COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Despite firing 25 shots at Colorado College goaltender Chris McElhinney in the third period, Denver could not erase a 3-0 deficit. The Pioneers fell to the Tigers, 3-1, in the first half of a home-and-home series.
The Pioneers’ failure to capitalize on the power play sealed the team’s fate, as they went 0 for 8 with the man-advantage.
DU had numerous opportunities early in the game to take advantage of some sloppy play by the Tigers, which took two penalties within the first eight minutes of play. But CC played a tight box, buoyed by the smart stick work of junior center Marty Sertich, and kept most of the Pioneers’ power-play shots to the perimeter of the zone.
After killing off the early penalties, the Tigers had two man-advantage opportunities of their own, and finally put one past goaltender Glenn Fisher with just 2:18 left in the first period.
With Ryan Dingle in the box for holding, it appeared that DU had control of the play and would clear the puck the length of the ice. But some hard work at the left point by junior Brady Greco kept the play alive, and junior Joey Crabb got the puck over to junior Mark Stuart, who fired the puck past Fisher for his second goal of the season.
“That’s what changed the momentum, the late goal in the first period by Stuart,” said Colorado College coach Scott Owens.
The Tigers kept the momentum going early in the second, as sophomore John Brunkhorst found a nifty way to tally his first career goal. Sophomore Braydon Cox flipped the puck toward the net from the right point, and Brunkhorst, who was rushing to the far post, redirected the puck past Fisher, who was caught out of position.
Colorado College left everything else up to McElhinney. The Tigers rarely crossed center ice in the second half of the game, and managed to throw just four shots at Fisher in the third period.
Denver was on the power play twice before the end of the second, as junior Trevor Frischmon and Stuart took back-to-back holding penalties to open the door for a Pioneer comeback. Coach George Gwozdecky utilized fourth liners Jon Foster and Gabe Gauthier to try to spark the offense, to no avail.
Instead, it was the Tigers who scored before the end of the period. Senior Richard Petiot shoveled the puck over to defense partner Lee Sweatt, who fired the puck toward the net. Freshman Scott McCulloch tipped the puck from the slot, netting his first career goal.
Tom May scored an unassisted goal just 1:24 into the third period, giving the Pioneers some life. But McElhinney shut the door. The Pioneers sustained pressure in the Colorado College zone for much of the third, and though the shot count was high, the team didn’t have too many quality scoring opportunities.
“We try to keep everyone from the ‘Grade A’ scoring zone,” said McElhinney, who was named the first star of the game. “It feels great. We have a sold-out building, and beating them in the first game [of the series] is huge for us.”
“Give full credit to Colorado College for the win tonight,” Gwozdecky said. “We had a strong first period and great third period, but we could not solve (Curtis) McElhinney. We will be ready for a full 60 minutes tomorrow night at our place.”
It was Colorado College’s first victory over DU on home ice since March 6, 2003. DU still boasts a cushy record against its in-state rivals, as it holds a 144-98-8 record dating back to 1950.
The Pioneers are now at the .500 mark, with four wins and four losses overall, and three wins and two losses in the WCHA. The Tigers have six wins and one loss overall, and have two wins and one loss in the WCHA.
The teams will face off again tomorrow night, at 7 p.m. in Denver.
“It’s going to be war,” said Owens. I don’t mean that its’ going to be chippy, but it’s going to be a hard-fought game. It’s going to be physical.”