DENVER — The Colorado College Tigers lost the Gold Pan trophy this season, a trophy given to the winner of the regular season series between archrivals CC and Denver University, but showing a resilience they lacked in the regular season, the Tigers won the war, defeating Denver, 4-3, in the final game of a best-of-three series on Denver’s home ice at Magness Arena. The Tigers came from behind in both the series and the final game to advance to the WCHA Final Five.
“First of all, I thought it was a great series,” said CC coach Scott Owens. “It was a hard-fought series. We got behind the eight ball the first night, and we had a great, gutsy, 2-1 win the second night. We were very, very happy. We hung on a bit. The guys are determined, and you know what, you play that third game and it’s a little bit of a crap shoot because both teams are spent, both teams are drained a little bit. I thought tonight, we were mentally, a lot of cobwebs in the first period, and then we seemed to get a lot of clarity even before the goals.”
After failing to capitalize on its first power play, Denver finally struck on its second power play due to a fortuitous play, as Pioneers forward Ty Loney got checked into Tigers goalie Joe Howe, knocking Howe to the ice as Nick Shore came down in the slot to pick up a rebound and fire it into the vacant net at 12:34. After an official review, the goal stood.
Barely a minute later, the Pioneers seized a two-goal lead when a turnover by Tigers forward Jared Hanson on the boards came to Daniel Doremus, who fired a shot on net. The rebound came right back to Doremus, still high in the slot, and he rifled a slap shot by Howe at 13:54.
The second period turned around quickly, as the Tigers used the momentum from two consecutive power plays on which they failed to convert to build a 3-2 lead, in part due to miscues from Denver defensemen who were pinching.
“The first thing I want to say is I congratulate the CC Tigers,” said Denver coach George Gwozdecky. “They did an outstanding job, especially after being on the road and losing game one to be able to fight back like they did in two tough, tough games. I thought Joe Howe was outstanding last night. Our second period, we went downhill in a hurry with a couple of bad penalties that we took.”
First, Andrew Hamburg kept the puck in at the blue line and passed it to Hunter Fejes, who backhanded a shot that went off Denver defenseman Josiah Didier. The puck caromed to Cody Bradley, who lifted it into the open top corner at 3:51.
Next, Didier got caught pinching in from the left point, and the puck got behind him and Fejes and Hamburg raced up the other way two-on-one. Hamburg carried the puck up the right side and passed across the crease to Fejes, who finished it by getting it inside the low left corner at 6:55.
With Denver going on a power play, it seemed the Pioneers could get some momentum back, but instead, Joey LaLeggia was pinching in from the left point and Rylan Schwartz got behind him with the puck, racing up ice and finishing by tucking the puck in low glove side at 8:56.
“The forward kind of gave a weak pass back to the point there, and I got a little tip on it, and me and the ‘D’ just battled out to the red line, and I got by him,” said Schwartz. “I kind of fanned on the first shot, but I got my rebound and got it in.”
After seeming to struggle for rest of the second period, Denver regrouped and struck early in the third when Shore won a draw on the right faceoff circle back to David Makowski at the center of the blue line, who unleashed a slap shot that beat Howe low stick side at 3:39.
CC regained the lead at 9:49 when Charlie Taft got a bouncing puck at the right point and sent a harmless looking shot on net that seemed to handcuff Juho Olkinuora, hitting off his stick and going in five-hole.
“It’s certainly disappointing not to be advancing to the Final Five,” said Gwozdecky. “It’s such a tremendous tournament, especially this year with our last year in this conference and how this Final Five is shaping up, we want to advance. We’re not going to have that opportunity; CC is going to have that opportunity. All the credit to them for what they did this weekend.”
From that point on, the Tigers played ferocious defense, and shut Denver down the rest of the way. Howe finished with 37 saves in the game.
“We got a break on the goal, no doubt,” said Owens. “You throw it on the net and good things happen. I thought there were some great plays down the stretch, including (Alex) Krushelnyski’s block, and (Peter) Maric and made some good plays, and (William) Rapuzzi took a hit in the corner to make a play, and Joe Howe stood tall. It was nice for us to beat our rival, and we did it nine years ago in the same situation, and I’m very, very happy for our club and for our boys, and now we get to go to St. Paul for the last year of the WHCA tournament for us, and we’re looking forward to it.”