They’re just, you know, not AS bad as they were.
Over the past few years, the Gold Pan Rivalry has become, what’s the nice way to put this, one-sided. The University of Denver Pioneers are on an 8-game winning streak against the Colorado College Tigers and it seems it isn’t about to end anytime soon.
The Tigers (hereinafter referred to as the Kittens) are 3-9-0 on the year with one NCHC victory which came by way of a 2-1 victory at Omaha. They’re averaging just 2.58 goals per game while allowing a staggering (I literally staggered when I read this stat) 4.33 goals per game. In short, the Kittens are still bad at hockey.
It’s kind of become a repetitive sad story whenever we’ve talked about CC on this website. It’s always fun to poke fun at a rival, but when the rivalry has become so one-sided that a week before puck-drop, you know exactly who’s going to win, it just isn’t as fun.
This isn’t to say that the disdain for the Kittens isn’t still palpable in Denver. It is. They’re DU’s in-state rival and the rich tradition of the matchup is undeniable. It’s just lost its luster recently. It’s lost its national appeal and, if we’re being honest, it just doesn’t have the same implications it once did.
We’ve already covered the decline of the Colorado College hockey program. I’ve already pleaded with the CC fanbase to keep from giving up on the Kittens (remember that open letter? It made its way onto CC’s fan-based Facebook page right around The Battle on Blake. That was fun.)
Colorado College is down. Their fans aren’t showing up and recruiting is hard as ever in the Springs. Mike Haviland still has this team on the right track, but the Kittens are still a bad hockey team. The huge discrepancy between goals scored per game and goals allowed per game tells you almost all you need to know about CC. Almost.
As bad as CC is this year, there are signs of improvement. When you look past that gargantuan goal differential per game number and look at their results this year, it’s clear that progress is being made in Colorado Springs. They’re wildly inconsistent, but oddly enough, that’s an improvement from just being consistently bad last year.
When they’re losing, they’re allowing all of the goals. Of their 12 games, they’ve given up 4 or more goals eight (8) times. That’s not a recipe for success. But in those other games, they’ve shown that they’re making progress on defense. Last year, when they held opponents to minimal scoring, it was a product of goalie Jacob Nehama standing on his head. This year, however, when they do hold opponents to low scoring totals, it’s because their defense is learning how to play well in their own end.
Offensively, they’re showing improvement as well. While inconsistent, the Kittens are showing that they have the capability to score in bunches. In fact, CC has scored more than 4 goals in more games this year than DU has. On the flip side, CC has been shut out twice and has scored just one goal three times this year. So even on offense, which has seen a rising level of talent, the Kittens still have a long way to go.
The bottom line is that CC is still a bad hockey team. DU’s regional rival still has a long way to go before they can even be considered respectable. These Kittens are a far cry from the Tigers they were just five years ago, but if you look hard enough, you’ll find reasons to believe that one day, maybe sooner than we think, this rivalry will be competitive again.
We all underestimated how difficult Haviland’s job would be in rebuilding a once proud program. Even Colorado Springs underestimated it. But, for the time being, Colorado College is bad and will stay bad for at least a little while longer.
Maybe that will bring joy to Denver fans. Maybe that’ll give you hope that the Pios can come close to the record 22 straight victories over CC set in the late 1950s and early 60s. At this point, that may be the only thing keeping this rivalry even somewhat exciting.