six minutes despite pulling Howe for an extra attacker with with 80 seconds to play – a move that backfired when the Tigers turned the puck over at the Minnesota blue line and let Nate Condon break out with Budish, who iced the triumph.
The Gophers improved to 11-3-2 overall and 6-3-2 in the WCHA.
Skalbeck, Rapuzzi and Schwartz recorded a pair of points apiece for CC.