Pioneers Open 2021-2022 Battle for the Gold Pan with Dominant Shutout of Tigers

The #5 Denver Pioneers (15-5-1, 8-3-0 NCHC, 24 pts) are a good hockey team. But we knew that. The Colorado College Tigers (6-12-3, 3-6-1 NCHC, 11 pts) are not a good hockey team. But we knew that as well. As a result, on a late Friday night, in front of a loud, packed house at Magness Arena, the obvious happened. The Pioneers dominated the Tigers, as they have done so many times for the better part of the last decade, in a 5-0 rout with head coach David Carle still in Covid-19 protocol. It wasn’t a particularly competitive game at any point as Denver outshot its archrival 40-19 but the Pios certainly put on a great show for the largest crowd of the season to this point.

One of the Pioneers’ calling cards all year long has been its incredible scoring depth. At any given moment, each of DU’s four lines is capable of lighting the lamp. Of course, the top line of Carter Savoie, Cole Guttman, and Bobby Brink grabs headlines, but it’s the play of its bottom-six forwards, specifically the third line of Ryan Barrow, Brett Stapley, and Jack Devine, that has often provided the ever-important secondary scoring for the Pioneers this year. Tonight, it was no different as those three players combined for two goals and five points.

“We just kind of build off of each other,” Barrow said of the chemistry of his line. “We just complement each other and I think I’m just kind of lucky to be on that line. Those two (Stapley and Devine) are so unbelievable with the puck and their hockey smarts are insane out there. I just try to go in there, get the puck for them, go to the net, and hopefully, good things will happen playing with those two.”

“They’ve been growing as a line since they were put together early in the season,” DU assistant head coach Dallas Ferguson added. “[The third line] has a little bit of everything. Brett’s a possession player that can find time and space, Ryan’s a guy that gets to the inside and creates on the forecheck and around the front of the net, and Jack is a real smart player that knows how to play off of Ryan and Brett so the chemistry is good. It’s a good line for us and real effective for us tonight.”

The Denver Pioneers are a top-five team in the country once again for good reason and once again, in their 15th victory of the season, they showed the rest of the country – at least the portion that gets CBS Sports Network – why. It was the second straight shutout for Magnus Chrona and Denver’s improving defensive corps and yet another game that the Pios scored five goals, something they’ve done 12 times already this season and in doing so again increased their NCAA-best goals per game mark.

There isn’t much more important for DU inside of any given season than beating CC, something the Pioneers have done at an incredible rate over the past seven decades and 329 matchups. But with this win over CC, they move into a tie with North Dakota – which hasn’t yet won a game in 2022 – atop the NCHC standings with 24 points. So while beating CC and retaining the Gold Pan for another season is of utmost importance, there is added significance to every game from here through the end of the season, including the remaining three against the Tigers. The Pioneers are in a great position to win the Penrose Cup, something they have not done since their 2017 national title-winning campaign.

“From a staff standpoint it’s always about the next opportunity to develop our game,” Ferguson said. “It’s all a part of the process, you have to keep going and tomorrow’s a new day, a new 60 minutes goes up for us to go out and win and it’s 0-0 to start tomorrow so we have to just stay focused on what we do.”

It was an important Gold Pan-opening game for the Pioneers. They imposed their will on the Tigers and literally skated circles around their archrival at times while defending their home ice where they are now 11-0-1 on the season. With the victory, Denver moves within one victory or three NCHC points of retaining the ever-important Gold Pan. Should Denver come away with the victory tomorrow night at the brand-new Robson Arena in Colorado Springs, the Gold Pan will remain in Denver and, if Western Michigan can finish off the sweep of North Dakota, the Pioneers will be alone in first place in the NCHC.

“I thought tonight, the guys had good energy, they stayed pretty focused on the game plan,” Ferguson said of the effect of Carle’s continued absence due to Covid-19. “Credit to the leadership in the room and all the players. They’re the ones going out and doing the work.”


Top photo: Andy Cross, The Denver Post

3 thoughts on “Pioneers Open 2021-2022 Battle for the Gold Pan with Dominant Shutout of Tigers”

  1. Brett Stapley said last night that the Pioneers “talked about taking [CC’s] belief away and I think we did a good job of that.”

    That pretty much covers it…Enjoy the DU dominance while it lasts, Pio fans.

    I’ve been watching DU vs. CC games for over 40 years. This rivalry series has a way a bringing out the best effort levels in the teams, even when there are sometimes vast talent disparities that separate the programs in the standings. Sometimes, the hungrier team wins, overcoming the talent disparity. And sometimes, that talent disparity is just too big…

    I think CC gave almost everything they had last night on the ice, but they just don’t have the depth and skill level that Denver has right now. DU has 12 NHL draft picks on its roster, and CC has 1 NHL draft pick. Draft picks are not always the be-all/end-all when it comes to talent differential, but when DU is playing its systems and skating with controlled emotion, they put on an offensive clinic last night, owning the puck for long stretches, even when CC skated hard, played physical and blocked shots.

    Mayotte is a better coach than Haviland, and he’s already getting some better players into CC, and in a couple of years, I expect them to be at a much higher level.

    But right now, DU is stacked and playing like one of the best teams in the country…

  2. DU dominated this one from start to finish. Pios had really good energy, skated hard, battled in the corners, dominated puck possession and had CC chasing for most of the game, played a clean game, and Chrona, while not really tested much, earned his second shutout in a row over a NCHC opponent. There was a lot to like. Two things that really jumped out to me last night were (1) DU did a really good job skating and finding open space. Everyone had their feet moving and it seemed the puck carrier/handler always had someone open. Pios passed the puck really well and kept the pressure on. Thus CC spent large chunks of the game chasing. (2) DU was able to skate through a lot CC checks and keep the puck, sustain zone pressure, and maintain possession. It was a determined Pioneer effort.

    The talent disparity was clear. CC appears to have a team of grinders. They play hard and compete, but when the Pios are pushing the pace and skating, CC is probably in for a long night.

    It was definitely odd to see Mannino behind the CC bench and working for DU’s rival.

    Hopefully DU can come out with a similar effort tonight, take care of business, and retain the Gold Pan.

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