COLORADO SPRINGS — At the end, it was a tale of two breakaways. Denver didn’t score on its chance, while Colorado College did.
In front of an enthusiastic, sold-out, black-wearing crowd of 7,674 at World Arena, the No. 8 Colorado College Tigers edged the No. 10 Denver Pioneers, 4-3, on Alex Krushelnyski’s penalty-shot goal at 3:46 of overtime.
“Honestly, I wasn’t really thinking,” said Krushelnyski. “I was just going to go down, make one move and see what he did and kind of wing it from there. We’ve been having some fun in practice lately practicing breakaways. Coaches are always giving me a hard time cause I’m always saying, ‘Hey, can we do some breakaways?’ Thanks coach, you helped me score tonight.”
The penalty shot was called when Krushelnyski got a pass at the blue line behind the Denver defense and moved down on Pioneers goalie Juho Olkinuora. Right at the crease, David Makowski dived and hit the back of Krushelnyski’s legs while Olkinuora tried to knock the puck off Krushelnyski’s stick. It wasn’t clear who tripped Krushelnyski, but when he went down, the referees immediately signaled penalty shot.
On the play, Krushelnyski made a Peter Forsberg-like move, as he skated down the center of the slot and moved to his left, but kept the puck on his stick which he held with his right hand and dragged it just past the outstretched left leg of Olkinuora.
“That was a ballsy move,” said Tigers goalie Joe Howe, who made 30 saves. “I could say a lot worse. I couldn’t believe it when he tried that move, but it was unbelievable.”
“I don’t think in college I’ve seen that,” said Tigers coach Scott Owens of the penalty-shot win. “Joe Howe made a couple of big saves at the end of the third period. I felt good in the overtime. We were hanging on. There was good passion. The fans were really good tonight. It is one of the more memorables, but it was huge for us to come out with the win.”
“I don’t think there’s been any overtime game that finished on a penalty shot like that,” said Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky. “I thought it was an exciting game. I thought we had great chances throughout the game to take a bigger lead than we did, and I thought the biggest fault, if you will, was finishing around the net. Whether it was Joe Howe making a great save, or us just not finishing, that was our biggest challenge. In a game like this, you need to be able to figure out a way to give yourself a bigger cushion.”
At the start of the game, Denver initially held the momentum, but a turnover while they were short-handed cost them. Tigers forward Scott Winkler got off a quick shot from high on the right side of the slot. Olkinuora made a stop, but Nick Dineen batted the puck across the crease, and Krushelnyski knocked it in from the left post at 9:51.
“I think there was a turnover or something and the guys made a good rush, a good play and a shot, and as Dineen was battling in front of the net, it looked like he could use some help and I just went in and pounded it in,” said Krushelnyski.
Late in the period, Denver grabbed the momentum back when Jason Zucker scored from the left side of the crease at 15:52 off a pass from David Makowski while the teams skated four-on-four.
Denver took its first lead early in the second while on a power play. Zucker scored a highlight-reel goal from the left faceoff dot off a pass from Nick Shore in the left corner. Zucker got one shot off, picked up the rebound, and as he was in the air and getting knocked to the ice, lifted it high left corner past Howe at 3:22.
“You always have to be aware when you are out there playing that they are three skilled forwards,” said Krushelnyski of the Zucker-Drew Shore-Beau Bennett line. “They are always making good plays. Even in the defensive zone, they’re good players defensively.”
“That line should create a lot of chances for us,” said Gwozdecky. “That line, I thought at many times controlled the play and did a really good job, and hopefully they will continue to get more and more comfortable together and be even more dominant as time goes on.”
Denver’s momentum didn’t last long. At 6:04, Scott Winkler got the puck and raced up ice behind a pinching Denver player, letting loose with a rocket from the left circle that beat Olkinuora high.
Tempers started flaring in the tenseness of the game, and Denver got a three-minute power play when Eamonn McDermott was called for elbowing while Denver’s Ty Loney got called for roughing. Denver didn’t capitalize, and the Tigers started to press. A tired Denver defense took two consecutive penalties to give CC a five-on-three power play, which the Tigers converted on at 14:46 when Joe Marciano one-timed a slap shot from the left point off a pass from Michael Boivin that beat Olkinuora on the near post.
Denver got a golden chance to tie it in the third when Zucker got slashed while his line was pressing. As he skated off toward the bench holding his hand, his linemates maintained control of the puck, and Shore hit a post. On the ensuing power play, the Pioneers pressed, but Howe held strong. As the power play expired and the announcer was saying “Tigers at full strength,” Bennett stepped toward the middle of the slot from the left circle and beat Howe cleanly at 14:08.
“That third one is definitely one I should have had,” said Howe. “To be beat clean at that point of the game, you just can’t do that. It says a lot about the guys in the locker room. We came back and battled hard.”
Buoyed by the goal, the Pioneers had several excellent chances, particularly from the Shore-Bennett-Zucker line. With about a minute to go, Zucker got a pass at center ice and split the defense, going in alone on Howe. He made a move to his backhand, and Howe stopped it, as well as making a save on the rebound attempt by Chris Knowlton.
“At first I thought he was going to shoot; the kid’s got an absolute rocket of a shot,” said Howe. “I think in the end I owed him one here because he’d beaten me a couple of times. He made a real quick move to his backhand and luckily I was able to get my leg on it.”
That set the stage for Krushelnyski’s goal.
“I thought he was going to shoot actually,” said Owens. “Then he pulled it back, and that was a gutsy move to do that. You know what though, he’s pretty good at them. He’s wanted to work on them all year. It’s kind of a running joke, so Thursday we did it. So as soon as they called that, Joe and I looked at each other and said, ‘He’s going to score.’ It was a good win for us.”