November 9, 2023 | SPORTS | By Michael Braithwaite

A night after a tough 6-1 loss in Denver in the first conference game of the season, the Colorado College hockey program took on the No. 2 University of Denver Pioneers at Ed Robson Arena on Saturday night to complete the weekend doubleheader. And just like the previous night’s game, the Tigers held serve with their opponent in the first period only to lose steam in the final two frames.

Just as Magness Arena had been the night before, Ed Robson Arena was packed to the brim with fans for the historic rivalry matchup. The Mike Slade Student Section in particular was overflowing with an energetic student crowd that stood and jeered the Pioneers throughout the course of the matchup.

And at the start of the game, those jeers looked respectable. Although Denver scored an early goal less than two minutes into the contest, the Tigers came back with their own score almost immediately after. At the five-minute mark of the first period, forward Gleb Veremyev ’26 poked the puck away from a Pioneer attacker. After teammate Logan Will ’24 collected the puck, he returned it to Veremyev in the attacking zone where the sophomore defender was able to find the back of the net.

The crowd at Ed Robson Arena erupted in a pandemonium of celebration after the score in a scene far louder than any CC matchup had witnessed so far this season.

“It was incredible,” said Head Coach Kris Mayotte in his postgame press conference Saturday night. “I just wish we could’ve created more … we didn’t do a good enough job of giving [the crowd] the opportunity to really impact the game for us.”

The second period was where the Tigers faltered. While CC did not succumb to the multitude of penalties as they had the previous night, they gave the Pioneers life with incremental miscues. Two penalties that could have given the Tigers positive momentum were both killed by Denver despite some changes in the offensive zone.

Halfway through the period, the Pioneers made CC pay for not taking advantage of their opportunities. Denver scored a power play goal just over 10 minutes into the frame, then added another less than two minutes later to bring the score to 3-1.

“They do a great job of getting lost,” said defenseman Jack Millar ’24 postgame. “It’s just the speed that they come with and the movement that they have, it’s easy to get the cycle in and get us moving around.”

But even though the Tigers were down, they were by no means out. Amidst the usual aggressiveness and tenacity that a larger and generally more experienced opponent brought to the table, CC responded with just as much of their own, returning hits and jawing at their foe to the delight of onlookers in the crowd.

And near the beginning of the third period, it appeared the Tigers had the opportunity to get back in the matchup. A major penalty against Denver about four minutes into the frame opened the door for CC to give the crowd something to cheer for.

But none of CC’s remaining shots found the back of the net, and a tripping call against forward Zaccharya Wisdom ’27 with about one minute left on the penalty negated any momentum the Tigers were building.

And with 30 seconds to go on the ensuring power play, the Pioneers found the net again, with a shot deflecting off the skate of Carter King and past CC goalie Kaidan Mbereko ’26. The score once again gave Denver life, as they scored again just over a minute later.

“The reason [Denver’s] so dangerous is when they smell blood, they roll,” Mayotte said. “In those situations, you’ve got to manage it, and it’s unfortunate but we just didn’t.”

While, on paper, CC’s 5-1 loss looked nearly as bad as the 6-1 defeat the night before, Mayotte felt that the game was actually far closer than the final score indicated.

“I thought we played a more complete game,” Mayotte said. “They scored on the power play to make it 2-1, but our bench was good. We got right back to doing the things that we were doing; I didn’t feel like there was a letdown in terms of our ability to stick with it and have poise and execute what we were trying to do.”

And ultimately, it was the paltry nine shots on goal between the first and second periods that truly did the Tigers in. While they did record 12 such shots in the final frame, many were desperation attempts from the neutral zone.

“We’ll learn a lot from this. We’re not as far off as it looks,” Mayotte said. “The scores are going to hurt, there’s no doubt about that, but we’re not that far off. We just got to learn how to execute in those moments where the game is hanging there.”

The loss drops the Tigers to 5-3 overall on the season (0-2 within the conference). The team will next travel to Ohio to take on Miami University this weekend and will next play at home on Nov. 17 against Western Michigan University.

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