If the Gold Pan Trophy, awarded annually to the winner of the regular-season series between Denver and Colorado College, were to head south for the first time since 2014, Tigers coach Mike Haviland has a spot in mind.
He’s never won it. No one on his team has won it. That trophy would be headed for the locker room.
“It’s huge,” Haviland said. “We want to be able to come out and send a message, that we are a different team and make sure that we get a chance to bring that Gold Pan back here.”
Since the Gold Pan was introduced 24 years ago, the series is tied at 12. Defending NCAA champion Denver has won 14 straight contests in the series, but if the resurgent Tigers could find a way to reinsert some parity into the second-oldest college hockey rivalry in the country, it would mean a lot to many.
“This rivalry is big for our whole entire program, our whole school, and we’re all really excited to get onto the ice,” junior defenseman Ben Israel said.
The Tigers would need to leave this weekend’s home-and-home series – Friday at Magness Arena, Saturday at The Broadmoor World Arena – with something. In case of a tie, the winner hangs onto the trophy. CC came within a goal in a 2-1 loss in February, but never lit the lamp more than once in six meetings with the Pioneers last season.
“Our juniors have been through a lot of pain over the last two years against them,” Haviland said.
Israel and the Tigers worked through back-to-back bye weeks, doing many game simulations to stay fresh.
“After a few weekends off, we’re even hungrier than normal,” Israel said.
Rust isn’t CC’s only concern. The Tigers’ last opponent was St. Cloud State on Nov. 17-18. The Huskies rolled through the series with a combined 11-2 score.
The Tigers (7-7-0, 3-5-0 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) had faced ranked opponents before, taking one game each in series against then-No. 4 North Dakota and then-No. 17 New Hampshire. But the Huskies shook the somewhat awestruck Tigers away from their game plan.
“We sat back a little too much and watched them play,” Haviland said. “We’ve got to use that experience that we had in St. Cloud and implement it Friday.”
Denver returns last year’s NCAA top goaltender Tanner Jaillet, who has allowed two goals in three games. Troy Terry (7 goals, 16 assists) and November’s NCHC Player of the Month Henrik Borgstrom (13 goals, 9 assists) are second and third in the NCAA in scoring. The Pioneers boast the second-ranked power play in the country and have been ranked No. 1 in all but one week of the season.
“Nothing special to it,” Israel said. “We’ve just got to play a hard, gritty game and want it more than they do.
“They’re a very good team. We’re progressing really well, and this is a big test for us.”
Even though the team would want an up-close look at that engraved, 20-pound bronze sculpture, Haviland said the honor is meant to be shared.
But getting there will be far from easy.
“It starts all over again Friday night,” Haviland said. “I know we’re a different team and I know the guys want to get the Gold Pan back here, for everybody. Not just for the team that’s in that room, but for this whole program and our fans.”