DENVER — These teams don’t like each other much, and it showed Saturday night. Again.
In a game full of penalties, hard hits and high-flying emotions, the No. 4 Denver Pioneers completed a sweep of the No. 8 Colorado College Tigers with a comeback 3-2 win. Coupled with Friday night’s OT win of the same score, Denver moves to 6-0-0 on the season (4-0-0 WCHA).
This was the first Denver weekend sweep of Colorado College (2-4-0, 0-4-0 WCHA) since 1993 and the first split-site sweep since 1989.
“Any sweep we can manage in this league, as difficult as this league is, is a good sweep,” Pioneer head coach George Gwozdecky said. “Obviously, you add a little luster to that when you can knock off your arch-rival.
“We had to come from behind tonight, they had to come from behind last night. It’s just two heavyweights throwing haymakers at each other. It was two great college hockey games. It’s typical of the way this league is going to be this year.”
With 12:34 left in third period, Pioneer sophomore Connor James took a perfect feed from junior Matt Weber and beat senior goaltender Jeff Sanger to give Denver a 3-2 lead. Weber’s pass from the left side was put right on net, and Sanger was helpless to stop James’ shot.
“I thought I’d drive the net and catch a rebound, but Weber put a great pass there for me,” James said. “It was kind of in the air, but I put my stick up and banked it in.”
The Pioneers were able to hold off the Tigers for the rest of the way, with junior goaltender Wade Dubielewicz once again coming up huge for Denver. Colorado College almost got a break with three seconds left when a deflected puck just went wide right of the net.
Colorado College head coach Scott Owens and his players were unavailable for comment after the game.
The first period was a wild affair, featuring two Tiger power play goals in the first four minutes, just a part of six penalties and a lot of special teams play. After falling behind 2-0 so quickly, Denver had to consider itself fortunate to get out of the first period down only a goal.
Dubielewicz was a big part of that, as he recovered quickly from the early hole to play stellar in goal.
“They had two goals in, I don’t know, five shots?” Dubielewicz said. “But I think we calmed down after that. It gave us a grace period to get the game back. I thought tonight we fought through some adversity and came out on top.”
Seniors Mike Stuart and Mark Cullen notched the power-play goals for Colorado College. Both goals occurred on rebounds Dubielewicz couldn’t quite corral. The Pioneer senior netminder had made a big save a few moments before Stuart’s goal, but he couldn’t keep the wall up long enough to stave off the Tigers.
Denver was able to answer with a power-play goal of their own exactly two minutes after Cullen’s score made it 2-0. Junior Greg Barber took a beautiful cross-ice feed from senior Jesse Cook and beat Sanger. The Colorado College goalie seemed to have the angle sealed, but Barber was able to get the puck past him to make it 2-1. It was Denver’s first shot-on-goal for the game.
“I don’t think anyone expected the game to be as dominated by special teams as it was,” Gwozdecky. “It caught us off-guard a little bit. We made an adjustment on our penalty kill. Obviously, after getting two pucks by him, Wade slammed the door.”
The second period started off slow, but it picked up pretty quickly with a lot of penalties and special teams opportunities for both teams. Eight different penalties were called in the first ten minutes of the period, although, surprisingly, neither team could capitalize.
However, just after the conclusion of one of their power plays, the Pioneers were able to tie the game at 2-2. Junior Kevin Doell notched his second goal of the season 11:30 into the period to even the score.
More penalties followed Doell’s goal, including a diving call on Denver’s Greg Keith. But the Pioneers were able to kill off a 5-on-3 and escape unscathed with the game tied. However, Denver soon found themselves short-handed again on a hooking call against junior J.J. Hartmann. But again the Pioneers were able to kill the penalty and escape the period with the score even.
“We knew had lots of time to come back,” James said. “If we stayed out of the box, we knew could play with these guys. We have so much depth on this team; we know someone will pull the trigger. If it’s not one guy, there are 14 others.”
With the weekend sweep, Denver puts Colorado College in a WCHA hole, as the Tigers have to travel to No. 2 St. Cloud State for two games next weekend. Denver travels to Michigan Tech for a two-game set.