Pioneers take down Tigers in dominating fashion to sweep weekend & take commanding Gold Pan edge

Photo courtesy Shannon Valerio/DU Athletics

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – If you read last night’s recap, the one that summed up the #8 Denver Pioneers’ shutout of the archrival Colorado College Tigers, you could have copied and pasted that into this space right here. And I did indeed think about doing that. But last night’s game was a shutout for Denver and this one wasn’t. But CC’s goal was about the only difference between Friday and Saturday night as Denver traveled south to the World Arena to close out 2019 and the first half of the 2019-2020 Battle for the Gold Pan with a 3-1 win and clinch the sweep. The sweep puts Denver in full control of the Gold Pan series as just another win or tie in the second half of the series in March will guarantee the trophy’s return to Denver.

On Friday, Colorado College was able to use their strong defense on the smaller, NHL-sized rink to keep the game scoreless through the first two periods despite the Pioneers’ inspired offensive effort. Tonight, on the World Arena’s Olympic-sized sheet, Denver (literally) skated circles around Colorado College and the Tigers simply didn’t have an answer for the Pios’ attack. If not for stellar play by CC’s freshman goaltender Matt Vernon, it’s entirely possible that Denver would have built an insurmountable lead by the end of the opening period. Despite three penalty calls, two of which were taken consecutively by Tyson McLellan, the Pioneers dominated the game out of the gate but again failed to solve Vernon in the first period. They cycled well in the offensive zone, played keep-away with the puck, and, well, did everything BUT score.

If the Tigers were able to keep the first-period close thanks to the three (poor) power plays, Denver took over the game in the second. Time of possession is not tracked in college hockey but Denver controlled the puck in the offensive zone for what certainly seemed like the entire period. Bobby Brink and Kyle Mayhew capitalized on that to give Denver a commanding 2-0 lead. Brink’s goal was the result of a great individual effort on the rush culminating in a beauty of a backhand shot past Vernon’s pad while Mayhew’s was a power-play marker the came off of a great cycle by Denver’s top power-play unit. CC scored by the end of the period on a fluke play in front of Chrona but the Pioneers didn’t let that slow them down.

Cole Guttman did add Denver’s second power-play goal of the night and third of the weekend to keep the Pios’ momentum going in the third period and fully erase any lingering thoughts and memories of that 1-4-3 stretch. Maybe, in the end, all Denver needed was the added motivation of playing a rival or maybe it was just the normal ebbs and flows of a long hockey season. Whatever it was, the Pioneers’ demons from the past two months appear to have been exorcised thanks to a strong 120 minutes of NCHC hockey against an archrival.

With the win, Denver vaulted past St. Cloud State (split with Omaha this weekend) and Western Michigan (idle) from fifth place into third place in the NCHC standings which is saying a lot after all of the ground that Denver lost over the past two months. However, the bigger significance of this sweep is that Denver fully controls its own destiny in the Battle for the Gold Pan when the two teams meet again at the end of March. If Colorado College is to keep the Gold Pan, they must sweep that series.

Denver ended another successful decade of hockey with a sweep of its archrival. The Pioneers took home the Gold Pan seven of the last 10 times (counting 2009-10) it was at stake. Denver won ‘just’ one national title this decade. But winning the Gold Pan seven times in the last decade and punctuating the decade with a sweep of the Tigers sure is a damn nice cherry on top of another great 10 years of Denver Hockey.


Postgame Comments


10 thoughts on “Pioneers take down Tigers in dominating fashion to sweep weekend & take commanding Gold Pan edge”

  1. This was a dominating, masterful performance by the Pioneers on the road against a rival that had the better effort level vs DU last season.

    Honestly, I can’t remember a Pioneer team winning face-offs 42-17, and taking puck possession like DU did tonight in the second and third. DU put on a skating clinic on the big sheet and the DU backchecking was clinical, too. CC didn’t have much sustained offense all night and Vernon played a superb game to keep it close, when in reality, CC could not keep up with DU.

    CC only skated four defensemen all night, and DU’s four lines wore them down. Surprised that CC only drew 4,400 fans in a 7,700 seat arena. It wasn’t so long ago that CC vs DU was a 7,000+ crowd there…

    Mayhew did a superb job filling in for Davies this weekend, and to see his confidence growing as he jumps into the play is a big plus for the Pioneers.

  2. Yeah, that was a SOLID performance. Awesome defensively, winning all the puck battles, and pretty much taking the puck away from CC anytime they tried to skate with it. Nice goal by Brink, too. The only flaw was Petterson’s retaliation penalty…that was not good. Otherwise, a great game all around. I am also surprised that CC drew that relatively small crowd.
    And it seems crazy that they are building a rink with 1/3 the seating capacity of what they have now. They showed a depiction of the rink on the broadcast, and the participation banners were hilariously dominant. It’s ok, we’ll be here to remind them that the only one they have that matters is vintage 1957.

    1. I forgot about that one. Two is much better than one, that is true. They needed to add one or two more, when they were winning three WCHA championships in a row, etc. about 20 yrs ago. If memory serves, they got to a national championship game in that era, maybe lost a heartbreaker in OT??

      1. Yes, CC was excellent in the Don Lucia years in the mid 1990s. The Tigers got to the NCAA Final in 1996 against Michigan in Cincinnati. Eric Ruud almost won it in OT for CC, but his shot hit the post, and Michigan scored soon after to win the NCAA title.

        Watch it here:

  3. Great weekend to have heading into a long break. DU has tons of talent. Now, there is evidence that if they match that with effort and intensity they are a tough out going forward. Carle and his staff stayed steady – and now a great reward.

  4. Great weekend for the Pios and just what the Dr. ordered. A big sweep over their arch rivals, a huge step towards reclaiming the Gold Pan, and a significant jump in the NCHC standings. Pios came into the weekend sitting in 6th place and jumped all the way to third. Still a lot of hockey to play, but every point is important. Most importantly, though, DU played to its strengths–relentless hockey, solid puck management, speed and skating on display, and pressure, pressure, pressure. CC really had no answers. Full credit to Vernon. He was terrific. Otherwise that game could easily have been 6 or 7-1.

    After the disjointed and mediocre stretch starting with the Duluth series, this weekend was important to get back on track and set the tone for the second half.

  5. Pios looked completely dominant this weekend. Back to solid form. Great wins and a nice send-off for the break. Need to come back firing and secure an at-large. This team has the firepower to get to the Frozen Four again, but need to finish the season strong and be clicking heading into postseason play. Merry Christmas!

  6. I think we are now seeing the real potential of Bobby Brink. He’s now leading the Pios in goalscoring as a freshman, won NCHC Rookie of the Week honors this week, and looks to be a first unit PP and second line winger for the US Junior team in the Czech Republic over the holidays.

    What impresses me about Brink is that his skating (which was knocked by NHL scouts prior to the draft) is improving week to week, especially from the blue line in. At one point on Saturday, he made nearly two full circles with the puck around the offensive zone at speed without CC being able to catch or stop him.

    He’s also finding his scoring touch, which DU needs badly. His vision on passes is elite – he can create and see space much the way Stastny did when he was at DU. He needs to be paired with line mates who can execute, and he’s also well placed up high on the power play, where his vision, shooting and passing is best utilized.

    What a pleasure to watch him develop…

Leave a Reply