COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Having won just one game in its last six, Denver really needed a boost. Down two goals on the road midway through their first game of the season against rival No. 2 Colorado College, the No. 15 Pioneers seemingly needed a miracle.
The visitors showed the poise of two-time defending national champions, however, and scored four unanswered goals to claim the first game of a home-and-home series with the Tigers, 4-2.
Having surrendered a pair of early goals to Colorado College, Denver refused to get down and instead dug in.
“We didn’t play a great first half,” said team captain Gabe Gauthier. “[Colorado College] came out hard at us and scored two quick goals. In the past we would have put our heads down. Now we stayed positive, got up on each other, and did the simple things right.”
Colorado College (12-4-1, 6-2-1 WCHA) took advantage of an early defensive mistake by Denver to grab a 1-0 lead at 3:11 of the first period. After creating a turnover in his own zone, Joey Crabb sped up ice and into the Pioneer end, drawing the attention of both back-checking defensemen. Tiger freshman Chad Rau trailed behind the defense, snuck to the far post and buried a one-timer past a diving Denver goalie Glenn Fisher.
Midway through the first period, the Pioneers (7-6-2, 4-3-2) received a golden opportunity to tie the game with a five-on-three power play when Colorado College senior Trevor Frischmon dragged down Matt Carle in an effort to create a breakaway. Denver failed to fire a shot on net in over 90 seconds on the two-man advantage, however.
The Tigers grabbed a 2-0 lead six minutes into the second period on the power play. Jack Hillen glided in from the blue line to the top of the left circle and fired a shot off of a Pioneers defender and past Fisher at 6:05.
The Pioneers climbed back into the game at 12:18 of the second period with a power-play goal of their own. Stastny snapped a quick shot that beat Zaba cleanly but rang off the near post. The puck lay in the crease before Ryan Dingle pounced on the rebound and potted the team’s first goal.
“In the first half of the game, we struggled,” said Denver head coach George Gwozdecky. “But we hung in there, Glenn Fisher gave us a chance, and after we scored that power-play goal we really seemed to pick up the energy and momentum.”
Denver’s Ryan Helgason tied the game with just over a minute remaining in the second. Dingle sent a soft wrist shot towards the net which Helgason stopped short of the goal. The Pioneers junior squeaked the puck through the pads of Colorado College goaltender Matt Zaba to send the teams into the lockers tied 2-2.
“The difference in the game was that second goal with a minute to go in the second period,” said Gwozdecky. “That really gave us a heck of a boost.”
Gauthier buried the Pioneers’ third-straight goal at 5:43 of the third period with his squad on the man advantage. After cycling the puck well and maintaining pressure in the Tigers zone for the majority of its power play, Denver eventually got the puck to Gauthier at the top of the right circle. The captain blazed a one-timer high to the blocker side of Zaba for his seventh goal of the season.
“I was just trying to get it on net,” Gauthier admitted. “When you’re that far back, especially on an Olympic-sized sheet, you can’t really try to aim a one-timer.”
Denver iced the game with just thirty seconds remaining when Dingle banked home a long empty-net goal to give the Pioneers the two-goal victory. Dingle finished the night with a pair of tallies.
“Our team played a pretty good game tonight,” said Gwozdecky. “It wasn’t a great game by us, but it made us dig a little bit deeper for our character and hang in it with each other. Perhaps tapping into some of the experience from last year and the year before helped us.”
Denver, which has defeated Colorado College in three consecutive games, including last season’s WCHA playoff championship game and NCAA Tournament semifinal game, will host the Tigers at Magness Arena tomorrow night.