COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.
Colorado College won round one of its historic in-state battle with Denver for the WCHA regular-season crown and secured at least a share of the MacNaughton Cup in front of a standing-room-only record crowd of 7,881 at the Colorado Springs World Arena. Now it will be up to the Pioneers to go for a split of the series and the title Friday night at DU’s Magness Arena.
“I’m spent,” said CC coach Scott Owens. “There’s a lot of build up, there’s a lot of stress and every shift you feel the tension. I’m happy – it’s a huge game for us, it’s nice to do it here at home in front of our crowd. It’s nice to get a piece of the MacNaughton Cup at least and have a chance to go for it outright tomorrow.”
“We had two weeks off just to think about DU and concentrate on DU and what we had to take care of,” said CC senior defender Richard Petiot. “I think we did that great tonight. We came out and had the crowd on our side and we took it took them.”
After a scoreless first period, CC tallied three unanswered goals for the 3-0 win as Tiger netminder Curtis McElhinney recorded his first shutout of the season with 31 saves. Marty Sertich brought his nation leading point total to 59 (24-35) with a goal.
In an extremely physical first period, both teams came out unscathed. McElhinney robbed DU of an early lead by making key saves during a Pioneer power play and although the Tigers had two late power plays to end the opening frame, DU goalie Glenn Fisher made some stops of his own behind a protective defense that aided with nine blocks for the 0-0 score after 20 minutes.
Although it was DU that came out firing in the second, putting 13 shots on net compared to CC’s six, it was the Tigers that netted two goals to turn the tides their way.
Aaron Slattengren opened the scoring after Petiot wrapped around the back of the DU net and fed the puck to Slatterngren in the low slot who tipped it in for the 1-0 lead at 8:27. Brandon Polich increased the Tiger lead to two goals when he stole the puck on the CC blue line for a short-handed breakaway and beat Fisher low on his stick side at 11:42.
“Polich’s goal was a huge goal for us on the [penalty kill],” said Petiot. “That took the life right out of [DU]. We never looked back from there.”
Sertich scored unassisted at 15:57 of the final period to close out the scoring with a hard slap shot from the left faceoff circle after skating the puck through a pile-up in the neutral zone. His 24th goal of the season was met with chants of “Hober Baker” from the rowdy student section.
The emotion of the game got the better of CC and DU as the game neared its end. With 2:45 remaining, a fight broke out, sending three players from each team to the penalty box, including DU’s Matt Carle with a 10-minute misconduct on top of a minor for boarding. Just over a minute later, more punches were thrown, resulting in another Pioneer and two more Tiger penalties.
Seconds later, at 18:55, CC’s Trevor Frischmon was whistled for roughing and was the sixth player in the box for the Tigers. DU’s Fisher was then pulled out of the net, giving the Pioneers a 6-on-3 advantage for the final 1:05. Not able to muster up much in the way of effective offense even with a three-man advantage, DU succumbed to its cross-state rival, 3-0.
Although DU coach George Gwozdecky was disappointed with his team’s offensive efforts, and will look to sharpen the team’s ability to catch and release passes, his outlook was hopeful for the second game of the series in Denver on March 4.
“This is a series,” he said. “It’s not just one game and we’re back home in friendly confines tomorrow and we have a chance to win the MacNaughton Cup tomorrow night.”
“If it plays anything like the last time we were [at DU], they’ll just storm us,” said Owens. “We’ll have to weather the storm the first 10 or 15 minutes just to hang on a little bit. I think it’s going to be physical, I think it’s going to be toughSthey’re going to be a very desperate team tomorrow.”