DENVER — Buoyed by 26 saves by goalie Josh Thorimbert, the Colorado College Tigers extended their mastery of the No. 18 Denver Pioneers on Denver’s home ice, beating Denver 3-2. CC now has a 19-13-5 record against Denver in Magness Arena.
“Our whole season has been adversity,” laughed Thorimbert. “You can consider it that. This year, we’re growing as a team, we’re learning from our mistakes early on in the season, and it’s showing. It’s showing in our games. Last Friday’s game ended a shootout loss, but you could argue we outplayed them that entire game except for seven minutes, so we tightened that up tonight, and tomorrow night we’re looking to do the exact same thing.”
CC thoroughly outplayed Denver through much of the first period; eight minutes went by before Denver even got a shot on net. The Tigers capitalized on their aggressive forecheck to get the first goal when Archie Skalbeck found Jared Hanson open on the back door post to Sam Brittain’s left and fed him a perfect pass that Hanson redirected into the open net at 10:06.
“We’ve been starting games pretty well,” said CC coach Scott Owens. “We were excited to play. Coming off last weekend we were ready to go. Yeah, we had good jump, we had good legs. We got everybody involved early, our entire lineup, so I thought that really helped.”
Denver did have two power plays in the latter half of the period, but was ineffective on both.
“CC was by far the superior team tonight, and not only the first 10 minutes in my mind, the entire 60,” said DU coach Jim Montgomery.
However, Denver came out with more fire in the second and tied it up early on a goal that Thorimbert probably wants back. Quentin Shore, standing in the deep left corner near the goal line, whipped a quick sharp-angled wrist shot on net and it appeared to hit Thorimbert and deflect in inside the near post.
Denver had a golden chance to take a lead late in the period while short-handed when the puck went deep into the CC zone and Larkin Jacobson raced down to get it and fed it to Evan Janssen alone in front, but Janssen’s redirect attempt went wide.
“I didn’t make the save,” laughed Thorimbert. “He flipped it up. It was a weird play. I didn’t want to charge the puck because it was rolling on end right along the boards and I knew there was at least two or three of them coming, so I figured it was best to stay in net and play the shot in front. He didn’t get all of it; it flipped over his stick and went wide.”
“It would have been nice to get that,” said Montgomery. “The puck was rolling a lot tonight. There seemed to be a lot of water on the ice. It was probably because we had a big crowd, and maybe we need to adjust the temperature. ‘Janny’ tried to do the best he could with that pass; it was a great effort by them, and then they turn around and score on us right after that.”
The entire complexion of the game turned when the referees called a five-minute major to Zac Larraza for contact-to-the-head on Gustav Olofsson that would have been a marginal two-minute penalty, let alone a major. Replay showed Larraza never made contact with Olofsson’s head; he came in hard and hit Olofsson with his shoulder at about the level of Olofsson’s collarbone, sending him flying.
CC took full advantage when Jacob Slavin got a pass to Cody Bradley alone in the crease and Bradley beat Brittain with a quick shot low stick side at 18:33.
That was all the damage CC could inflict, as Denver came out strong in the third to kill the remaining time on the major.
“We were scrambling on the power play and we were giving up chances,” said Owens. “Obviously, the power play has been a sore point for us all season long. We weren’t very much together, but Josh made some good saves. The first one got through him a little bit, but I thought he was strong on the short-handed situations and in the real pressure situations down the stretch I thought he was good.”
However, Denver couldn’t gain any momentum from the kill in the third, and a Josiah Didier hooking call at 5:31 proved costly. Denver killed the penalty, but couldn’t clear the zone, and before Didier could get back in the play, Alexander Krushelnyski carried the puck across the slot and got a shot on net. Brittain made a sprawling save, and had his arm against lying across the crease while flat on his stomach, but couldn’t corral the loose puck and Christian Heil crashed the net and poked it in at 7:37.
Denver seemed dead in the water, but got back into it when it went on a power play after a kneeing penalty to Peter Stoykewic and offsetting roughing penalties to Hanson and DU’s Matt Tabrum. Quentin Shore fed David Makowski at the right point, and Makowski’s quick wrist shot beat Thorimbert top corner stick side at 12:55.
Denver had a great opportunity to tie it when it got a late power play, but it was unable to break through despite a lot of pressure. DU then pulled Brittain with just over a minute to go, but CC’s relentless checking and defense prevented Denver from even getting a shot on net.
“I got to look at how I’m preparing the team, because obviously Friday nights, three Friday nights in a row where we’re subpar, so that falls on me and preparation and how I’m preparing them mentally and physically,” said Montgomery.