Surprisingly, it was relatively quiet Friday evening at Magness Arena, even though there was so much up for grabs.
Late-season games between the University and Denver and Colorado College typically are emotional and chippy, but the most interesting facet of the showdown was how the visiting Tigers had their way and took the sellout crowd of 6,195 out of the equation.
CC, clawing for home-ice playoff advantage and an NCAA Tournament berth, upset sixth-ranked DU 3-0 to clinch the Gold Pan for the first time in three seasons.
Freshman Billy Sweatt, sophomore Chad Rau and junior Jack Hillen got the goals behind an opportunistic 17-shot attack, and senior netminder Matt Zaba made 29 saves to pin DU with its second consecutive shutout loss at home - the first time that has happened in program history, which dates to 1949.
The Tigers, in addition to collecting the traveling trophy awarded to the winner of the four-game, regular-season series, snapped a four-game losing streak and six-game winless skid (0-5-1).
They also clinched home-ice for the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs and climbed to within a point of DU and North Dakota for third place.
CC (17-15-3, 13-12-3 WCHA) can finish 4-0 against the Pioneers with a victory Saturday night at the Colorado Springs World Arena in a game that completes the regular-season and the two-game WCHA series.
DU, meanwhile, dropped to 1-4-1 in its past six games and fell to 12th in the Pairwise Rankings. Last week the Pioneers (21-13-3, 13-11-3 WCHA) clinched home ice for next weekend's best-of-three WCHA playoff series, but a loss Saturday night could put them on the NCAA Tournament bubble and off track from competing at the West Regional at the Pepsi Center.
CC is tied with Michigan State and Massachusetts for 13th in the Pairwise, which mimics the method used to field the 16-team national field. Only the top 12 to 14 teams will get at-large NCAA berths after conference tournament champions are given automatic bids.
"(Saturday) night is a big game," DU coach George Gwozdecky said of the season finale. "We're fighting for our postseason life."
Sweatt and Rau paced CC to a 2-0 lead. Sweatt scored on a breakaway 5:33 into the game, and Rau on the power play 11:33 into the second.
Sweatt's goal was a beauty.
Sweatt broke in alone off a neutral-zone pass from Jimmy Kilpatrick between two DU defenders, and roofed a shot past goalie Glenn Fisher with the forehand after faking to go to the backhand.
Rau cashed in on his own rebound at the doorstep, after Fisher stopped his wrap-around.
Hillen's long wrist shot through traffic 10:48 into the third period gave CC a seemingly huge cushion against a troubled DU offense, which finished 0-of-7 on the power play.