DENVER — Colorado College is one game away from winning its WCHA first-round series with Denver, but it might have to try to clinch the series without defenseman Mark Stuart.
Stuart fell to the Magness Arena ice holding his right knee after he was hit away from the play by Denver forward Jeff Drummond with 17.2 seconds left. He left the ice with help from teammates, and he placed no weight on his right leg.
After CC finished off its come-from-behind 4-3 victory to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series, CC coach Scott Owens called Drummond’s hit a “dangerous play,” and CC captain Colin Stuart, Mark’s older brother, called Drummond’s play a “blatant cheap shot and there’s no need for it.”
DU coach George Gwozdecky said he didn’t see the play. Two messages were sent into the closed DU locker room to request to speak with Drummond, but Drummond did not come out.
Owens and Colin Stuart said Drummond used his stick to hit Mark Stuart behind the knee. Denver’s game film does not show the hit, which occurred away from the play, WCHA supervisor of officials Greg Shepherd said.
Referee Derek Shepherd called an interference penalty on the play.
“He said he saw the guy go down,” Greg Shepherd said. “He didn’t think it was a spear or a shot behind the leg. He thought they collided and the DU guy was behind him.”
Owens said he didn’t know if Mark Stuart would play in Saturday’s Game 2, also at Magness Arena. Trainer Richard Quincy declined to comment, citing that he won’t disclose injury information during the playoffs. Stuart is an alternate captain and one of the team’s leaders in ice time.
Said Colin Stuart: “He’s good. A little banged up on the play. He’ll be fine.” Asked if “fine” meant in his spirits or his chances to play, he said, “I’d say both.”
From CC’s end, the play put a damper on an impressive victory — one that snapped DU’s national-best unbeaten streak at nine games (7-0-2).
The Tigers (19-15-3) had been 1-12-1 when they trailed after two periods. Friday, they got goals from Andrew Canzanello, Trevor Frischmon and Aaron Slattengren within 4 minutes, 26 seconds to take a 4-2 lead.
“Pretty gutsy third period,” center Marty Sertich said.
CC stressed all week to create traffic in front of goalie Adam Berkhoel, who stopped 56 of 59 CC shots last week. All three third-period goals benefited from such a strategy. Canzanello scored through a screen, Frischmon on a tip and Slattengren on a rebound.
“We played real hard for 60 minutes,” Colin Stuart said. “We obviously had a great third period and got the job done. Half of it’s done, anyways.
CC has 0-5 all-time WCHA first-round series record on the road under the best-of-three format.
Mark Fitzhenry covers college hockey for The Gazette of Colorado Springs, Colo.