DENVER - Both teams’ captains came through, but Colorado College’s pitched in a little extra as the Tigers scored twice in the first period and held on to down No. 6 Denver on Friday night.
CC spoiled Denver’s Senior Night with a 2-1 win, and the Pioneers will look to return the favor Saturday night at The Broadmoor World Arena. With anything but a Tigers victory, the Pioneers will retain the Gold Pan trophy.
But it will be in the building, and the Tigers have a chance to keep it there.
“This could be a real way to solidify this year, by winning that,” coach Mike Haviland said.
The last time the winner of the Gold Pan came down to the final game of the series was Feb. 22, 2014.
The Tigers didn’t look to have their feet under them yet when Denver’s Les Lancaster, honored with the other seniors a few minutes earlier, took a boarding penalty 20 seconds into the game. After a few attempts to reorganize, the visitors took an early lead.
Mason Bergh tucked a shot just inside the left goal post for his sixth of the season and first since Dec. 1. The CC co-captain has endured long scoreless streaks this season, but had two points, took a team-high six shots, drew a penalty and blocked shots.
“I thought as the game went on, you could see some of that skill, some of the confidence start to come back,” Haviland said of Bergh.
Might have been Magness.
“I love playing in this building. I don’t know what it is,” Bergh said.
Trey Bradley sent the puck over a wide-open net after Filip Larsson’s (22 saves) missed poke check slid right to him.
During a delayed penalty late in the first, he earned his redemption. Christiano Versich, a new addition to the line, made a behind-the-back pass to Bergh. His rebound bounced to Bradley, who roofed it. Bergh earned career point No. 99 with the assist.
The Pioneers went through the motions in the second period until their captain gave them life, and in the process burned his hometown team. Tangled up with Bryan Yoon and on his way down to the ice, senior Colin Staub maneuvered the puck past Alex Leclerc.
Denver (19-9-5, 11-9-3-3 NCHC) had a potential equalizer thrown out because it was knocked in with a high stick. Leclerc stood on his head for many of his eight third-period saves and finished with 26.
Close results had not been the Tigers’ friend, with a 4-10 record in one-goal games.
“You have to buy into defense, and I thought we did a pretty good job tonight,” Bergh said. “We’ve learned from our mistakes in the past where we might have given up a goal there.”
The Tigers (14-17-4, 8-12-3 NCHC) handed Denver just its third home loss of the season, and are 3-2-1 in their past six at Magness Arena. The upset tightened the NCHC standings, as Minnesota-Duluth clinched the second seed but Western Michigan moved within a point of Denver in third. The third seed will host CC in the first round of the conference playoffs.
Saturday’s rematch will begin with a ceremony honoring CC’s seniors.
“It’s going to be sad to see them go, but we’re not done yet,” Haviland said.