DENVER — Just plain loud – perhaps the only way to describe the sellout crowd at Magness Arena who watched one of the best rivalries in college hockey continue, as Denver defeated Colorado College 6-3 on Saturday night in the second game of a home-and-home series.
Fans from both teams filled the stands and added their voices to a game that was a balanced mixture of brutal checks and dazzling finesse. Fresh off Friday’s victory on their home ice, the Tigers of Colorado College came into the second game ranked No. 4 in the nation, and were primed to sweep the weekend series. Even though they were drastically outshot (42-22) on Friday night, the Tigers’ stingy defense and the masterful goaltending of senior Curtis McElhinney (41 saves) gave Colorado College the win.
But the Tigers and Pioneers opted to leave Saturday’s game in the hands of the second-and younger-halves of their respective goalie tandems in Colorado College sophomore Matt Zaba (2-1-0, 2.01) and DU freshman Peter Mannino (2-1-0, 3.00)
Prior to Saturday night’s contest, the Pioneers were a woeful 8 for 72 on the power play, including being shut out on eight power play opportunities in Colorado Springs on Friday. But Luke Fulghum made the most of Denver’s first man-advantage, lifting a rebound at the goal mouth past Zaba at 2:31 to open the scoring.
“The odds are going to be with us if we keep getting chances,” said Denver coach George Gwozdecky, now 18-31-2 in his career against Colorado College. “We did a much better job in front of the net, and as a result we were able to create more traffic in front of the net [on the power play].”
Soon after, with both teams penalized and skating 4-on-4, Denver sophomore defenseman Matt Carle scored a beautiful goal, taking the puck at the top of the faceoff circle and stickhandling past the Tigers’ Jack Hillen, then backhanding the puck into the goal to make it 2-0, Denver.
“I got a great pass from [Jeff] Drummond, and I saw that [Hillen] was flat-footed,” said Carle. “[Paul] Stastny drew the other defender over to the other side of the net, and I just made a couple of moves.”
Colorado College jumped into full gear and scored just 10 seconds later, as junior Trevor Frischmon streaked past the Pioneer defense off the faceoff, and beat Mannino with a hard shot that cut the lead to 2-1. The Tigers got strong play along the boards, and were able to pinch off potential DU odd-man rushes with speed to the outside. Solid defensive work from Tiger defensemen Mark Stuart and Weston Tardy led to missed passes for the Pioneers in the neutral zone. The Tigers turned these turnovers into scoring chances as Mannino had trouble covering initial rebounds in the crease.
Despite the improved play from the Tigers, the Pioneers were able to get good puck movement in the Colorado College zone, and once again Matt Carle led the way. Carle put a low shot on goal and retrieved his own rebound in the slot, then dished off to a waiting Michael Handza on the far post for a tip-in goal.
“I was riding on a lot of confidence tonight,” Carle said. “We made it a lot harder on their goalie just by creating more havoc in front of the net.”
Gwozdecky also felt that Carle was playing with confidence, even after the Friday night loss. “That was Matt Carle’s strongest game this year,” said Gwozdecky. “I was glad to see our veteran players step up more than they did last night.”
If the hard-working Carle had an alter ego on the Tiger bench, it was forward Aaron Slattengren. The junior from Duluth, MN was outstanding in all phases of the game. It was that effort that produced the Tigers’ next goal on the power play at 17:08 of the first. Slattengren stickhandled prettily through the legs of one Denver defenseman, then dodged another blueliner to get off a shot that hit the post. Junior center Marty Sertich grabbed the rebound in the slot and wristed the puck past Mannino to put CC within one goal.
“[Slattengren] has been out sick the past couple of days, and he played with a lot of energy tonight,” said Colorado College head coach Scott Owens. “He can dominate in a lot of ways.”
The second period saw a few mistakes early on the part of both teams, but the goalies-now more settled and getting better position-made great saves that kept the score close. Zaba, who started three games at Magness Arena last year (2-1-0 in those games) made some great saves in traffic as the Pioneer forwards converged on the net, and CC’s defensive units did a fantastic job in breaking up many of the passes that got through the slot.
Mannino also made two amazing saves, stacking his pads for a point blank chance from the slot and getting a quick glove on a Carle slapshot. Mannino, who rotates on a regular basis with sophomore Glenn Fisher, feels that the rotation is a good fit for both he and Fisher.
“We have a great relationship, and I think everything’s worked out well so far,” Mannino said.
Denver continued to pepper Zaba with shots throughout the second period, but were never able to break through. At 17:27, it was the Tigers who struck back with a tying goal by Slattengren that was reviewed (possible crease violation) but allowed, as the savvy forward tucked the puck under Mannino’s pads for his second goal of the night, and his second overall on the season.
Nevertheless, despite intense physical play from the Tigers, the third period was all Pioneers. As the period progressed, the Pioneers-who outshot the Tigers 40-23-attacked the net relentlessly. Denver’s second power play goal at the 2:00 mark came from Fulghum, as the steady senior completed a tic-tac-toe pass with a one-timer that sailed over Zaba’s shoulder.
“[Denver] had a lot more confidence on the power play at home,” said Owens. “We gave them way too many chances on the power play last night and tonight, and we just started to wear down.”
As the Tigers, tried furiously to tie the game on the power play, fatigue set in and Denver was able to capitalize on a shorthanded chance. Sophomore Adrian Veideman (1-2-3 this season) got the puck at center ice and beat two CC defensemen down the left wing boards in a 2-on-1. Veideman kept the puck on his stick until the last minute, wristing a shot into the top corner over Zaba. Denver’s Gabe Gauthier would finish the scoring minutes later, blasting a shot past Zaba from the left faceoff circle.
“I think we’re farther ahead in our development at this point in the season than we were last year,” said Gwozdecky. “We’re still a little bit lazy in terms of getting in position for reboundsbut tonight we generated a lot of chances.”
The Pioneers (4-2-0 WCHA, 5-4-0 overall) will match up against the Minnesota Gophers-#1 in the WCHA-next week at home, while the Tigers (2-2-0 WCHA, 6-2-0 overall) play back-to-back home games against Michigan Tech.