One can never tell what will happen in the game between the Colorado College Tigers and the University of Denver Pioneers. Either way it goes, somebody will learn something. Saturday, the Pioneers taught the Tigers something about playing until the final buzzer. Just when you thought the Tigers were going to run away with a victory and sweep the season series against DU, the Pioneers scored two goals in a span of 32 seconds to tie the score and send the game into overtime, where the teams ended up in a 5-5 tie.
“We played pretty well until probably the third period,” Tigers forward Billy Sweatt said. “With a three-goal lead we started sitting back. We didn’t press. We didn’t try to get our offense going. We just sort of sat back on our heels, and they made us pay for it. They scored two goals in the last minute. And we only came out with a tie instead of a win.”
Actually, it wasn’t the final minute. The Pioneers scored two goals in 32 seconds, the last coming with four seconds remaining. “Is that what it was, 30 seconds?” Tigers coach Scott Owens said.
“I can’t say I can even remember seeing that. I’ve seen two goals in the last minute and a half or just under two minutes. But I haven’t seen that. It was just four seconds left.” Owens stared off, visibly irritated at what could have been.
Remember this is a rivalry. A season sweep would have given Owens bragging rights for a year over his counterpart, Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky. The immediacy of a tie when a victory was all but a sure thing makes it difficult to grasp the notion that the Pioneers just might be the perfect medicine for the Tigers. Maybe the Tigers’ fire had something to do with the rivalry. Or maybe they finally remembered what made them successful earlier in the season. Whatever it was, the Tigers found their mojo Friday at DU’s Magness Arena. The Tigers defeated the Pioneers 3-0, with all three goals coming because a Tiger recognized something special during the play. The goals were earned as opposed to being lucky bounces.
After going winless in six games, earning a three-goal victory over your rival, and doing so convincingly, has to do nothing but infuse a team with confidence. And the Tigers gained confidence with each goal scored.
Understand something. All the Tigers needed was a tie at Magness Arena to win the Gold Pan. The Tigers could have used the mentality that they had two nights to win the Gold Pan. Instead, the Tigers went to Magness and took the Gold Pan. They left nothing up for chance. Then with the Gold Pan theirs, the Tigers could have played Saturday with much less energy than they did. But, again, CC took the fight to Denver. The Tigers made the Pioneers pay for the early penalties. The Tigers played their best first period of the season after jumping out to a three-goal lead — all off power-play opportunities. With the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs starting next weekend, maybe the Tigers will use lessons learned Saturday.