The Gold Pan trophy remains comfortably ensconced in the Mile High City.
Colorado College is playing for pride and points at Denver on Saturday night after the Pioneers traveled down to Colorado Springs and outplayed the Tigers from the opening puck drop, winning 5-1 to clinch the Battle for the Gold Pan for the fourth straight season.
Denver has beaten Colorado College 15 times in 17 tries. The season series was tied after both December games ended in a draw, but Colorado College couldn’t lose if it wanted to stay in contention for its first Gold Pan under coach Mike Haviland.
Freshman forward Brian Williams scored the lone goal for the Tigers, who couldn’t get much going against the No. 3 team in the country.
“I think it was work ethic,” Williams said. “We just have to work harder.”
Alex Leclerc made 14 saves as the Pioneers dominated the first period. Denver had more of an advantage on Colorado College’s two power plays than the Tigers did, outshooting them 3-1 with several solo breakaways.
But Leclerc was saving everything he saw, so Pioneers star Henrik Borgstrom went another route. He banked the puck off the CC goaltender from behind the goal line. It trickled in to give Denver a 1-0 lead.
One minute into the second period, Borgstrom cruised in on Leclerc and sent a cross-ice pass to Colorado Springs native Colin Staub, who knocked it in.
Williams got the Tigers (12-13-4, 6-10-3-2 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) within one with his third goal of the season on a simple play. He took the puck from Tanner Ockey, who had just returned from injury, and fired a wrister on Tanner Jaillet from between the faceoff circles to make it 2-1.
Denver freshman Kohen Olischefski restored the lead, knocking in a Rudy Junda pass on the doorstep. Logan O’Connor was then the lucky recipient as Leclerc tried to bat a shot away with his stick and sent it into the corner of his own net with 11 seconds left in the second period.
“They’re a good team, but we have a lot better to bring to them,” Williams said.
Jarid Lukosevicius closed the scoring for the Pioneers (17-6-6, 11-4-3-3 NCHC) as he patiently waited out a sprawled Leclerc, who finished with 36 saves to Jaillet’s 18.
“We’ve just got to make sure we bounce back tomorrow,” Williams said. “Make sure we’re working, top-to-bottom working.”