Pioneers Earn Fourth-Straight Shutout of Tigers to Keep Share of Penrose Cup Within Reach

Just like the first two games between the two fierce Front Range rivals, the result in the rivalry’s second-ever game at Ed Robson Arena was never in doubt. The #3 Denver Pioneers (24-8-1, 17-6-0-1-0-0 NCHC, 50 pts) scored on the Colorado College Tigers (9-21-3, 6-16-1-2-1-0, 18 pts) less than four minutes into the game and never looked back. They scored four more times and Magnus Chrona stopped all 19 CC shots to make it four straight shutouts against the Tigers dating back to last season – the first time either team has recorded at least three straight in the seven-decade history of this rivalry – and head back to Magness Arena tomorrow night with at least a chance to earn a share of the Penrose Cup.

To no one’s surprise, the Pioneers controlled the game in all three zones. The Tigers generated a few legitimate scoring chances at times, mostly while DU was killing a penalty, but Denver is one of the top three teams in the country for a reason and Colorado College is…well they’re not. For the third time this season, that massive disparity showed itself in a big way. Even with Sean Behrens and Antti Tuomisto out with injuries (both considered week-to-week), five different Pioneers scored and 10 tallied at least a point.

“Three different lines score and you get a goal from a defenseman as well,” DU head coach David Carle said. “You need everyone going getting into playoff hockey. That’s been a strength of our team all year, our depth, our ability to possess pucks, and guys feel good about themselves after a good win tonight.”

These two long-time rivals may only be separated by 63 miles, but for the better part of the last decade, they may as well be galaxies apart.

“It’s good to get momentum going before the playoffs,” the game’s first goal-scorer and NCAA points leader Bobby Brink said. “It’s important to get hot at the right time and you string a couple wins together and go into the postseason feeling good.”

For as little drama that played out on the ice in Colorado Springs on CC’s Senior Night, there was plenty of drama to be had elsewhere in the NCHC, specifically in Omaha, that directly affected DU and their hopes of earning a share of the Penrose Cup, the trophy awarded annually to the conference’s regular-season champion. As the Pioneers were skating circles around the Tigers in the second period en route to a 4-0 lead entering the final frame, first-place North Dakota and sixth-place Omaha were battling in the third period at Baxter Arena with the Mavericks trailing the Fighting Hawks 4-2.

Why did that game and that series as a whole matter to DU, though? Entering the weekend, North Dakota held a four-point lead over Denver atop the NCHC standings. The only way Denver would earn at least a share of the Penrose was if they a) swept the Tigers and b) North Dakota earned only two of a possible six points in Omaha. Not only that, because Denver holds the tiebreaker over North Dakota thanks to conference regulation wins, if that exact scenario played out, Denver would own the #1 seed entering next weekend’s NCHC Quarterfinals where Denver will host either Miami or CC.

So what happened in Omaha? The Mavericks came back to tie it thanks to a goal from former Pioneer Kevin Conley during a five-minute power play and a last-minute goal to force overtime. North Dakota eventually scored in overtime to earn two points and a share of the Penrose Cup but it left the door open for the Pioneers to earn the top seed and their share of the championship if Omaha can get the job done in regulation tomorrow night.

“It definitely would be great,” Brink said of potentially winning a share of the Penrose Cup. “It was one of our goals at the start of the year. It’s up to us a little bit but it’s also out of our hands a little bit so we’ll just try to win tomorrow.”

Back in Colorado Springs, though, after the dust settled in Omaha, the Pioneers didn’t let the Tigers off the hook, outshooting them 11-8 to maintain the shutout. If not for goaltender Dominic Basse and another nine blocked shots by CC’s defense, it could have and likely would have been even worse, though most Tigers fans had abandoned the building by then anyway.

For the third straight Gold Pan Rivalry game, Magnus Chrona was the star of the show for the Pioneers, stopping all 19 shots, all eight in the third period including a highlight-reel save or two, and letting his offensive teammates go to work. No, it wasn’t a particularly drama-filled game but that was thanks in part to Chrona’s effort in the crease and the effort of DU’s much-maligned penalty-killing unit, killing off all four CC power plays, including one five-minute major penalty that straddled the first intermission.

“I thought they did generate some looks especially as the game wore on,” Carle said of CC’s offensive effort. “That’s where I thought Magnus was at his best. He smothered pucks and he got whistles but he made a couple big-time saves in the later parts of the game.”

With one regular-season game left, Senior Night against the Tigers in front of a sold-out Magness Arena, the Pioneers are looking to keep the momentum going into the postseason and send their seniors off on the right foot. Even if they don’t end up winning the Penrose tomorrow night, there’s still plenty to play for.

“Time flies by,” senior defenseman Kyle Mayhew said. “Last regular-season game at Magness, it’s going to be an emotional one for a lot of us. I heard the crowd is going to be pretty unreal so we’re looking forward to that celebrating one last time.”


Top photo: Andy Cross, The Denver Post

3 thoughts on “Pioneers Earn Fourth-Straight Shutout of Tigers to Keep Share of Penrose Cup Within Reach”

  1. What I loved most about last night was DU shot out of the gates with a statement “you can’t catch me” goal by Bobby Brink, DU’s best player. That goal deflated the CC senior night sellout crowd and took them right out of the game for the rest of the night, and DU just hit the gas pedal and built from there. It reminded me of the killer instinct in way some of Monty’s teams would get opponents on their heels in the first period, build on the lead in the second period and strangle any ideas of opponent comebacks in their figurative cribs.

    This stretch of four straight DU shutouts is the most dominant DU has EVER been in the 70+ year history of the rivalry. Very impressive puck control last night, and the DU PK seemed to create more shorthanded scoring chances than the CC power-play had at the other end. And if it weren’t for Basse playing very well in the CC net, CC’s brave shot-blocking and the CC goalposts, it might have been 15-0, DU.

    Andrew Canazzello, a former CC hockey player commentating during the TV broadcast last night kept raving about Denver’s deep roster confidence and it’s ability to make plays, and the Pios were without Behrens and Tuomisto.

    CC will soon be much better. Mayotte has some very good players coming in next year, with some of them NHL prospects. It may take them some time to become a strong program again, but for Pio fans, enjoy this unprecedented period of dominance while you still can…

  2. Great effort last night, no effing around, just sustained puck possession and pressure. CC sucks. What’s up with their broadcast that cuts out for half a period? Also, what a shame that Mannino is stuck on their bench.

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