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After emotional series against Minnesota, UND falls at CC

Colorado College's Tanner Ockey (10) gets caught up with North Dakota's Gabe Bast (2) as forward Nick Jones (8) defends in the first period of Friday night's game. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing1 / 2
North Dakota's Hayden Shaw (28) and Colorado College Tigers forward Jack Gates (24) battle for the puck in the first period of Friday's game at The Broadmoor World Arena. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing2 / 2

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—Nearly every one of the UND hockey coaching staff's fears came true in the first 40 minutes in World Arena.

A letdown after a big emotional series against Minnesota? Check. UND was thoroughly outplayed during the first two periods by Colorado College.

Getting stuck on the ice on extended shifts in the high altitude? Check. It led to two goals in two periods.

Having to kill penalties on the big, Olympic ice sheet? Check. Five of the game's six power plays went to Colorado College.

All of that led to a 2-1 Tiger win over No. 4 UND on Friday night in World Arena.

"They came out and took it to us for the first two periods there," UND defenseman Colton Poolman said. "We were slow to start. We weren't handling passes. We weren't crisp. That goes back to being mentally prepared for Friday night. You can't just walk in here. . . you've got to play three periods to win a game and we obviously only played one.

"We knew going into the game that it was a big game, but our minds weren't there for the first period for whatever reason. It was a slow start. We've had a couple of those this year. Hopefully, we can learn that lesson once here and move on."

Colorado College used a pair of goals from its big line—one by Mason Bergh and a power-play tally by Nick Halloran to build the lead in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference opener.

UND got a timely unassisted goal by Shane Gersich with 30 seconds left in the second period to pull UND within a goal, and controlled play in the third, but it was too late.

"We talked about being prepared all week," UND coach Brad Berry said. "We talked about it after the game now. That's four Fridays in a row that we had to scratch and claw to try to get a point or try to get a win. You can't do that. It's not a physical thing. It's a mental thing."

UND, which dropped to 4-2-1 overall and 0-1 in NCHC play, was not at its best in the first two periods.

Colorado College outshot the Fighting Hawks 12-5 through one period and 23-14 through two.

The Tigers got on the board first at 4:45 of the first period when UND's top line of Gersich, Rhett Gardner and Austin Poganski got caught on the ice for a long shift. They got the puck to the neutral zone, but the Tigers turned it the other way and caught the Fighting Hawks on a line change.

Halloran dropped a pass to Bergh, who flipped a backhand five-hole on UND goalie Cam Johnson (24 saves) to make it 1-0.

The Tigers extended the lead at 9:01 of the second period, when they converted their third power-play opportunity of the night. Halloran threw a shot from the left circle through traffic that got past Johnson.

UND had killed 28 of its first 29 penalties of the season, but the Olympic ice sheet in Colorado Springs—15 feet wider than the traditional NHL-sized sheets—presents challenges.

"You definitely have to pick your spots," Jackson said after practice Thursday. "We want to be aggressive. We want to disrupt up ice, hold blue lines and be hard on them on their initial entry. It's harder to do on a big rink. You don't have as many triggers or spots you can go together as a group. We still want to be aggressive, but it's not as easy to do."

The Gersich tally with 30 seconds left in the first period snapped a 101 minute, 2 second scoreless streak for Tiger goalie Alex Leclerc against UND.

But as the Fighting Hawks pushed for a tying goal in the third, Leclerc came up big again, shutting down all 13 UND shots in the final frame.

Leclerc has now stopped 71 of 72 shots in his last two starts against the Fighting Hawks.

After finishing in last place for each of the last three seasons in the NCHC, Colorado College appears set on changing that this season.

The Tigers have started this season 5-2, earning their fifth win of the season in October—that's more than two months earlier than it had done so in each of the last four seasons.

They also started the season 3-0 at home after winning just a single home game last season—the 3-0 decision against the Fighting Hawks.

"We're going to have to be ready to go tomorrow," Berry said, "because it's going to be even tougher tomorrow."

Notes: UND senior center Johnny Simonson didn't make the trip because of an undisclosed injury. . . The scratches on the trip were Cole Smith, Matt Kiersted and Josh Rieger. . . Former UND goalie Tate Maris watched the game from the press box as Colorado College's volunteer goalie coach.

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 13th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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