Furious Colorado College comeback forces overtime, but Denver reclaims Gold Pan Trophy

UMD_vs_CC_2_28_2020_12_webThe Gold Pan Trophy will return to Denver.

But Colorado College made sure the hardware was well-earned by the sixth-ranked Pioneers in a hard-fought game befitting for one of college hockey’s best rivalries.

The Tigers mounted a memorable third-period comeback behind two goals by senior Chris Wilkie, including the tying tally with 7.3 seconds left, to force overtime in an eventual 3-2 shootout win for the Pioneers (20-9-6).

CC pulled goalie Matt Vernon while on the penalty kill (too many men) in a last-ditch effort to pull out the OT win, but Denver goalie Magnus Chrona made three of his 36 saves to stymie the effort.

“This one hurts,” Wilkie said. “It’s disappointing to not be able to get it done there, especially late in overtime. We had some chances around the (Denver) net on the one shift. We had the goalie pulled and we were going for it all there.”

CC had to sweep DU to retain the trophy. Because the Tigers were unable to win the game outright in the first overtime, the Pioneers reclaimed the trophy with a 2-2 tie that clinched a winning record in the season series (2-0-1).

The regular-season finale is 8 p.m.  Saturday on CBS Sports Network.

“It is a big moment for our program and this rivalry,” Denver coach David Carle said. “Certainly, when you lose it in the fashion we did last year (CC sweep) there’s some motivation.”

Denver looked headed to victory before Wilkie took over, adding another memorable individual performance in this rivalry.

He blasted the puck into a wide-open net after a long rebound to the opposite side was given up by Chrona on a hard shot by Grant Cruikshank. The 4-on-3 power-play goal came with 5:36 left in the game and made it 2-1, Pioneers.

CC was on a roll for the rest of regulation. CC coach Mike Haviland pulled goalie Vernon (15 saves) with 1:13 left for the extra attacker.

A final burst into the DU zone by Alex Berardinelli got the puck in deep. From there, he found Wilkie open in the right faceoff circle for a one-timer blast past Chrona with 7.3 seconds left for his 23rd goal this season.

“The whole team wanted it,” Haviland said. “We never stopped fighting and battled back. We pulled the goalie in OT to try to keep the Pan.”

“The Gold Pan means an awful lot,” he added. “I cannot ask any more of them than what they did tonight. They poured their hearts out on the ice and that is all you can ask for as a coach.”

The rivalry intensity amped up in the second period and CC defenseman Zach Berzolla was in the middle of it as usual. He leveled DU’s Slava Demin with 11:26 left and was then tied up with wrestling behind the CC net with Denver’s Cole Guttman. Both were sent off for roughing.

That got the Broadmoor World Arena crowd of 4,466 going until Denver opened the scoring when Ian Mitchell’s shot bounced in off a sprawling CC defenseman with 9:03 left in the middle period. The Tigers had two of their better scoring chances during the 4-on-4 stretch before Mitchell scored.

Ruck (20 saves, 39:23) playing very well in his first start since returning from an upper-body injury. But then he suffered a lower-body injury that forced him to leave the game with 37.4 seconds left in the second.

Vernon came in cold off the bench and gave up a goal about nine seconds later on the first shot he faced. Tyler Ward scored off Brett Stapley’s second assist of the night for a 2-0 Denver lead. Stapley later scored in the shootout.

After Ward’s goal, Vernon shut the door, making 15 saves the rest of the way to give the Tigers (11-19-3) a chance. He will get the start Saturday in a game important for the rivalry and for the Tigers as they prep for the playoffs after riding Friday’s emotional rollercoaster.

“Our guys responded,” Haviland said. “(Vernon) was really good in the third. That’s tough going in after 40 minutes. (Saturday) is an important game. We have played well the past nine games. We have to make sure we go there and take the momentum we had tonight in the third and really the whole game. I thought it was an excellent game.”

Now, the Tigers must bounce back from a gut-wrenching loss.

“Any other game, if the stakes were not so high, we’d be pretty happy with how we played,” Wilkie said. “If we play that way (over) this next week, we’ll be a tough team to beat.”

“Every guy up and down the lineup gave it their all tonight,” he added. “It was a pretty draining game emotionally but now it’s over. We look forward to going to Magness (Arena Saturday), playing the same way and hopefully getting a win.”

Injuries, playoff foe TBD

CC defenseman Bryan Yoon was knocked out of the game with an upper-body injury sustained on the opening shift. Ruck has just returned from an upper-body injury last weekend. Blumenschein played more minutes in his first game back due to Yoon’s injury. The sophomore Yoon usually plays about 20 minutes a game. His status is uncertain for Saturday. … CC’s first-round opponent is to be determined. With a second North Dakota loss this weekend and a Minnesota-Duluth sweep of St. Cloud State, the Bulldogs would garner a share of the Penrose Cup, the top playoff seed and the right to host CC in the first round. …  The Gold Pan Rivalry is the second-most contested series in the NCAA with 323 games played as of Friday, just behind 328 for Michigan-Michigan State. Denver now holds a 182-120-21 lead (72-63-10 in Colorado Springs) in the series.

The new mascot name is …

RoCCy was announced as the new name for the CC mascot, beating out Roary and CC by an undisclosed margin.

The new costume and name were introduced during first intermission. The school announced that the former mascot, Prowler, graduated Friday with the mascot taking a final lap around the ice wearing a cap and gown.

Senior Night

The CC players honored before the game were: graduate students Andrew Gaus and Ruck; redshirt senior Wilkie and seniors Berardinelli, Blumenschein, Nick Halloran, Cole Josefchak and Alex Pernitsky.

Junior goalie Jon Flakne (injured) was also honored. He is scheduled to graduate in three years. Josefchak retired to focus on academics after his junior season. Pernitsky suffered a season-ending injury earlier this year. Blumenschein returned to action for the first time since mid-January.

About paisleyhockey
I am a freelance writer specializing in sports with about 25 years of professional experience.

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