One shot was all it took.
With 3:46 remaining in overtime, Alexander Krushelnyski lined up across from Denver goalie Juho Olkinuora with a chance to give Colorado College a win against its biggest rival. It was a dream scenario for any Tiger hockey player, and Krushelnyski didn’t disappoint.
With one fake and shot, he decided the outcome of a game in one of the sport’s most heated rivalries, giving CC a 4-3 win at the World Arena as his teammates and a packed house of fans went ballistic.
It’s a game and a goal Krushelnyski won’t soon forget.
“It was a special moment,” said Krushelnyski, who was awarded the penalty shot after DU’s David Makowski was called for tripping him. “It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing a game. It was a great win.”
The best part, he said, was being able to share the win with his fellow players and coaches.
“Everybody was up on the bench, and everyone was into it,” Krushelnyski said. “You knew it was going to end in a special way, and it just happened to fall into my hands.”
While that one game wasn’t bigger or more important than the overall picture of the season or the series history as a whole, it was representative of the rivalry’s intensity.
“You come here for these big rivalries in the WCHA,” Tigers captain William Rapuzzi said. “The Denver one is special, because we’re so close and it’s been a historic rivalry. There’s not more pressure, but you definitely get more excited.
“The place gets pretty rowdy, and it’s a real sellout. The campus gets a little buzz going, and more people are talking about it.”
When the Gold Pan trophy — the coveted prize that travels annually between the series winner of the CC-DU rivalry — is up for grabs, everyone gets a bit more serious, and the atmosphere is electric.
But that’s to be expected, especially considering it is the second-most played rivalry in college hockey, behind Michigan-Michigan State.
“I think it’s about what a lot of college athletics is supposed to be about,” said CC coach Scott Owens, whose squad was 2-1-1 against the Pioneers last season. “There’s tradition, it’s a rivalry that’s competitive as heck, the fans are passionate and the quality of play is usually very good.
“It doesn’t seem to matter where each of us are supposed to be or are in the standings when we play. It just seems like it’s good hockey, and I’m sure that will be the case.”
Denver (7-1) enters the two-game home-and-home series Friday and Saturday ranked No. 2 in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll, with the Tigers (7-3) holding down the No. 14 spot.
The Pioneers hold a 157-111-15 lead in the all-time series, which dates back to 1949, and this year’s battle between the two stalwarts should once again be epic.
“I want the Gold Pan again this year, and it’s got to stay here,” Krushelnyski said.