Pioneers Ride Three-Goal Third Period to Complete 4-2 Comeback Victory at Colorado College

Beating Colorado College will never get old for Denver. No matter the state of either program, beating the Tigers is always sweet. But sometimes, there are rivalry victories that feel just a bit sweeter than others. Even after winning the ten prior Gold Pan matchups, the #3 Denver Pioneers (28-8-0, 19-5-0 NCHC) will relish their 11th-straight victory over the Colorado College Tigers (10-21-3, 6-15-3 NCHC) a little bit more than most of the 10 prior thanks to a three-goal third period that ended the Tigers’ upset bid and sent the black and yellow-clad faithful home in sadness yet again. Tristan Lemyre tied the game, Aidan Thompson netted the game-winner, and Massimo Rizzo sealed it with an empty-netter to complete the 4-2 comeback victory.

Tonight’s game was almost the polar opposite of Friday night’s game one between the two archrivals. A night ago, the Pioneers dominated the first period but struggled to break through CC’s stout defense over the final period-and-a-half, riding their two second-period goals to a tight 2-1 victory. Tonight, though, it was the Tigers who dominated the first two periods of play and if it wasn’t for Matt Davis again, the Tigers might have been able to run away with the game early.

“We were pretty average there in the first and second,” DU senior forward Brett Edwards said. “We definitely needed to adjust some things. I think they outplayed us for the majority of the first and second.”

Instead, the Pios stayed with and trusted the ‘proscess.’ Despite Hunter McKown scoring his third goal of the season against Denver to restore the 2-1 CC lead going into the third period, it only felt like a matter of time until DU finally showed up to Robson Arena…and did they ever. Not only did Lemyre, Thompson, and Rizzo score to break CC’s upset-hunting hearts, the Pioneers outshot the Tigers 11-4 and out-attempted them 25-11 in the final frame. It was a complete reversal of the flow of the first two periods.

“It’s tough coming in on the road,” Edwards said. “It’s a good building here. The fans don’t like us too much. It took us a couple periods to wake up.”

Even with the two goals from Lemyre and Thompson – just 52 seconds apart – to turn the 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead, Denver had to withstand a flurry of Tigers action in front of Davis in the final four minutes, killing off Mazur’s boneheaded hooking penalty with less than five minutes left and then holding on for dear life while CC skated with an empty net and extra attacker on the ice. Multiple times, the CC faithful thought that CC was about to score the tying goal but Davis held strong and his defensive teammates held strong, allowing Rizzo to tally the empty-netter with 38 seconds left.

Last night, the Pioneers refused to acknowledge the fact that there wasn’t actually much to play for this weekend – both teams had their NCHC Tournament seeding sealed and the Pioneers already knew they were playing Miami next weekend thanks to clinching the Penrose Cup last weekend – but the reality is there wasn’t. And that’s why it was all the more impressive that they found a way to dig deep and come through with two close, hard-fought victories against a Tigers team hungry and desperate to end their Gold Pan losing ways even with all of the injuries – Sean Behrens (week-to-week), McKade Webster (day-to-day), Jared Wright (week-to-week), Connor Caponi (day-to-day), and Magnus Chrona (week-to-week) were all scratched for Saturday night’s game.

“I don’t really know, to be honest,” DU head coach David Carle said when asked what the health prognosis is for next weekend’s series against Miami. “No one’s been ruled out for the remainder of the season, everyone’s kind of ‘see how they respond’…we’re optimistic that we’ll get some back, but I can’t say that we’ll get them all back.”

With the regular season now over, the Pioneers can finally turn their attention to the postseason which starts next weekend at Magness Arena against 8th-seed Miami who Denver shut out three times and outscored 22-2 in four games this season. But that was then and these are the playoffs. Like the Tigers this weekend, the RedHawks are going to be hungry and desperate to just keep their season alive and pull off the upset in the best-of-three series.

“We just feel comfortable with whoever we’re playing with,” Mazur said. “We have a really deep team and it shows…[the comeback victory] is a big step for us, especially heading into the playoffs, just to have that momentum, knowing that anyone can play in our lineup is massive.”

The Pioneers have already clinched three trophies – the Ice Breaker in October, the Gold Pan in January, and the Penrose Cup last weekend – this year but the two that would mean the most to them are still there for their taking. The journey to claiming those two final trophies starts next weekend.

“It’s a really simple game that we play: Denver hockey,” Mazur said. “And Denver hockey wins a lot of games.”

David Carle Postgame


Top photo credit: Casey Gibson, Colorado College Athletics

5 thoughts on “Pioneers Ride Three-Goal Third Period to Complete 4-2 Comeback Victory at Colorado College”

  1. You think winning the NCHC playoffs would mean more to the team than winning the Penrose Cup? Has anyone on the team actually said that? I would be quite surprised.

  2. Keep finding ways to win….Mazur needs to put the pitch fork away at that point in the game.

  3. Two different games and two different DU teams rolled into one contest last night. DU looked flat and lethargic to start the game, and that was the case for most of the first two periods. There wasn’t much to get excited about, except for Matt Davis. He had a terrific game and a great weekend. CC was the better and sharper team for the first two periods and certainly deserved to be winning the game. Then the 3rd period started, DU found a jolt of energy, took over the game, and never looked back. That was great to see. This team responded well to some adversity in a hostile environment and found the extra gear it needed to beat a determined and motivated CC team. Still, there were some anxious moments towards the end, as CC had the man advantage.

    DU concludes a 36-game regular season with 28 wins and only 8 losses, playing a very tough schedule (3rd toughest in the nation, according to CHN). Very impressive. This team is battle-tested. Other things that stand out to me after the conclusion of the regular season:

    –Pios went a combined 8-0 vs archrivals CC and UND. Apparently the last time that happened was the 1960-61 season.
    –Pios had 9 players with 20 or more points. Last year’s championship team had 10 players with 20 or more points. This year’s team has balanced scoring and depth as well, and that bodes well for another deep postseason run.
    –Pios had 56 points in the NCHC, 12 clear of 2nd place Western Michigan.
    –Pios finished 6th in the nation with 3.81 goals/game.
    –They also finished 6th in PP percentage and 6th in scoring defense.
    –The PK finished 44th at .779. At this point, it is what it is.

    Besides the PK, there’s a lot to like. Can’t wait to see what this team can do in the postseason. Go Pios!!!!

  4. DU did enough to get the job done with a depleted lineup, basically pride on the line and on the road against a hungry rival, and that’s a mark of a successful program.

    I was really proud of the Pioneers for taking over the Saturday game in the third when CC was the more tenacious team in the first and second periods.

    The Pios’ PK continue to struggle at times and that is a concern heading into the playoffs. They really need to work on more effective PK clearances – a number of PK clears did not get over the blue line and were kept in the zone by CC as turnovers. Ok course, not taking dumb penalties is the best defense of all…

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