DENVER — Joe Howe made 41 saves to make an Archie Skalbeck second period goal stand up as the game-winner, as the Colorado College Tigers defeated the Denver Pioneers, 2-1, to force a game three in their best-of-three WCHA first round playoff series.
“I thought it was a great playoff game,” said Tigers coach Scott Owens. “We came out and played pretty well early and got ourselves up. We had to hang on like crazy. They’re a talented team, especially at home. I thought overall, it was a good, tough, intense playoff game. I’m proud of our guys. I thought Joe Howe was big time tonight, from the beginning to the end. It’s a good win for us, and I’m happy we’re playing on Sunday.”
Though neither squad could convert on an early power play, the Tigers grabbed the lead near the midway point of the period when Charlie Taft stole the puck in the left circle and started to skate behind the net. He backhanded a pass to Rylan Schwartz in the crease, who one-timed it past Sam Brittain at 9:44.
“I’m disappointed in the outcome, but I’m not disappointed in what we did, for the most part,” said Denver coach George Gwozdecky. “I thought we gave great effort, I thought we generated scoring chances, but sometimes you don’t know why things happen. Their first goal, one of our defensemen just trips, falls. That never happens, and yet, they take advantage of it. I can think of three great scoring chances we had tonight where a guy is about to one-time the puck in the net and his stick snaps in half and all of sudden, the puck goes nowhere. I think the Tigers did a great job of playing a smart game. Howe was very good in goal.”
Denver struck quickly in the second to tie it, as Quentin Shore sprung down the left side boards and fired a rocket that hit Howe and went in at just :33 seconds. While they gained momentum and pressed, Denver was unable to take the lead.
Instead, Colorado College scored when Andrew Hamburg got the puck in the right circle and passed it to Archie Skalbeck in the slot, who redirected the pass into the open net past Brittain’s outstretched right leg.
“‘Hurg’ just made a great play to me,” said Skalbeck. “It was kind of a wide-open net, so all I had to do was tap it in.”
Denver mounted furious pressure in the closing period, including several strong chances while Brittain was pulled for an extra attacker, but couldn’t get the tying goal. Denver also had a power-play chance, but was shut down.
“Their power play is extremely dangerous, and you got to work very, very had,” said Owens. “I thought we had good quick rotations and a little bit of tempo that helped us. Obviously, our penalty kill has been quietly a little bit better the last six weeks.”