CC ends Denver’s Gold Pan Rivalry winning streak at 14 as Tigers “win” in 3-on-3 overtime

Photo credit: Isaiah J. Downing, The Gazette

After three years of one-sided dominance by the University of Denver Pioneers, the Gold Pan Rivalry, the second-longest played rivalry in college, might just be back. The top-ranked Pioneers didn’t play well at Magness Arena on Friday night, but what was nothing but a gentle Tiger kitten’s purr on the ice for three years suddenly evolved into a full-blown roar.

Denver seemed either unprepared or complacent and even though it took until the 3×3 overtime after the game was already officially a tie, it spelled doom for the Pioneers. It was an ugly game for the Pioneers, but the Tigers looked better than they had against Denver at any point in the last 14 games in the last three years.

As poorly as DU played, there were moments when the Pioneers looked every but the #1 team in the country they are. Dylan Gambrell took over the game in the second period when he tallied a goal and two assists, including one on Ian Mitchell’s first career goal. The third line of Jake Durflinger, Jaakko Heikkinen, and Liam Finlay gave the Pioneers a big emotional lift when they needed it throughout the night.

“I was really happy in a lot of instances,” DU head coach Jim Montgomery said. “I thought that was the best puck possession game we’ve had in a long time…the Gambrell line was clearly our best line.”

It just wasn’t enough.

These moments were far too few. Between those moments of crimson and gold-hewn brilliance, the Tigers imposed their will on the Pioneers and Denver just didn’t have an answer. From puck drop until the moment Christiano Versich’s shot beat DU goalie Tanner Jaillet in 3-on-3 overtime, Colorado College proved to be the better team and the team that wanted the victory more.

However, given the Tigers’ persistence, they still needed a goal from Mason Bergh with seven seconds left on the clock just to send the game to overtime. To that point in the third period, CC’s Nick Halloran and Heikkinen both scored to add extra intrigue to the final stanza of regulation hockey. Heikkinen’s go-ahead goal came with less than two and a half minutes left in regulation and it seemed like it would be enough to secure the Pioneers’ 15th straight win over the Tigers.

Bergh had other ideas, though. In the final minute of the third period with goalie Alex Leclerc on the bench for an extra skater, CC pressed hard in the offensive zone. With about 10 seconds left, there was a scramble in front of Jaillet’s crease that ended with the puck squeezing out toward the middle of the slot. Bergh spotted the puck, saw a wide open net, and didn’t miss his shot. Tie game.

“I didn’t think we had the ability to clear the puck,” Montgomery explained of the final sequence in regulation. “I didn’t think anyone on our team had an opportunity to make a play and panicked or turned it over. They just had possession.”

The Pioneers’ best chance to win the game in overtime came right at the buzzer as a Tariq Hammond slap shot beat Leclerc high. Hammond got his shot off before the buzzer, but the puck didn’t go in until after the clock was reading 0:00. The goal didn’t count.

Essentially, the rest was history. CC kept playing better hockey than DU did in the three-on-three overtime and Versich’s power play goal gave the Tigers the extra point for NCHC standings purposes.

“Give them credit. They played desperate,” Montgomery said of the Tigers’ effort. “They deserved what they got tonight. They were a harder, more committed team throughout the lineup than we were. What I’m seeing is a different Denver team. That’s what I’m concerned about. There’s not as much urgency and pride in being relentless.”

Sure, this will go down only as a tie for the Pioneers, but you can bet this one is going to sting. And it should. The 6,170 fans on hand to watch a rivalry hockey game didn’t get to see what makes Denver the team to beat in college hockey this year. Unfortunatly, what they saw was far far from that. One can only hope they can fix things quickly and rebound with an important NCHC matchup in Colorado Springs tomorrow night.

10 thoughts on “CC ends Denver’s Gold Pan Rivalry winning streak at 14 as Tigers “win” in 3-on-3 overtime”

  1. No grit in front of the net when it counted. CC wanted it more.
    Giving up two goals with less than 10 seconds on the clock pretty much summed up the game. Tough loss. Hopefully a better effort Saturday.

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  2. The only good thing that came out of that game was Haviland yelling ‘F’n Bulls**t’ on the scoreboard when DU scored. Gotta’ make a GIF- a classic. Otherwise, time to move on and get the planets back in alignment tonight.

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  3. Congrats to CC – they outplayed us for 2/3rds of the game last night and were deserving of the extra point. DU had some good stretches, had periods of time where the feet weren’t moving and did not play with the kind of “relentless hockey” that got them to the #1 perch.

    Underneath the game itself there is a some issues that needs to be addressed.

    1) A banged-up and sometimes panicking defense. Plant, Mostrom and Fear were all in street clothes last night, while Davies got hurt later in the game and had to come out. Hammond still isn’t 100% from his leg injury, either. And Orgel is new and really struggled on the first CC goal. I think when a team’d d-corpd is banged up an out of synch, the tendency to panic at times is exacerbated, and I think that’s why DU has had issues holding on to leads.

    2) Slumping Stars: DU’s two best players, Borgstrom and Terry, had a grand total of one shot on goal between them last night and no points, and have been shutout in the last three games. Nick Halloran, CC’s best player, had 10 shots last night. Think about that for a minute. Terry and Borgstrom need to get back to scoring, or this DU team will be an average NCHC team, as they were last night.

    3) Power Play: As Badger Bob Johnson used to say, good teams play opponents even on 5 on 5, but you win on special teams. DU’s special teams are just not special right now.

    Silver lining:
    Even with all this stuff going wrong, DU is still 5-1-1 in its last six games. Hopefully, the Pios can win tonight on the big ice and get some mojo back after a tie that felt like a loss.

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  4. Well, I’d say the rivalry is alive and well.

