COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Second-ranked Denver has considerably loftier goals than winning the Gold Pan trophy.
But that did not make doing so any less sweet for the defending NCAA champions after they routed Colorado College 5-1 Friday night to retain that rivalry hardware for the fourth-straight season. That matched a mark set by CC (1999-2002).
“For our seniors, it is pretty special,” Denver coach Jim Montgomery said. “It’s four years in a row they have been able to do it. This rivalry is intense. It got heated out there but it was good hockey, We played well.”
Denver gained ground on National Collegiate Hockey Conference-leading St. Cloud State after the Huskies defeated No. 15 Western Michigan in double overtime to claim two of the possible three standings points.
This weekend’s results could set up a showdown next week in Minnesota between the third-ranked Huskies and Pioneers. But Denver will need to take care of business on Saturday, much as it did on Friday at The Broadmoor World Arena before an announced crowd of 6,750.
CC cut Denver’s lead to 2-1 after Tigers freshman Brian Williams fired a shot off the post and in midway through the second period.
But that momentum dissipated after a glaring defensive breakdown led to the clinching goal with 6:46 remaining. DU’s Rudy Junda was left all alone for several seconds behind the CC net. He was able to pass directly to fourth-line center Kohen Olischefski for an easy goal and 3-1 margin.
“That was a clear mental breakdown and it was just that way all night,” CC coach Mike Haviland said.
Logan Connor recorded the back-breaker with 11 seconds left in the second period for a 4-1 margin on a backhander from between the faceoff circles.
“Our team depth has really improved,” Montgomery said. “That is the big difference for us in the second half of the season versus the first half. We have a lot of players who are confident right now.”
The Pioneers went ahead 1-0 when Florida draft pick Henrik Borgstrom banked in a shot off CC goalie Alex Leclerc’s back as he skated behind the goal line.
The tally with 5:33 left in the first period spoiled a strong opening frame for Leclerc (36 saves), who made a big-time stop on a shorthanded try by Jake Durflinger that would have blown the game opened only four minutes into the contest.
He also forced Dylan Gambrell to shoot wide during an earlier shorthanded chance and Logan O’Connor to do the same in the final minute of the period. That allowed CC to stay close despite a first period dominated by the Pioneers.
“We weren’t mentally sharp,” Haviland said. “We haven’t given up that many (shorthanded) chances all season. We played catch-up the whole night.”
Denver scored the eventual game-winner one minute into the second period on a tally by Colin Staub in his hometown. DU added two more in the second period to pull away.