The Battle for the Gold Pan is on. After tying No. 6 University of Denver in January and falling 1 — 0 on Feb. 26, the Tigers hosted National Collegiate Hockey Conference foe No. 20 University of North Dakota on March 1 and 2 in their final matchup before they head north to Denver on March 8.
The Tigers defeated UND 3—1 on Friday but fell 2-1 on Saturday night. All four Tiger goals were scored in the third period of the games.
Colorado College is in sixth place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with 24 points. University of North Dakota is one spot ahead of them with 31 points. Denver University sits in third place with 39. St. Cloud State University is No. 1 in the conference with 56 points, and is also ranked No. 1 in the country, with 49 of the 50 possible votes.
“I think we were just focused on our game more than anything going into the weekend,” forward Grant Cruikshank ’22 said. “We wanted some revenge after what happened at UND earlier this year. It felt great to win on Friday night, but we have to figure out how to bring 60-minute team efforts for both Friday and Saturday games, and I’m sure that will be one of our main focuses heading into Denver this coming weekend, playing for the Gold Pan.”
The Fighting Hawks won both of their previous Tiger matchups this season, securing both victories in overtime. Forward Chris Wilkie ’20, who transferred to CC from UND, did not play in either game and is currently listed as day-to-day with an injury.
The first game started slowly, with a 0—0 tie after two periods. Cruikshank broke open the scoring just two minutes into the third period, opening the gates for a scoring effort from the whole team. He was assisted by forward Troy Conzo ’21 and forward Trevor Gooch ’19. Eleven minutes later, defenseman Bryan Yoon ’22 scored a power play goal with assists from forward Trey Bradley ’19 and forward Westin Michaud ’19. The final goal was an empty-netter scored by Bradley and assisted by forward Ben Copeland ’22 and Yoon. Goalie Alex Leclerc ’20 recorded 31 saves in his 100th career game for CC.
Head coach Mike Haviland was pleased with his team’s performance, praising Leclerc’s performance, and also complementing Cruickshank and the other first-years on how they have improved this season.
The Saturday night game was an uphill battle for the Tigers. They played more aggressively, but were not able to find the back of the net until it was too late. University of North Dakota jumped out to an early lead with two goals in the first period. The sole Tiger goal came with just 2:09 remaining in the game, as forward Christiano Versich ’21 scored on an assist from Michaud.
“We want to make the NCAA tournament and still feel like we can accomplish that,” Cruikshank said. “We know we can beat anyone in the conference when we play our game. We obviously have a couple more games here for the regular season and then head into playoffs where anything can happen. And we are confident that we can beat whoever we are matched up against. It’s going to be an exciting final stretch.”
The Tigers will travel to Denver for the NCHC quarterfinals on March 15—16. The Tigers faced the Pioneers in the first round last year and won the first playoff game 2-0, but dropped the final two games 3—2 and 6—1 and were eliminated from the playoffs.
The Tigers will take on the Pioneers March 8 at 7 pm and will host their final regular season game Saturday March 9 at 7 p.m. at the Broadmoor World Arena. With the Battle for the Gold Pan standing 1-0 in favor of DU, the Tigers will have to sweep the weekend series to take the Pan.