    This is not the bottom-dwelling CC team that we’ve seen the last 3-4 years. CC is much improved, as we all saw last night. This team skates better, is much better offensively, and has more depth. Throw in a solid goaltender in Leclerc and you have a solid team. They played with a lot of tenacity last night. It was evident from the start of the game how badly they wanted this one. I really thought the Pios had this one in the bag late in the 3rd, but they couldn’t get a clear and CC busted their asses to tie it up. Give the Tigers credit.

    Gambrell’s line, especially Gambrell himself, was really good last night. They worked hard. The other lines weren’t overly impressive. Terry and Borgstrom need to get back on the scoresheet. The PP was lousy.

    15 games in, almost halfway in terms of games played, this DU team still appears to be a work in progress. Flashes of brilliance combined with defensive lapses and an inconsistent compete/work level has me scratching my head. I’m really glad Hammond is back and he will obviously continue to get better in terms of health, but I think this team misses Butcher’s leadership. Besides being an outstanding player, he was calm, poised, and made really smart decisions. I think DU is lacking in some of those areas this season.

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  5. Thoughts and observations from the CC perspective….From the drop of the puck, CC played with pace and played fearless. I think I’m recent past, CC would’ve respected DU too much, almost playing a “bend but don’t break” defensive style of play resulting in relatively easy wins for the Pios. Furthermore, in previous seasons, once DU went ahead late in the second period and again in the third period, recent CC squads would’ve packed it in and called it a day. Their body language would’ve said it all and you guys probably would’ve cruised to a three or four goal victory.

    There’s definitely a confidence within the CC locker room this season that they can skate with the top teams. You can sense the attitude and play of CC turning a corner as they’ve beaten and played some good teams this season thus far.

    I don’t think you guys took CC for granted last night as DU played really hard and had some long stretches of offensive zone time and some great scoring chances. You guys dominated below CC’s red line, generating 3 of your 4 goals from there. CC was a bit flustered and at times, sloppy down low. That’s a area CC needs to clean up tonight especially with how deep the corners are behind the nets at World Arena.

    I thought the officials called a pretty even game up until the no-call hold by O’Connor on Trey Bradley which directly led to DU’s go-ahead goal late in the game. Even the DU broadcaster said that CC Coach Haviland “had an argument, that it looked like O’Connor took the feet out from underneath Bradley which ended up being a non-call.” It would’ve been a shame to see such a great game be decided by a terrible missed call by the officials. Is there any accountability for our officials? To the anonymous poster who claims that the officials were wanting CC to win, I guess I’d ask to cite some examples of where that was the case because beyond the missed no-call, DU also had 4 PP’s to CC’s 2. All in all, I thought the officials were pretty good for the first 57 minutes. I’d be curious to know why Coach Montgomery was so upset during the three on three OT following that hooking penalty on Colin Staub. Westin Michaud undressed Staub and had a clear lane to the net forcing Staub to haul him down to prevent a goal. It looked like a textbook hook to me.

    All in all, a great game and I would argue that despite losing (or tying whichever way you care to look at it), DU fans want this rivalry re-ignited too and frankly, it couldn’t have been much of a rivalry for you guys over the past 3-4 seasons given your success over CC. Games like last night help both programs.

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    1. Thanks for checking in Dan. I agree with nearly every point you made. CC clearly had the jump on DU last night – and I think they missed some additional goals too. The officiating was just fine – no advantage to either team. College hockey is better when both of these teams are good.

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  6. Dan – Always appreciate your quality takes. I agree with you 100% as well. Havilland had every right to be upset on that play – that was the refs swallowing the whistle at crunch time as they often do. All things considered, I think the officiating was on balance pretty good. They missed a few, as usually happens in this fast sport, but I thought every penalty they did call was legit.

    CC is vastly improved, and I think DU knew that going in. The Tigers now have a top line that can play with anyone, and have good goaltending to go with it, and they are doing it all with no seniors on the team. The CC fans have been waiting a while to see competitive hockey, and now they are getting it, and the rivalry is back now, which is good for both schools.

    I am still pissed off at DU and the NCHC for scheduling a rivalry series while the DU students were on break. This is something that just should not ever happen. Magness was virtually DEAD last night even with sellout crowd, and this game deserved a far better atmosphere than it got. The problem is that DU likes the money it makes when it can sell student tickets to townies at $40 each vs $5 for students, even if the most of the townies are not invested enough to cheer.

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  7. Not quite sure how the student ticket point makes sense. There were a decent number of students in that section (standing the whole game, looked like students, etc.) They just didn’t make much noise. But I agree that there would be more students in attendance during school, and they probably would have created some atmosphere in the building.

    I seriously doubt that DU is scheduling this series during the break to make an extra few thousand dollars. And if they are, they are stupid.

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  8. DU and CC have some sway in when those games are scheduled. For many years, the first DU/CC series was at the end of October, and then it was pushed back to early November by coaches Owens and Gwoz, where it stayed for many years. Seeing that series now pushed into December this year is simply bad for the Pios due to the student break, and they need to get it back into early November or late October where it belongs. Hopefully, this is an aberration and not a trend…

    Last night there were maybe 100-150 DU students in the house when DU usually draws 500-650 students for the CC series. The result? About 1/4 of the noise they usually make. The band was also badly undermanned with the students on break – I will give them credit for trying, throwing some older alums in there to pitch in, but there were only about 10 players as compared to the usual 25 or so (and that’s pretty light compared to most schools, who can get 50-100 musicians to turn out for pep band), as a result, you could barely hear them.

    As for the money-making, DU has almost always scheduled the North Dakota home series during the student break (this year was a notable exception) in order to take advantage of a full-price sold out house.

    I

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