Though they were being graded on a curve, the Colorado College Tigers will meet Denver in early March in the same predicament as last season — needing a sweep to win the Gold Pan.
The Pioneers finished off a two-win weekend Saturday night with a 3-1 victory at The Broadmoor World Arena.
The team possessing the Gold Pan trophy — this season, Colorado College — keeps it in case of a tie. The Pioneers did everything they could to get ahead of the class.
The Tigers, however, only earned points for attendance. The team defense struggled as CC hunkered down for long stretches and chased Denver around, forcing Matt Vernon to turn in another stellar performance to keep it close. There were few quality scoring chances for a second straight night.
Vernon made 34 saves Saturday and 62 on the weekend.
“I think I need to bring it to another level,” the freshman goaltender said. “I think everyone has to right now.”
It was a far cry from the emotional scene on the same ice nine months previously where the Tigers, led by a large and battle-tested senior class, gutted out a 1-0 victory for a weekend sweep. It was the first time anyone on the roster had won the Gold Pan trophy.
“When you lose a big senior class, guys have to go to a new level of a role and some guys have not gotten to that level yet, and we need to get them there,” coach Mike Haviland said. “That’s our job.”
Colorado College (6-7-1, 2-5-1 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) did avoid being blanked the entire weekend. With the Pioneers’ shutout streak approaching five periods and the visitors up 2-0, senior Alex Berardinelli got the Tigers back in it. The puck rattled around in the crease and the co-captain found it with a minute and a half left in the second period. Both of his goals on the year have come in the past two series.
Cole Guttman added a power-play goal early in the third period to end any comeback thoughts. The Tigers ran out the clock on the penalty kill and Haviland never pulled Vernon.
“They were just better than us tonight, simple as that,” Haviland said.
Bobby Brink converted a turnover, tucking a quick shot inside the right post to make it 1-0 midway through the second. Then Emilio Pettersen, who had a goal and an assist Friday, found Kyle Mayhew lurking alone at the back door. The defenseman scored his second career goal.
The Tigers’ power play turned in three duds in the first period and finished the weekend 0 for 6. Freshman Magnus Chrona, taking Devin Cooley’s place in net, made 20 saves for Denver (11-4-3, 3-3-2-1 NCHC).
Throughout the series, the Pioneers’ play matched the stakes. The Tigers’ did not.
“Concerning, for sure,” Haviland agreed, "with everything that’s on the line.”
“Probably didn’t want it hard enough,” Vernon said. “It’s a rivalry game, of course, and not just that but it’s a conference game.
“We’ve established right from the very start how important games like these are. We didn’t come out with the right sense of urgency and it showed on the scoreboard.”