DENVER — Despite starting the game with possibly the worst 16 minutes of hockey their coach has ever coached, the University of Denver Pioneers took advantage of a three-goal second period to top the Colorado College Tigers, 5-3, Saturday night at Magness Arena.
The win meant the Pioneers split the season series and therefore held on to the Gold Pan, due to the rules of the traveling trophy the two rival schools compete for.
“That was about as strange and as bad a first 16 minutes as I’ve ever coached,” said DU coach George Gwozdecky. “CC was very good and we were just, it was a comedy of errors.”
“I thought we started the way we wanted to start, we got on top,” said CC coach Scott Owens. “The second period was just kind of a hodgepodge of turnovers and breakdowns and the power-play goal and I thought we played well in the third period, but it was kind of after the fact.”
Even though the Pioneers came out with a bang and a shot on the opening faceoff, the Tigers were the ones who got on the board first. Just two and a half minutes in, Alexander Krushelnyski passed the puck across the high slot to Mike Boivin, who one-timed a shot past DU goaltender Sam Brittain (36 saves).
Two minutes later, it appeared as if the Tigers went up 2-0 when a Ryan Lowery rebound appeared to bounce somewhere off of Stephen Schutz’s upper body and in the net. The initial call on the ice was no goal however, and after a lengthy review (in part due to faulty instant replay equipment), the no goal call was made official.
“We had yet another replay problem in this building, so they went to the FOX feed and they couldn’t get a read on it so they stuck with what they saw which was a chest going forward, so it’s like it’s being directed in,” said Owens.
“He pushed it in or he made a motion to knock it in,” said Gwozdecky. “If it bounces off you, it’s one thing but if it’s coming at you and you push it with your hand, your shoulder or your leg or whatever, then it’s no goal. He waived it off when he saw it and he waived it off when he saw it again on the replay, so there’s no question.”
A mere 11 seconds later however, the Tigers went up 2-0 for real. Dakota Eveland intercepted a pass in the neutral zone, skated into the zone and fired a shot high past Brittain.
“That was one of the nicer goals of the weekend, really, just being able to see Dakota bury that after that whole thing,” said Owens.
The Pioneers ended up gaining some life however, thanks in part to an appearance by injured forward Jesse Martin, who came out on the ice to thank the fans for their support during his recovery during a TV timeout with 8:27 left.
They were rewarded with four unanswered goals, starting off with Nick Shore tying the game up in a 67 second span with 2:44 left in the first period. Shore first took a pass from Beau Bennett as he entered the zone and fired a shot from the point that deflected off of the stick of CC’s Ryan Lowery and past CC netminder Joe Howe. Then, on a power play, a centering pass of Shore’s from the right corner deflected off of Tigers defenseman Gabe Guentzel’s shin and past Howe (26 saves).
“The first 16 minutes were awful, the last four minutes, we score our first goal and we’re a different team,” said Gwozdecky.
“I would have to give Jesse Martin a lot of credit for that turnaround in that first period, no question.”
Denver continued to build its lead 6:31 into the second period when Jarrod Mermis took a go-ahead pass from Shawn Ostrow, won a puck battle against a CC defenseman and backhanded the puck past Howe.
Luke Salazar made it 4-2 1:27 later when a John Lee pass he threw on net trickled past Howe and into the net.
The Tigers were able to claw back within one with six minutes left in the period when Scott Winkler skated out of the right corner, skated across the crease, pivoted and slid the puck past Brittain.
Denver regained the two-goal lead with a late power-play goal however. Matt Donovan sent a behind-the-back pass across the slot to Anthony Maiani, who dished the puck up to Drew Shore at the top of the slot, who let a shot fly past Howe to make it 5-3.
Both teams exchanged chances — and goalposts — in the third period, but the scoring was done for.
“I thought we didn’t catch any breaks, I thought we weren’t very lucky,” said Owens. “Their sticks are good, and they keep coming at you. They played three lines both games. I was amazed at the energy they still had at the end of the night for only playing three lines.”