Updated: February 21, 2014 at 10:08 am
It's pretty simple when Colorado College takes on Denver. Pride and a trophy symbolizing victory in a historic hockey rivalry are at stake.
"Our goal is the Gold Pan," Tigers senior Jeff Collett said. "We know we need to play well to get it back. Those two go hand in hand."
Denver hopes to prevail or garner a tie Friday to retain the trophy. CC, which is enjoying some modest momentum, must win both games after losing to and tying the fourth-place Pioneers (14-10-6, 8-7-3-2 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) in November.
DETAILS: CC at Denver, 7:37 p.m. Friday, CBS-SN, 105.5 FM, 1240 AM; Denver at CC, 7:07 p.m. Saturday, ALT-TV
DU players want to celebrate before their home faithful.
"We want to keep the Gold Pan here," sophomore Quentin Shore said. "We are coming into this weekend looking to sweep because we haven't had one a long time."
Some may not expect seventh-place CC (4-18-6, 4-9-5-1) to pull off the sweep; the "Battle for the Gold Pan" Wikipedia page already has Denver winning this year's trophy.
A Tiger sweep would rewrite that page.
"Getting the shutout (3-0 Saturday over Western Michigan) helped our confidence as a team," senior Josh Thorimbert said.
"We know what we need to do and hopefully doing that, starting on Friday, leads to the Gold Pan," senior Archie Skalbeck said.
Standing in the way is an improving Denver squad that has a chance at the NCHC regular-season title, home playoff ice and the NCAA Tournament thanks to strong special teams and goaltending.
"The good thing is we are learning and continuing to progress and hopefully with those lessons learned we can still put a run together," Denver coach Jim Montgomery said.
The third-ranked penalty kill is stout thanks to senior goalie Sam Brittain. The Panthers' draft pick is 10th in the nation in saves percentage (.932) and goals against (2.06).
"He's a big, calm goaltender who faces the puck well," Tigers coach Scott Owens said. "He has been consistent all season long. They are in every game with their special teams and goaltending."
While CC's offensive struggles are well known, the Denver offense is not clicking at the high gear it normally does. The No. 5 power play accounts for 30 of the Pioneers' 77 goals (tied for 40th, 2.60).
"It's improving week by week," Shore said. "We are playing good defense and that is leading to more offense."
The intense rivalry often brings out the best in both teams.