COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Is it any surprise this Front Range rivalry game featured huge momentum swings and ended with pileups in front of the net and a scuffle as time expired?
No. 2 Denver appeared to have clinched a road win over No. 14 Colorado College when an unassisted goal by Shawn Ostrow made it 6-2 only 1:22 into the third period.
But thanks to a three-goal Tigers rally that had a standing-room-only crowd of 7,725 fans roaring, it only ended up being the eventual game-winner after the Western Collegiate Hockey Association-leading Pioneers held on for a 6-5 victory.
“Both coaches are going to be looking at the tape and saying ‘Are you frickin’ kidding me,’” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. “It certainly was a game with huge emotional swings of momentum.”
It was not just the hosts who went on goal-scoring spurts.
Just when CC looked ready to take over the game, it was Denver that seized control after the Pioneers scored three goals in 73 seconds to blow open a 2-2 game at Colorado Springs World Arena on Friday night.
The momentum roller coaster ride began with two second-period goals by CC senior Rylan Schwartz to tie the game at two with 11:32 left. That spurt was answered 1:12 later by a three-goal eruption that lasted another 73 seconds and resulted in a 5-2 Denver lead. The first two Pioneers goals were scored by two Colorado Springs players, Matt Tabrum and Chris Knowlton; the third goal by sophomore defenseman Joey LaLeggia with 8:57 left made it 5-2.
“All of a sudden they came back and the building is electric,” Gwozdecky said. “It’s happened before and it is avalanche. You can’t stop it. Tonight, we stopped it right away and stopped their momentum. That is one of the positives.”
“Two weak shifts and they banged those goals in,” Tigers coach Scott Owens said. “We had too many breakdowns and made too many mistakes. We have not seen a defensive corps that active. You cannot commit turnovers along their blue line because that jump starts them.”
Eight of the 16 Denver points recorded, including three goals, were by defensemen.
With the road win, Denver (8-1, 6-1 league) took a huge step toward reclaiming the coveted Gold Pan Trophy, which has gone to the winner of the four-game regular-season series since 1994. The teams play again at 7:05 p.m. MST on Saturday in Denver.
A scuffle along the Denver bench after time expired drew game disqualifications for Schwartz, who scored two goals and added an assist for his eighth point in three games, and Denver goalie Juro Olkinuora, who made 38 saves in the win. The DQ has little effect on Denver, which planned to start junior goalie Sam Brittain on Saturday anyway. Twelve Pioneers were on the ice during the kerfuffle, and the officials were reviewing the videotape later Friday night to consider further penalties.
“Losing Rylan hurts because he has been playing well for us,” Owens said. “I am hoping they will take a look at the videotape.”
“It was a very important win for us,” Gwozdecky said. “Maybe it is fitting that it ended up close and with that ugly play along the wall.”
Colorado College (7-4, 4-1) battled back into the game when junior defenseman Eamonn McDermott scored his first goal of the year on a long-range shot that found its way through traffic in front of Olkinuora to make it 6-3 with 15:11 remaining.
Colorado College later made it 6-4 when senior defenseman Mike Boivin banged in a rebound after a close-range shot by Alexander Krushelnyski, who cut across the face of the net to generate the chance with 10:35 left. Boivin added his second goal of the night with 1:26 remaining with CC goalie Joe Howe pulled for the sixth attacker over much of the final two minutes.
“I am really proud of how we fought back,” Owens said.
Howe replaced starter Josh Thorimbert when Denver pulled ahead 4-2 and made 14 saves and allowed two goals to take the loss.
CC’s first rally started after CC captain William Rapuzzi created a scoring opportunity, winning a 50/50 puck behind the Denver net after a clearing attempt was blocked. The senior wing sent a crossing pass across the front of the Pioneers net to Schwartz, who one-timed the puck past Olkinuora to make 2-1 early in the second period.
Denver took advantage of an early power play to seize the first lead. David Makowski slammed in a perfect pass inside the right post for a 1-0 lead with 18:35 left in the first period.
Thorimbert made two big short-range saves only 22 seconds apart when the teams skated four-on-four, but later he could not stop Scott Mayfield, who shot the puck high glove side on a two-on-one breakaway with 7:02 left in the first for a 2-0 lead.