“I think we got the Gold Pan for sure.”
That’s what Colorado College (5-2-0, 0-1-0 NCHC) goaltender Kaidan Mbereko said to The Catalyst, CC’s on-campus student newspaper back in early October.
Fast-forward to the first of four regular-season matchups between the two long-time rivals – the 338th all-time, which is the most among all rivalries in college hockey history – and the once-confident Mbereko was pulled halfway through the third period after allowing five goals en route to #2 Denver’s (5-1-1, 1-0-0 NCHC) 6-1 romp in front of a Magness Arena record 7,021 fans.
It wasn’t smooth sailing from the jump, though. It’s no secret that the Tigers are vastly improved from the last decade or so and head coach Kris Mayotte has CC back on the track towards success and early on in the game, it looked as though that improvement was going to manifest itself in a CC upset. The Tigers checked hard, forced the Pioneers out of their comfort zone, and took advantage of a lax DU defensive effort to take an early 1-0 lead, just six minutes in. It was the first-ever goal given up by freshman goaltender Freddie Halyk in his second game. CC seized momentum and the Pioneers were facing an uphill battle against Mbereko who was named to the NCHC Preseason All-Conference Team.
Things went from bad to worse when CC was handed a five-on-three barely two minutes after the goal when Cale Ashcroft was booked for holding and then Connor Caponi was whistled for a faceoff violation. Instead of caving, though, Denver killed off CC’s two-man advantage and never looked back.
They didn’t score in the opening frame but five minutes into the second period, Zeev Buium found his older brother Shai in the slot and the elder Buium finally broke through Mbereko and once the dam was broken, the Pioneers flooded the scoreboard. Tristan Broz added his third goal of the season on a one-timer from freshman defenseman Garrett Brown not three minutes after Buium’s tally and Carter King was the beneficiary of Rieger Lorenz’ best Logan O’Connor impression on the penalty kill and King sniped a shot from the slot. The Pioneers turned the 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead in the span of about 10 minutes and took that into the second intermission.
But they weren’t done. Not by a long shot. Hell, Jack Devine and Massimo Rizzo hadn’t gotten on the scoresheet yet. That all changed early in the third when Devine tipped home a Sean Behrens shot from the point. Devine did it again two minutes later after Rizzo weaved through the entire CC defense from coast to coast before dropping a dime to Devine who was completely unaccounted for by the Tigers. Devine ripped his shot high glove side to end Mbereko’s night and tally his 8th goal of the season. Jared Wright added another against Tigers backup goalie Henry Wilder with 13 seconds left to pour additional salt in CC’s wounds and finish off the 6-1 rout.
There is a lot of hockey left to be played not only in this rivalry this year but also over the course of the season and the Pioneers have turned in some mixed results to this point. So overreacting to one blowout victory is completely inadvisable.
But do you know what else is completely inadvisable? Giving the #2 team in the country and winner of the last four Gold Pans bulletin board material and additional motivation. Kaidan Mbereko did just that a month ago and immediately reaped the consequences. Now, the Pios just need to post Mbereko’s quote all throughout the visitor’s locker room at Robson Arena tomorrow night and clinch the Gold Pan as quickly as possible with a repeat performance.
— The NCHC (@TheNCHC) November 4, 2023