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After a disappointing loss at home Friday night, the No. 1 University of Denver rebounded strongly on the road on Saturday, trouncing in-state rival Colorado College, 7-3.
The win meant that the Pioneers claimed the Gold Pan, a trophy awarded to the winner of the season series between the two teams, ending a three-year Tigers’ reign.
“I’m very proud of them,” said DU coach George Gwozdecky. “There’s no question, our seniors have had a three-year drought and [they knew] if they played the way they could, they could give themselves a pretty good chance.”
“We couldn’t get our feet moving the way we had them moving last night,” said his CC counterpart, Scott Owens. “They got their feet moving, so that was a difference. They’re 25-7[-4] for a reason. If we’re not going to win battles and move our feet and be competitive in our own end and stand around, it’s going to happen.”
Unlike last night, the Pioneers had no trouble finding their offensive groove early. At 5:50 into the first period, DU found the back of the net. Jesse Martin broke into the zone and made a pass across to Kyle Ostrow who one-timed it over CC goaltender Joe Howe’s right shoulder.
Just 70 seconds later, Matt Glasser gave Denver a 2-0 lead. Nate Dewhurst threw the puck on net from the near corner and a crashing Glasser got his stick on it to knock it past Howe (five saves).
The Pioneers showcased their offensive ease with their third goal about five minutes later. Ostrow shot the puck across the low slot to Martin on the back door. Martin calmed down the bobbling puck and tapped it past a frantic Howe, who was scrambling to get back into position.
With about six minutes left, DU’s Joe Colborne and CC’s Bill Sweatt charged for the net. During the charge, Colborne clipped Howe and Sweatt lost an edge, sliding into Howe in the process. Colborne was called for goaltender interference and, though he wasn’t pulled on the play, Howe suffered an upper-body injury from the collision.
Owens ended up replacing Howe with junior Tyler O’Brien to start the second, and the Pioneers wasted no time testing the new goaltender. DU scored 1:19 into the frame when Colborne, using Matt Donovan as a screen, wristed a pass from Rhett Rakhshani past O’Brien (23 saves).
About halfway through the period, the Pioneers scored two more to take a 6-0 lead. Ostrow netted his second of the night with 11:21 left after taking advantage of a CC miscue. When the Tigers’ Ryan Lowery flubbed a clearing attempt in front of his net, Ostrow swept in, grabbed the loose puck and slammed it past O’Brien.
Then, 69 seconds later, Colborne intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and dished it to Brian Gifford. Gifford broke in alone on O’Brien and put it under his left arm.
“They were disappointed in the outcome last night,” said Gwozdecky, “but tonight, we executed really well the first half of the game.”
Despite the large hole, the Tigers kept battling and with 6:35 left in the second, their efforts finally paid off. Senior captain Mike Testwuide took a pass from Andrew Hamburg in the neutral zone and broke in alone on Pioneers’ goaltender Marc Cheverie, beating him with a wrist shot glove side.
“[Down] 6-0 in your own building is pretty embarrassing to say the least and coming down, the puck was going in the net,” said Testwuide, saying there was no way he wasn’t scoring on the play. “It made it 6-1, not much better, but at least something good came out of the night.”
The Tigers narrowed the Pioneers’ lead down to three with two more goals in the third period. About six minutes in, Cheverie made the initial stop on a Joe Marciano shot from the right point. However, Brian McMillin picked up the rebound and slid it under a sprawled Cheverie to Tyler Johnson, who slammed home the rebound into the wide-open net.
Then with 4:27 left to play, Testwuide scored his second of the night to make it 6-3 when he knocked in a Kris Fredheim rebound past Cheverie (33 saves).
However, the Pioneers couldn’t help but get in one more shot. Just 25 seconds later on a power play, Rakhshani took a pass from Tyler Ruegsegger, stickhandled around Lowery and flipped it past O’Brien.
“They were determined, they were strong on their sticks, and before you know it, it’s three-nothing and we were scrambling,” said Owens. “Then all hell broke loose for a while ten minutes into the second and it settled down a bit, but by that point of the game, it was over.”
The Pioneers next host Michigan Tech for a best-of-three playoff series while the Tigers travel to Minnesota-Duluth for the same.