Photo Credit: David Zalubowski, The Denver Post
On Thursday night, in front of a quiet (announced) 6,831 fans at the World Arena, the University of Denver Pioneers skated the Colorado College Tigers out of the building with a 4-1 Gold Pan Rivalry victory. It was Denver’s 7th straight victory over their in-state rivals from down in Colorado Springs.
The third installment of the 2015-16 DU-CC series got underway with relatively little action. Both teams seemed uninterested in playing when the puck dropped, but just 3:17 into the game, after a questionable boarding penalty against Emil Romig, CC’s Matt Hansen beat DU starting goalie Tanner Jaillet on a great pass from Andrew Farny. After CC cycled the puck in DU’s zone, Mason Bergh found Farny at the point. Farny sent the puck across the zone to Hansen who one-timed the puck past Jaillet’s outstretched blocker to put the Tigers on the board.
That goal seemed to give the Pioneers a jolt of energy as they immediately began dominating the game. Finally, at the 10:41 mark of the opening frame, Dylan Gambrell finished off a great sequence started by fellow Pacific Rim linemate Danton Heinen. Heinen skated the puck into the zone, found Quentin Shore to his left. Shore passed the puck back to Heinen before Heinen found Gambrell in the crease who lifted the puck over CC goalie Jacob Nehama’s pad and into the back of the net. 1-1.
“I thought we were into the game right from the start,” DU head coach Jim Montgomery said.
That score held through the 2nd period as well. At the beginning of the middle frame, though, Evan Cowley relieved Jaillet when it was discovered that DU’s starter got sick in the locker room during the first intermission.
Cowley transitioned seamlessly and didn’t give up a goal in his 40 minutes thanks in large part to a dominating offense. For most of the 2nd period, Denver cycled the puck in CC’s zone. In fact, through the first 7:50 of the period, it’s possible that DU was on the attack for over six minutes. Unfortunately, because the Pioneers spent more time looking to pass than shoot the puck, they were unable to capitalize on their many chances.
At the 13:59 mark, Matt Marcinew was called for another questionable tripping penalty. This power play energized Tigers fans and players alike and had the Pioneers on their heels. Thanks to a few great saves by Cowley and good last-second defense by Denver’s PK unit, the Pioneers killed it off and kept the game scoreless.
“I didn’t like our second period,” Montgomery said. “I didn’t think we went to the net the same way [as the first period].”
In the third period, Denver returned to the ice with much more energy than their black and yellow counterparts. The Pioneers were a step ahead in every zone and the Tigers’ only answer was the great play by Nehama.
“I thought we let him off the hook a lot,” Montgomery said. “He came up with some good saves, but so did Cowley.”
At the 6:54 mark of the final period, after CC’s Ben Israel was called for interference, Trevor Moore hammered home a rebound off of a Gambrell shot to give the Pioneers the lead for good.
At that point, it felt and looked like DU had the game won already. CC stopped skating hard, the crowd went virtually silent, and Denver continued to keep the puck in the offensive zone.
With just 2:43 left, Will Butcher split CC’s defense with a pass to Troy Terry who quickly broke away in the offensive zone and beat Nehama five-hole to give Denver an important insurance goal. 3-1.
“In the third [period], we actually elevated,” Montgomery said. “If we don’t get that power play goal, they’re just going to keep hanging on.”
Just about a minute and a half later, Heinen padded DU’s stats and ran up the score on the Tigers with a goal to extend the lead to 4-1. All of a sudden, in what was otherwise a dead game, Denver’s quick strike offense made it an exciting final few minutes.
“I thought this was the best game we’ve ever played in this building,” Montgomery explained after the game.
Coming into the evening, the concern on both benches was maintaining focus heading into Saturday’s Battle on Blake at Coors Field. Denver clearly answered the call tonight as they took it to their rivals while Colorado College, now #50 in the PWR, looked distracted for all 60 minutes.
The two teams will practice tomorrow evening at Coors Field and will play game two of the weekend series on Saturday for the Battle on Blake.
Will Butcher had 2 assists tonight to bring his total to 17 on the season; Terry’s breakaway goal was his 6th of the year; The Pacific Rim Line combined for 7 points and each member had a goal in the game; The final goal of the game included every member of DU’s top line: Moore to Gambrell to Heinen; With the victory, DU stays at #8 in the PWR and moves within 3 points of first place in the NCHC, though North Dakota and St. Cloud each have a game in hand; Denver out shot Colorado College 33-28.
The Battle on Blake
DU vs CC
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