The battle for the Gold Pan began this weekend as the archrival Denver University Pioneers and the Colorado College Tigers clashed in this home and home series.
Game one: Plenty of story lines filled this 240th meeting between these two interstate warriors. It was DU who ended CC’s season last year and went on to win the WCHA title against Minnesota. The surprisingly successful Tigers were ranked 5th in the nation while the Pioneers were ranked 6th in last weeks polls. The top scoring player in the WCHA, Peter Sejna (CC) would face the number one goalie in the WCHA and Blackhawk prospect Adam Berkhoel (DU).
The Tigers took to the ice in Denver and attempted to take advantage of the smaller surface and the smaller, quieter vacationing student body crowd. However, it was DU who struck first with a top shelf goal by Greg Keith, which was set up nicely by Matt Laatsch midway through the first period. Next it was the Tigers who probably changed the momentum for the whole weekend by killing off almost 80 seconds worth of a five on three power play later in the same period.
The Tigers clawed their way back in the second period with a power play goal from none other than Peter Sejna but DU would soon answer with their sniper and King’s prospect Connor James tallying a rebound goal on a pass from behind the net by Matt Weber. However it was the Stuart brothers who took the life out of the crowd by each scoring a goal late in the second period for the Tigers.
The difference in the game was highly ranked future draftee Mark Stuart. Not only did he score a screened go ahead goal that seemed to trickle though the five hole of Berkhoel in slow motion, but he also took a five-minute major and a game misconduct for checking from behind. The Pioneers were unable to convert on this long penalty through the second and third period and the combination of these to factors shifted the momentum of the game.
The Pioneers would not go down with out a fight as grinder Greg Keith returned from that nasty check from behind and scored his second goal of the night with just 25 seconds left in the game.
Date: Dec 6th 2002 DU Vs. CC Score 4-3 CC
Scoring for DU:
1st: Greg Keith (Matt Laatsch)
2nd:Connor James (Matt Weber)
3rd:Greg Keith (Ryan Caldwell)
Total Shots on Goal: DU 28 CC 20
Game two: The lopsided final score is far from reflecting what really happened on the ice in Colorado Springs on Saturday. The beginning of the game was almost a mirror image of the game in Denver on Friday. Even though DU peppered CC’s goalie and Flames prospect Curtis McElhinney with 5 shots in the first 3 minutes it was CC who scored first to electrify the already very vocal home crowd. Next, CC found themselves with the luxury of an almost full minute of a five on three power play. Unlike DU the night before, the Tigers did convert on this important opportunity, which was probably the difference in the game.
Even down 2-0 in the second period, the Pioneers continued to plug away with a goal from Islander’s prospect Ryan Caldwell, which was disallowed due to a man in the crease, and then J.J Hartman finally tallied a semi-breakaway backhanded goal. Both teams continued to exchange break away chances, hard hits, odd man rushes and superb up and down action all through the rest of the game.
With DU down 4-1 in the third period it was once again the persistent play of Greg Keith who brought the Pioneers with in two goals mid way though the third period. The Pioneers played smart defense and pummeled the Tigers goalie with quality shots to keep the game close and exciting for as long as they could. In the end it was the frustrating net minding of Curtis McElhinney and the stellar offensive play of Peter Sejna that did the Pioneers in.
Date: Dec 7th 2002 DU Vs. CC Score 6-2 CC
Scoring for DU:
2nd: J.J Hartman (Kevin Ulanski)
3rd: Greg Keith (Luke Fulghum)
Total Shots on Goal: DU 32 CC 25
Weekend Goalie stats:
Friday: Berkhoel 20 shots 16 saves 0.800 %
Sat: Berkhoel 25 shots 19 saves 0.769 %
Player Profile: Matt Laatsch- With several key defensemen graduating last year, this lanky junior d-man from Lakeville Minnesota has stepped into the role of a solid reliable blueliner who has benefited from increased ice time this season. Voted the WCHA defensive player of the week for Dec 1st, Matt chalked up 4 points and had a plus 6 over last weekend’s match ups. He also contributed to this weekend’s series with an assist and smart play at both ends of the ice and has an impressive plus sixteen total so far this season.
Up next: The Pioneers travel the Minnesota to take on another talented WCHA team, the St Cloud State Huskies. After the holiday break DU will host Miami, New Hampshire and Clarkson in the Denver Cup.