DENVER (KXRM) — When it comes to the Battle for the Gold Pan, the Denver Pioneers have recently performed like a cast-iron skillet.
Durable and showing no signs of rust, the defending national champions evenly distributed the heat last season against Colorado College, using 11 different goal-scorers and outscoring their rivals from the south 19-2 in a four-game sweep to give DU its third-straight Gold Pan and 16th overall.
“We didn’t touch the puck much for 11 out of the 12 periods against them,” CC head coach Kris Mayotte said. “It’s very simplified in saying it’s a possession game, but they are really good at it. We have to make sure we put pucks in good spots, we’re connecting on our passes, (and) we have poise with the puck so we can get clean exits and good entries.”
The Pioneers are 11-1-1 in the last 13 matchups with the Tigers, including four shutouts in the last five meetings and giving up just nine goals combined in the 12 contests that didn’t result in a DU loss.
Parker, Colo. native and graduate defenseman Bryan Yoon — a freshman during the 2018-19 season when CC last earned the Gold Pan with two victories and a tie against Denver — is avoiding putting too much pressure on his teammates to end the streak.
“Just playing every day as it is and live in the moment,” Yoon said. “(We’re) making sure everyone keeps their head, keeps even-keeled and everyone plays relaxed but still be pretty dialed in on our details and doing the little things right.”
No. 3 Denver (19-7-0, 10-4-0 NCHC) will be irked heading into Friday night after taking back-to-back losses for just the second time this season, 7-3 and 2-0, at the now No.1-ranked St. Cloud State. The already-struggling Pioneers penalty kill, ranked 55th out of 60 D1 programs in PK percentage (75.9%), surrendered four power-play goals on six chances to the Huskies.
So, if there is an opportunity for Colorado College (10-13-1, 6-7-1 NCHC) to cool off DU in the rivalry, it might be to take advantage on special teams.
“Obviously it hasn’t been a strong point of ours this season. It really wasn’t last year until the end,” Denver head coach David Carle said. “The other thing, too, with special teams is that Saturday night is an indication of playoff hockey. We get one power play, they get two. That’s what it’s going to look like. If you can get one or get a clean sheet on it, it can be a difference in a hockey game in going home or continuing to move on.”
At least 13,000 fans are expected to attend the 333rd meeting between Colorado College and Denver at Ball Arena — the first time in series history that the two teams will play a game at the home of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche.
“Usually you don’t get those types of events unless you’re in the NCAA Tournament and competing for championships, so to get that type of venue and atmosphere in the middle of the year, it’s great for growth,” Mayotte said. “But once the puck drops, we couldn’t care less. Don’t care where we are, we have a job to do.”
Colorado College starting goaltender Kaidan Mbereko, who has given up at least three goals in three-straight games for the first time all season, will look to avoid another similar outing against a Pioneers offense that is ranked sixth in the country (3.69 goals per game), led by Carter Mazur (17 goals) and Massimo Rizzo (32 points).
“Playing DU, obviously they’re a fast team, they’re experience and have won a lot,” Mbereko said. “We’re kind of younger, and we’re kind of catching our stride, but like everyone else we’re going to give them our best shot.”
Following a three-game win streak to move them to the top-half of the NCHC standings, Colorado College has dropped four of the last five games, scoring just three goals in the four losses.
Puck drop Friday night is set for 7 p.m.