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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service , Published January 10 2013

Colorado College stuck on a skid entering UND game

GRAND FORKS – It all happened 41 days ago.

Colorado College was on its way to a home sweep of the University of North Dakota and continuing to be one of the surprise teams in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

UND was on its way to a third straight loss, a .500 record and a lot of frustration.

That’s when Dillon Simpson scored the biggest goal of the season – one that altered the path of not only his UND squad but also Colorado College.

With the goaltender pulled for an extra attacker, Simpson sniped the corner of the net with 13 seconds left to tie it and send it into overtime. A rejuvenated UND team took less than a minute to win the game in the extra session.

At the time, Colorado College coach Scott Owens described the loss as “extremely hard.” UND coach Dave Hakstol said it was a big victory for his team.

Since Simpson’s goal, UND is 6-0-1. Colorado College is 0-6-1.

UND has made a surge toward the top of the WCHA standings (UND is in third, but has the best winning percentage). Colorado College promptly went on the program’s longest winless streak in 20 years and plummeted to ninth place.

The two teams, who have headed in opposite directions since their last meeting, will match up again this weekend in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

UND (12-5-3 overall, 7-2-3 WCHA) is looking to make a push toward an 11th straight NCAA tournament bid. Colorado College (8-12-2, 5-8-1) is looking to rescue its season – the last in the WCHA for both teams.

“They’ve gone through a bit of a rough patch right now, so we know they are going to be fired up to play us,” UND senior captain Andrew MacWilliam said. “They need to get back on the winning path, I guess. They’re going to be determined this weekend, so we need to be ready.”

Colorado College’s strength is on the offensive side. The Tigers scored seven times against UND – the most UND has allowed in any weekend this season.

The Tigers have four players with 20 points – seniors Rylan Schwartz, William Rapuzzi and Scott Winkler and junior Alexander Krushelnyski, who had had four points in the December series between the teams.

“We’ve just got to make sure we play sound defensively,” MacWilliam said. “They’ve always been (a high-powered offensive team), especially the three years I’ve been here. They have a lot of firepower. We have to shut down their key guys. They are really opportunistic, so we have to limit their opportunities.”

Defense has been Colorado College’s weakness. The Tigers rank 55th of 59 teams nationally, and last among WCHA teams, with 3.73 goals allowed per game.

UND has averaged 4.3 goals per game since leaving Colorado Springs on a charter flight Dec. 1.

This weekend, UND will have World Junior Champion gold medalist Rocco Grimaldi back in the lineup, along with forwards Michael Parks and Mitch MacMillan, who played their first full games last weekend.

The only player expected to miss the series due to injury is junior forward Derek Rodwell (thigh).

Hakstol says it’s critical to take advantage of games in Ralph Engelstad Arena, where UND has lost just once in 10 games this season.

“It’s pretty clear to me how difficult of a second-half schedule we have,” Hakstol said. “It’s pretty difficult to win in this league. We have to take advantage of your home games as well as you possibly can. CC is an outstanding hockey team. We saw them about a month ago. The ability they have in their lineup is extremely dangerous.

“It all goes back to the same old thing – we have to worry about what we do.”

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald