COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Denver Pioneers may have been squeezing their sticks a little too tightly for most of three periods against Colorado College, but desperation play in the closing seconds Saturday night squeezed the life out of the Tigers and the sold-out crowd at the World Arena.
The Pioneers scored two goals in the final 36 seconds of the game, escaping with a 5-5 tie and avoiding being swept on the season by the Tigers.
With four seconds remaining in regulation, DU center Ryan Dingle redirected a shot from the point off the stick of Tyler Ruegsegger. Ryan Dingle knocked the high shot down and it slipped past CC goalie Matt Zaba for his 21st goal of the season.
Just 31 seconds before the tying mark, defenseman Keith Seabrook released a shot from the top of the point that sneaked under the glove of Zaba, closing the gap to a one-goal deficit.
The Pioneers, who struggled all night to get things going on offense, got results late by getting the puck on net.
“Our guys are letting up on their sticks a little bit, not gripping them so tight,” Dingle said. “The main thing we talked about between periods was getting pucks to the net. If [Zaba] can’t see it, he can’t save it.”
Denver snapped its shutout streak spanning over two games, and broke out of its power play slump (0-for-20) with a goal on the man-advantage in the second period.
Although it has been the power play plaguing DU as of late, penalties hurt the Pioneers in the first and second periods. All five CC goals were scored on the man-advantage.
Colorado College registered its first goal at the 2:32 mark of the first on a boarding penalty to DU’s Seabrook just 39 seconds into the game.
Just over six minutes after CC’s first mark, DU freshman defenseman Cody Brookwell received a five-minute major for checking from behind. Colorado College cashed in by scoring two goals on that power play.
“We get off to a big lead and score five power-play goals, and you don’t really think you’re not going to win the game,” said CC coach Scott Owens. “Obviously you need to finish off your opponent –two goals in the final minute is just unacceptable.
“Denver was fortunate in some areas tonight but they created those opportunities.”
Despite the third period letdown the Tigers, who were winless in their last six games heading into this weekend’s series and scored two goals or less in five of those games, proved to be an offensive threat.
“We’ve been struggling for goals these last four weeks — it was good to score three yesterday and five today,” said CC left wing Bill Sweatt, who had three assists on the night. “Hopefully that wakes our offense up a little bit.”
The Tigers will need that help on the offensive front heading into the WCHA playoffs. The one point collected from Saturday’s tie puts CC in the fifth and final spot for home ice. They will face Michigan Tech, which beat Minnesota on the road Saturday night, 5-4.
“Tech is quietly a real good team — they’re playing as good as hockey as anybody,” Owens said. “We’ve just got to worry about ourselves, regroup a little bit and get used to playing some playoff hockey.”
The tie dropped DU down to fourth place behind North Dakota, which moved up a spot after beating St. Cloud State 7-2. The Pioneers will face Wisconsin in next week’s playoff action.