DENVER — In the first game of the 2019 Gold Pan series between the No. 3 University of Denver Pioneers and Colorado College Tigers, a wild back-and-forth game officially ended in a 4-4 tie for the purposes of the Gold Pan and the NCAA. It was a game worthy of the storied rivalry between the two schools.
In the 2017-18 season, the two played two games that were won in the three-on-three OT, each school winning one. This game marked the first between the rivals that was decided by a shootout. Denver got the first opportunity, and coach David Carle sent out Brett Stapley, who had scored two goals in the game. Stapley skated down the left side and cut to the middle, holding the puck, deking, then roofing it top corner glove side.
“That’s my go-to in practice,” said Stapley of the goal. “Somehow this team, we keep coming back from down a goal, down two goals. We find a way to win in overtime and shootouts. I’m really proud of the boys for coming back.”
Colorado College coach Mike Haviland sent out Alex Berardinelli, who skated down the slot and tried to beat Filip Larsson glove side, but Larsson made the pad save, and Denver got the extra point in the NCHC standings.
The first period was like two separate games. Denver came out with a lot of fire and energy, taking the first eight shots of the game and having a 10-1 shooting advantage before seven minutes had passed in the game. Magness Arena was rocking, with a loudness level that you usually see at concerts.
Capitalizing on that energy, Denver got on the board first when Stapley picked up his own rebound down low and poked it past Alex Leclerc’s outstretched left leg at 5:58.
However, the second half of the period changed when Denver took two penalties, and the Tigers power play capitalized. First, with Liam Finlay off for a holding penalty he took in the neutral zone, Grant Cruikshan took a shot from the right point that hit the leg of Denver defenseman Michael Davies and deflected right to Trey Bradley in the slot, who beat Larsson glove side at 8:43. The puck actually hit Larsson’s glove and dribbled in.
“I think they come out strong all the time in this building, and the thing is you can bend, but you can’t break,” said Haviland. “They get one, but I liked our push back after that. We got a power play, we get a goal, and I thought we settled in. I thought we played pretty well after that.”
Right after that goal, Les Lancaster was whistled for a five-minute major and game misconduct for contact to the head on an open-ice hit on Westin Michaud in the neutral zone. CC took the lead on the ensuing five-minute major when Trevor Gooch got the puck in the slot on a pass from Michaud and beat Larson at 10:56.
“I think tonight we had movement,” said Haviland of the power play. “We moved around a lot. We weren’t stagnant on it. We moved and kind of filled each other’s spots and lanes, and the next thing you know we get a rebound on the one when Trey finishes, and obviously on the second one great play around the net. We crash the net, and great pass by Michaud to Gooch. I just like the way we moved it. We moved it quick … and we kind of got them on their heels a bit.”
Denver was rattled by the two goals, and spent much of the rest of the period running around in its own end, but the Tigers were unable to capitalize.
Right at the start of the second period, Denver tied it up. Liam Finlay carried the puck low on the right side and fed a pass just underneath the legs of a diving Zach Berzolla to Tyler Ward on the far post, and Ward redirected it in at 33 seconds of the period.
However, just like the first period, CC took control in the second half of the period. First, Bradley scored on a single-handed effort, skating along the left boards and circling behind the net and scoring a wraparound past the outstretched left skate of Larsson at 13:41.
“I thought he was real good tonight,” said Haviland of Bradley. “It’s something that we’ve talked about, kind of pushed him a little bit. Him and I had a little chat, and Trey’s a pretty prideful guy, and he’s been playing well here lately. We need him to lead the team.”
Right after that goal, CC went on a power play, and they took a two-goal lead when Christiano Versich beat Larsson near post with a snap shot from the top of the left circle at 14:34.
“We take penalties at the end of both periods, and that puts us on our heels,” said Carle. “Their power play executed great all night long. Our penalty kill was putting our bench on our heels because we weren’t confident in our kill tonight because of the success they had, how they were putting us on our heels. There’s times this year where our kill has been really good, and it motivates our bench, and I thought tonight it was the opposite because of how well they were executing on the power plays.”
As time ticked down in the third period, it looked like CC would cruise to a win, but Denver rewrote the script. At 9:10, Emilio Pettersen took a shot from the right point that went high, but deflected in off the glove of Jarid Lukosevicius outside the slot.
“We need to continue to work five-on-five,” said Carle, about what the team discussed between the second and third periods. “We need to do a better job getting the puck and getting people inside the dots and to the net front. We had the puck a lot in the early part of the second, but we’d have the puck in their end and you’d look up and we’d generate maybe a shot or two.”
Denver breathed new life and started attacking with confidence. At 13:21, Stapley got his second of the game when he saw the puck in the crease behind Leclerc and quickly poked it in. Finlay had taken a shot from the right point that Leclerc had made the initial save on, and then Kohen Olischefski whacked at the rebound, and it slipped through the five hole, but stopped short of the goal line and was lying in between Leclerc’s legs. Stapely spied it and knocked it in.
“As the game went on, I thought we did a better job getting to the net front, getting two greasy goals,” said Carle. “The faceoff goal Stapley scored obviously comes to mind.”
CC had a golden chance to win it at the two-minute mark of the OT when Bradley got a pass through the crease and shot it on net, but Larsson came up with the save of the night to preserve the tie. With under a minute to go, the Tigers started circling like sharks and getting some golden chances, but Larsson made several big saves to preserve the tie.
“I thought Filip got better as the game went on,” said Carle. “The power-play goals, a few of them are tough. I’m sure he’d want the wraparound back, but he got better as the game went on, and that says a lot about his mental fortitude to be able to put the goals past him. I thought he played great down the stretch and toward the end of the third period as well.”
Denver had a power-play opportunity in the three-on-three overtime and had a couple of chances, including a snap shot by Lukosevicius from the slot, but the Pioneers couldn’t capitalize.
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