Pike's Peak showdown

December 6, 2012

Funny how a series that seems to be well in hand—even against a more powerful team—can get away. And how fast. That's what happened to the Gophers' upcoming road foe, Colorado College, last week.

Last Saturday in Colorado Springs, the Tigers were only 14 seconds from their biggest sweep in recent memory, heading for the horn with a one-goal lead over No. 7 ranked North Dakota.

Then it happened: The Team Formerly Known As the Fighting Sioux scored with 13.2 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime. Which didn't last long. Only 51 seconds into the extra period, North Dakota scored and the weekend ended in a split.

Afterward, Tigers head coach Scott Owens said, “It hurts. It really hurts. You're 14 seconds away from sweeping the No. 7 team in the country and then you don't even get a tie.”

The finish left CC and North Dakota locked in a three-way tie for third place in the WCHA with Minnesota State.

Red-Hot Rookie: The Gophers have been backstopped most of the season by freshman Adam Wilcox (South St. Paul) who has compiled the nation's fifth-best goals-against average (1.61) and done what every goalie is supposed to do: put his team in a position to win every night.

Now, Wilcox's efforts have been rewarded by being named the National Rookie of the Month for November. During that month he went unbeaten in a six-game span and clocked a shutout.

Wilcox told the coaches he was the man when camp started. He talked the talk—now, he's walking the walk.

Gopher young'uns go international: Two members of Minnesota's talented crop of freshmen are set for hectic holidays. Defensemen Brady Skjei and Mike Reilly have been named to the U.S. National Junior Team's preliminary roster. Which means that they could advance to major international competition quickly. Here's how it could go:

Dec. 16-18 Training camp – NY Rangers facilities, Tarrytown, NY

Dec. 19-23 Camp continues – Helsinki, Finland

Dec. 23 Final roster announced Dec. 26-Jan.5 World Junior Championship – Ufa, Russia

If Reilly and Skjei keep advancing, it will be a solid jump-start to their careers – not to mention a hefty pile of frequent flyer miles.

Scouting the Tigers: This wasn't how it was supposed to be. The Tigers entered the season confident that their defense and goaltending would be solid. Instead, they've given up an average of 46 shots on goal the last four games. In goal, no one has stepped forward as a clear starter. Junior Josh Thorimbert was doing well until he gave up the tying and winning goals against North Dakota last Saturday. Before that, he had been yanked in his previous two starts and sat for four more. Senior Joe Howe (Plymouth) beat NoDak last Friday but was winless in his previous four starts.

Scoring has come from a trio of seniors: Rylan Schwartz, William Rapuzzi (19 points each) and Scott Winkler, a third-round draft pick of the Dallas Stars in 2008 (18 points).

Trending downward: Both teams have slipped in the national polls. The Gophers are No. 5 this week, their lowest ranking of the season. Colorado College, which had been in the top 10 earlier in the season, is now in the “Also Receiving Votes” category.

First place within reach: The Gophers, meanwhile, are tied with St. Cloud State for second place in the WCHA, three points behind front-running Denver. That means first place is in sight for both teams heading into the last weekend of play before the holiday break. The Gophers' series at Colorado College is a key mid-season conference matchup. Another will be Denver's trip to Grand Forks to take on North Dakota. Yet another big clash should be Minnesota State's series at St. Cloud.

Join Kevin Gorg, Marney Gellner and me from the World Arena in Colorado Springs Friday and Saturday nights for the Gophers-Tigers series on FOX Sports North!