DENVER • For one instant, University of Denver goaltender Juho Olkinuora resembled a mere human.
Colorado College’s Eamonn McDermott had faked Olkinuora to the ice, and the net was right there, waiting for his shot.
But, remember, this is Colorado College we’re talking about. This is a team that has only claimed two victories in its past 14 games.
McDermott lost control of the puck for an instant, but that was enough to doom his chance with 6:49 left in the third period. DU’s Daniel Doremus rushed to the scene to rescue Olkinoura, who resembled a human wall the rest of the night.
CC settled for a 1-1 tie with DU, and there are a host of reasons for satisfaction.
Magness Arena, always a fearsome destination for visiting team, was packed with a noise level that at times resembled a jet taking off. In this entirely hostile environment, the Tigers crafted one of their finest efforts of the season.
CC goaltender Joe Howe delivered an athletic, gutsy performance, collecting 33 saves, with several of the spectacular variety. He capped off his superb effort with a sliding robbery of former Colorado Springs resident Chris Knowlton with 56 seconds left in overtime.
The Tigers outshot DU, 36-34, and were usually the more hustling, motivated team.
CC came close to defeating Olkinuora, who at times this season has appeared unconquerable.
And yet …
The Tigers could have danced out of Magness with a victory, and anyone who has paid attention to this dreary CC season knows the team badly needs a boost.
Two minutes after McDermott’s near miss, CC’s Jared Hanson had a clear shot at a game-winner on a rebound shot, but Olkinuora smothered the effort.
Alexander Krushelnyski had a final attempt at turning this game from nice to extremely nice for the Tigers with 3:30 left. Olkinuora snuffed this shot, too.
“It is a what-if game,” CC coach Scott Owens said. “I’m disappointed we didn’t find a way to win it.”
But not extremely disappointed. Owens said, with good reason, that DU’s Pioneers will be thinking about what ifs, too, as they prepare for Saturday night’s rematch at World Arena.
The Pioneers dominated the overtime period and would have sent their home crowd into a joyous frenzy if not for Howe’s heroics.
Owens could tell from the first minute of the game that Howe was ready. He complimented his senior goaltender, saying he played a feisty, crafty game.
For weeks, Owens has hoped his team would awaken. In many ways, the Tigers looked fully awake Friday against their archrival.
“The only thing missing is the W,” Owens said, perfectly summarizing a night when almost had to be enough.