DENVER – Colorado College freshman Christian Heil picked a great time to record his first goal as a Tiger.
The Westminster native scored with 12:23 left in the third period for what proved to be the eventual game-winning goal in a 3-2 road win over No. 18 Denver at Magness Arena.
“It was special for me to do it here in Denver,” Heil said. “I grew up 20 minutes north of here and I had a bunch of family in town. It is pretty surreal to get my first one as a Tiger against Denver.”
Not only was it a memorable night for the rookie, who also played his first NCAA game at center, but possession of the Gold Pan Trophy remains possible for CC (5-18-6, 5-9-5-1 league) after the victory.
It was the Tigers first road win (1-11-2) and first victory in a one-goal contest (1-7-6) this season. CC also recorded its second win in a row, also a season high.
The Tigers can take back the coveted trophy with a win Saturday night at World Arena. Less than 100 hundred tickets remain.
“I am really disappointed and I really can't hide my feelings enough - by my team's lack of emotion and lack of effort,” DU coach Jim Montgomery said.
Colorado College scored the eventual winning goal when senior Alexander Krushelnyski tracked down the puck after a Denver player blocked his shot and passed over toward Heil.
Denver senior goalie Sam Brittain (26 saves) stuck out his stick to stop the puck but Heil forced both the puck and stick across the goal lone with 12:23 left in the third for a 3-1 lead. The score came moments after a power play expired.
“I was just praying he would put it in,” Krushelnyski said. “(This win gives) us the confidence we have been looking for. It’s a good step in the process of getting ready for the playoffs.”
Denver trimmed the CC lead to 3-2 with 7:05 remaining when senior defenseman David Makowski ripped a power-play shot past Tigers goalie Josh Thorimbert (26 saves)
Colorado College led the entire game and played well down the stretch, allowing only three shots during a late power play and none over the final 70 seconds when Brittain was pulled for the extra attacker.
“Our slow process of improving on the power play generated two goals because the third one came just after the power play,” CC coach Scott Owens said. “Overall, I am happy with this good team win.”
Tigers sophomore Cody Bradley banged in a pass in off Britttain’s right leg pad to put the Tigers ahead 2-1 with 1:27 left in the second period earlier in the same five-minute man advantage that concluded just before the game-winner. The power-play goal came during a five-minute man advantage after Denver’s Zac Larraza was called for contact to the head and ejected for the rest of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference game for a hit on CC freshman defenseman Gustav Olofsson..
The power-play goal was set up by freshman defenseman Jaccob Slavin, who controlled the puck in the corner and passed to the front of the net where Bradley scored.
CC sophomore Jared Hanson scored with 9:54 left in the first period for a 1-0 lead. The score was set up by a good diagonal pass across the Denver zone by senior Eamonn McDermott to senior Archie Skalbeck in the slot.
Skalbeck immediately passed over to Hanson, who was skating toward the net from the other faceoff circle. It caught Brittain moving to his right toward the Tigers senior wing and Hanson one-timed the puck in behind the netminder for the early 1-0 lead.
“I thought it was a pretty good road game,” Owens said. “We got the early goal and our penalty kill was good.”
Denver tied the score at 1-1 on a goal by sophomore Quentin Shore with 15:51 left in the second period.
The game would be close the rest of the way until the five-minute power play gave CC the chance to pull away.
They seized it. Now it remains to be seen if the Tigers can take the trophy as well.
“This is personal,” Krushelnyski said. “We want the Gold Pan back.”