Colorado College's upperclassmen know exactly what’s at stake Friday.
The No. 8 Tigers must tie or defeat No. 10 Denver to retain any hope of taking back the traveling Gold Pan Trophy, which goes to the winner of the annual Front Range hockey rivalry.
“It’s big from that standpoint,” Tigers coach Scott Owens said. “We’re better than starting out 0-2 against them.”
Playing well is the key for the Tigers, who struggled on defense in losses at North Dakota last weekend.
Denver defeated visiting CC 5-4 on Nov. 12 to take a 1-0 lead in the series. In the event of a tied series, the previous winner, Denver, would retain the Gold Pan for another year. The Pioneers (6-4-3, 4-2-3) would clinch a series tie with a win Friday,
“We have to beat them,” said junior Rylan Schwartz, who leads the Tigers (7-4, 5-4 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) with 13 goals. “We need to show we are a better team than we did this (past) weekend.”
Denver also knows the stakes.
“Here’s an opportunity to retain our Gold Pan," Denver assistant Steve Miller said in an earlier press conference.
Miller expects a battle Friday.
“Things didn’t go well for them in Sioux land,” he said. “They’re going to be angry.”
The trophy was first developed by former CC coach Don Lucia, currently at Minnesota, and former Pioneers coach Frank Serratore, now at Air Force, to stoke the rivalry.
The original pan (used by gold prospectors) was first awarded during the 1993-94 season. It was misplaced by Denver after its 2004 national championship and has never been recovered.
In 2006, the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Co. commissioned an artist and donated the current traveling trophy, which has a small inscribed pan attached to three hockey sticks atop a wooden base. The base lists each year’s series winner.
It was held by CC until the 2009-10 season, when Denver went 2-1-1 to win the trophy for the first time since 2005-06.