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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Is it a rivalry when one team wins most of the games?
Left for dead just a month ago, Colorado College continued its recent mastery of arch-rival Denver by sweeping the weekend and claiming the Gold Pan trophy, awarded to the team that wins the season series between the two schools, with a 3-1 victory in front of a standing room sellout crowd of 7,461 at World Arena.
It’s the 12th time of the 21 times the Gold Pan has been awarded that it has gone to CC, which also knocked DU out of the WCHA playoffs last year.
“There are so many good things there,” said CC coach Scott Owens. “One, it was good for our fans, because we’ve been struggling all season long and haven’t been real good at home and haven’t been very good on Saturday nights so it was nice in the soldout building for our fans to enjoy it a little bit. Denver was a much better team tonight, and I thought that we matched it for the most part.”
Denver probably felt lucky to escape the first period tied 1-1. Despite having three power plays to CC’s one, DU was thoroughly outplayed, with CC outshooting the Pioneers 14-7; at one point late in the period, the shots were 12-4.
CC also struck first right off a draw in the left faceoff circle. Jeff Collett tied up the Denver center on the draw and kicked the puck back to Jacob Slavin at the left point, who passed it to Aaron Harstad at the middle of the blue line, who unleashed a slap shot that beat Sam Brittain high at 16:06.
“Thank god we have an All-American goalie in Sam Brittain or else we would not only be down by a lot of shots, but we would be down by three goals,” said DU coach Jim Montgomery. “He was really special in the first period, because I thought Colorado College made some really creative high-end plays.”
It seemed CC would take the lead into the locker room, but Denver got a late goal from Matt Tabrum, who beat Josh Thorimbert from the bottom of the right circle at 18:20.
Denver closed the first and opened the second on a power play, but again couldn’t score.
“We’re missing Joey LaLeggia, but at the same time we didn’t take what was available and CC did a great job killing penalties,” said Montgomery.
The rest of the game turned into an edge-of-your-seat, nail-biter defensive battle. While both teams got a lot of shots, few of the chances were ones that forced the goalies to make highlight-reel saves. However, by early in the third period, Denver looked visibly tired, and had trouble clearing its zone. CC’s offensive forays started to become more sustained, and finally, at 13:54, the Tigers broke through.
Eamonn McDermott got knocked into Sam Brittain by a Denver defender, and ended up on top of a prone Brittain while Alex Roos carried the puck through the slot and backhanded it high into the open net to give the Tigers the lead.
“It was a patience game,” said Owens. “I got a look at the winning goal on tape, and I think (Cody) Bradley made a pretty good play and Roos has got the great hands and scored the goal. You know what? We seem to be maturing and coming together a little bit as a team. Josh is playing great, and obviously Brittain was outstanding as well.”
Having fallen behind, Denver finally woke from its somnambulant state and started playing with the desperation it needed to, generating more offensive chances. Denver’s best chance came when Trevor Moore got a point-blank shot off from the bottom right faceoff circle. Thorimbert got his glove on it, and the puck went over the net, where Alexander Krushelnyski picked it up and skated up to the boards, banking it out past the blue line and into the empty net. The goal was Krushelnyski’s 100th career point at CC.
“It’s all smiles right now,” said Krushelnyski. “Tonight was a special night. It’s a little surreal, kind of soak it all in. It’s my last year here, and I’m enjoying it. Nothing makes me happier than to bring the Gold Pan back. It was an incredible team win. … Normally, I would say that we have to stay level-headed, but I think of all years, we could use a nice confidence booster, so I think this is great for us right now. Guys are playing great; this is something we could use.”