Pioneers outclass Tigers in Colorado Springs en route to fourth straight Gold Pan

Photo courtesy DU Athletics

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The #2 University of Denver Pioneers will hold onto the Gold Pan for at least one more year. Thanks to a dominant 5-1 victory over their archrival, the Colorado College Tigers, at the Broadmoor World Arena, the Pios clinched the trophy that is awarded annually to the winner of the intrastate rivalry for the fourth straight year. This was the first time in years, however, that it took the second series between the Pios and Tigers to determine who took home the trophy.

Colorado College built on the momentum from their two December ties with Denver and played with determination and heart early on in the game. They had a number of quality scoring chances throughout the opening frame, but DU goalie Tanner Jaillet kept the Tigers from breaking through and gave the Pioneers a chance to score the all-important opening goal. They didn’t squander the chance. Barely five and a half minutes into the game, Henrik Borgström fielded a rebound deflected into the corner by CC goalie Alex Leclerc and attentively shot the puck off of the goaltender and into the back of the net.

“We were just relentless,” DU head coach Jim Montgomery said of his team’s victory and ability to score on Leclerc. “We spent a lot of time in their end which gets tiring for a goaltender. When the puck is in your end, you have to crouch the whole time and you can’t relax.”

The score remained 1-0 for the remainder of the first period but the Pioneers grabbed the momentum from the Tigers and wouldn’t relinquish it. If Denver grabbed ahold of the game in the first period, they grabbed ahold of the scoreboard in the second. Goals from Colin Staub, Kohen Olischefski, and Logan O’Connor gave the Pioneers all the cushion they needed to absorb a Tigers goal from Brian Williams and coast to an easy victory.

“They were playing well,” Montgomery said of his depth and fourth line’s performance. “One of their first shifts, [CC] put out their top line and they hemmed them in their end the whole time. That line, Barrow, Olischefski, and Junda has really grown and matured here over the last six weeks.”

Olischefski’s goal had the potential for controversy as defenseman Griffin Mendel passed the puck to Rudy Junda with his hand in DU’s defensive zone and Olischefski finished the ensuing rush with a tap-in goal. The play went uncalled and the goal counted. If it was a closer game, the missed call would have generated much more coverage and controversy. Jarid Lukosevicius even added a goal in the third period to put the game out of reach, end any possibility of controversy, and seal the Gold Pan victory for the Pioneers.

In the bigger picture, the Pioneers played a successful game in their first of four games without star forward and Olympian Troy Terry. With more of an emphasis on a team game rather than getting the puck to goal-scorers like Terry, Borgström, and Dylan Gambrell, the ice opened up for the entire team and offered scoring chances from the top line to the fourth line.

“I felt all week that we have our swagger right now,” Montgomery said. “I felt that the way we practiced, we’re confident, but we’re working. When you get that combination, you see the kind of team performance like you saw tonight.”

Denver is certainly happy to clinch the Gold Pan, but as the stretch run continues, DU’s focus has shifted to winning their second straight Penrose Cup which is awarded to the regular season champion of the NCHC. St. Cloud State, currently in first place, beat Western Michigan in three-on-three overtime tonight. As a result, Denver’s victory in Colorado Springs pulled the Pios to within two points of the Huskies with five games to play, including two in St. Cloud next weekend.