February 4, 2012
When Joe Howe, Colorado College’s forgotten man, made a sprawling, sensational overtime robbery of the University of Denver’s Daniel Doremus, it became obvious.
On most nights, a tie is no fun.
On this night, a tie felt just right.
Colorado College’s hockey team had been adrift, stuck in mediocrity, fading fast in national rankings. This weekend changed everything.
On Friday night, the Tigers delivered a masterpiece at Magness Arena, dominating the Pioneers in a 2-0 victory.
On Saturday night, in the 284th renewal of this Front Range grudge match, the Tigers willed their way to a 2-2 tie. They escaped with a tie despite losing center Nick Dineen and goalie Josh Thorimbert to injury.
When the game ended, the Tigers took turns celebrating the return of the Gold Pan to Colorado Springs. DU, also known as The Evil Empire of the North, had been vanquished, for this night at least.
“We earned the Pan,” coach Scott Owens said. “We didn’t back our way into it.”
The return of the Pan almost didn’t happen.
With 2 minutes, 45 seconds left in overtime, Doremus burst into the open and tried to beat Howe with a rocket shot. Howe has struggled mightily this season, losing his starting job to Thorimbert and, perhaps, losing a slice of his confidence.
But he was sensational when it mattered most. With Thorimbert trying to regain his senses after a big hit, Howe became a human wall in front of the net. Howe’s kick save of Doremus’ dangerous shot ended a superb effort by CC’s backup goalie.
DU had come roaring into this series, winning seven of eight while outscoring opponents 36-17. The Pioneers were hoping to claim their third consecutive Gold Pan Trophy.
Meanwhile, CC had been struggling, winning only two of its past six while falling steadily in the national rankings.
I’ll be honest — when DU skated to an early 2-0 lead, I figured the Tigers were done. They had flirted with perfection Friday and seemed destined for a hard crash on their home ice Saturday. The Pioneers were more aggressive, more determined, more hungry.
Jaden Schwartz’s magnificent, coast-to-coast goal at 7:29 of the second period changed everything, electrifying the fans and his teammates while draining the Pioneers. After Schwartz scored, the Pioneers never were the same.
Owens has seen a lot of hockey, which means he has witnessed thousands of scores. Schwartz’s goal ranks near the top of his list.
“Yeah, yeah,” Owens said. “Because of how strong he was with his moves. I have seen a lot of goals, but that was very, very …”
Owens stopped the sentence, only to return to the thought a few seconds later.
“That was one of the tops,” he said. “It was an exclamation mark and it rallied our 8,000 fans.”
It sure did. For the rest of the night, a great hockey night, CC fans were fully engaged. At times, fans were obscene, and that’s too bad, but they were always loud.
This was a strong weekend for CC’s previously faltering hockey team. The Tigers once again revealed they have the talent to tangle with national powers.
Ties are usually no fun.
This one was a lot of fun.