Denver wins 12th Gold Pan with second straight 3-1 victory

Photo courtesy DU Athletics

The #2 University of Denver Pioneers won (retained) the Gold Pan Trophy thanks to a 3-1 victory over the Colorado College Tigers tonight at Magness Arena. The victory marked the Pioneers’ 10th straight victory over their regional rival and extended their unbeaten streak to 14 games.

This victory also marks the 12th time that DU has won the Gold Pan Trophy, which is awarded annually to the winner of the season series between the Pioneers and Tigers. This is an important mark for the Pios as it draws them even with CC, who also has won the trophy 12 times since its inception 23-and-a-half years ago.

If there was anything we learned tonight or this weekend, it’s that CC really is as bad as advertised. Denver, for its part, skated the Tigers out of the World Arena and Magness Arena this weekend. The two 3-1 scorelines made both games seem far closer than they really were.

“It’s fun to see us continue to grow,” DU head coach Jim Montgomery said. “A lot of guys are getting a lot of offensive chances, they’re not burying them, but they’re getting a lot.”

Tonight, the Pios picked up right where they left off a night ago in Colorado Springs. From the opening puck drop, they had a step on CC. By the halfway point of the opening period, they were outshooting the Tigers 11-3, though CC took an early lead on a goal by Westin Michaud.

CC’s goal didn’t keep DU down long as Dylan Gambrell evened up the score on an incredible goal down low. He took a pass from Will Butcher in the low slot, tapped it off his skate and shot the puck high over CC goalie Alex Leclerc’s left shoulder to tie the game at 1. From there, the Pios didn’t let up. Evan Janssen scored with 48 seconds left in the first period and Logan O’Connor scored a shorthanded goal with 8 seconds left in the 2nd period to give DU the 3-1 victory.

Tonight’s game just wasn’t as close as the 3-1 score indicated…again. By the end of the evening, DU outshot CC 36-20. In the second period alone, Denver had to kill off 5 separate CC power plays including a long 5-on-3 power play. Not only did the Pios kill off every single one of them, they still managed to outshoot the Tigers 12-9.

“I thought #22 (O’Connor) was the best player on the ice tonight,” Montgomery said of his team’s penalty killing effort. “When we have #26 (Janssen) back, you see I throw them out there a lot. I thought that we blocked shots well and I thought Evan Cowley made a lot of key stops. That’s what you need if your penalty kill is going to come up [big].”

This weekend was a perfect encapsulation of the current state of the Battle for the Gold Pan. Denver is simply a better hockey team than Colorado College and sadly it appears that it’s going to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Denver beat Colorado College twice this weekend, just like everyone expected. Denver outplayed Colorado College twice this weekend, just like everyone expected. Maybe Denver should have scored more than 6 goals in two games against a bad team, but hey they were without their leading scorer, Henrik Borgström, and it’s not easy to get up emotionally to play a bad hockey team, even if they are a rival.

The good news is DU didn’t look past CC with top-ranked Minnesota-Duluth coming to town next weekend. With these two victories, it’s all but assured that next weekend’s matchup at Magness Arena will be a #1 vs #2 showdown.

“It’s gonna be right here in Denver. We have #1 coming into our barn,” Montgomery said of next week’s matchup with Minnesota-Duluth. “I hope it’s loud, I hope it’s sold out. I know they’re going to see great hockey. It’s the two best teams in the country going at each other.”