Feb 5, 2021 | SPORTS | By Quinn Guevara | Photo by Patil Khakhamian
The Colorado College Men’s Hockey team has had a season unlike any other in their historic program. This year, as is customary, the team is competing in the toughest conference in NCAA Men’s Hockey, but now they have to do it with the added challenge of COVID-19. Many of their games were postponed and rescheduled. Arguably the most important of these matches is finishing the series with historic rivals Denver University, competing for the Gold Pan Trophy.
“We hope to and plan on finishing the series before playoffs,” co-captain Grant Cruikshank ’22 said. “The dates haven’t been finalized yet but should be finished soon.”
Cruikshank, who was just recently nominated for the prestigious Hobey Baker Award for displaying high character on and off the ice, did not let the pandemic set him back when he got back in the rink. In nine games, he has eight points— with a season high two-goal night, in a win against University of Minnesota Duluth back on Dec. 13.
The team shows no signs of crumbling under pressure. “I think our team is very confident going into the end of that series,” forward Patrick Cozzi ’23 said. “We beat them before, and we are very excited to play them because it is such a historic rivalry. We plan on bringing the Gold Pan back to the Springs this year.”
The Tigers have already played the Pioneers twice this season, trading a win and a loss. In the first game, the Tigers won in a tight 4-3 game, which included an early first period goal from another Hobey Baker nominee forward Josiah Slavin ’23. Phenom Dominic Basse ’24 saved 21 shots that night as well.
The following night, in early January, the result was much different. Going into the third period, CC was down just 3-1, with two of Denver’s goals coming from the power play.
“We did not stick to our game plan in the last period,” Cozzi said, and it resulted in a 6-1 loss. With every game there is a lesson to be learned. “In a series like this, you have to have a short memory,” the co-captain said. “We have moved on from the first two games. We outplayed them in the first game, and they outplayed us in the second game. We will need to play with more intensity and grit the next time we play them.”
“We have to outwork DU and play hard against their top players if we want to be successful,” Cruikshank said. “Our younger guys have more games under their belt and have had a taste of the series, so we all know what to expect going into the next few games against DU.”
This team has proven before that they can play with the best of the best. Although they do not play household names such as Boston College or University of Wisconsin, due to a conference-only schedule, that does not mean that the team has not been challenged. The Tigers play against the likes of North Dakota, St. Cloud State, and University of Minnesota at Duluth, who are ranked third, fourth, and fifth in the country respectively, among other renowned programs.
The Tigers demolished the UMD Bulldogs in early December and put up a respectable fight against a very strong St. Cloud State team. Playing against a strong Denver team is not uncommon for this team. Throughout the ups and downs of this season, each CC player maintains tunnel-vision focus on their goals for the end of the season.
Cozzi said it best: “We have many goals — the first is to bring the Gold Pan back to Colorado College and then to play solid hockey the rest of the season leading into playoffs. We believe we can beat anybody, and we need to play that way in the second half of this season and into playoffs.”
Tigers fans, watch out — this team might catch the spark they need, by winning against Denver, to make a push for the NCHC Championship.