CC shuts out DU, earns a share of WCHA title
By Rick Sadowski, Rocky Mountain News
March 4, 2005
COLORADO SPRINGS - Passes misfired or bounced off sticks. Shots that normally found the back of the net were fired wide of the mark or, on too many occasions for the University of Denver, were gloved or knocked aside by Curtis McElhinney.
It was that kind of performance for the Pioneers, who began Thursday night as the highest-scoring team in the country but could not put a puck behind McElhinney, a Colorado College senior goalie who turned aside 31 shots in the Tigers' 3-0 victory before 7,881 fans - the largest home crowd in CC history.
The Pioneers get another crack at their rivals tonight at Magness Arena, where a victory would give them a share of the MacNaughton Cup with CC as Western Collegiate Hockey Association champions.
"We're going to let them be MacNaughton champions for (now), and then we'll steal the Cup back . . . well, not steal the Cup back, but we plan on winning it back (tonight) in the friendly confines of Magness Arena," DU coach George Gwozdecky said.
DU (23-9-2, 18-7-2 WCHA) will need to win by at least three goals to nail down the top seed in the conference playoffs, no easy task considering how out of synch the Pioneers were Thursday.
"It's disappointing right now, but the good thing is we can still play for a championship," DU captain Matt Laatsch said. "We'll let them have their fun now."
The Pioneers might have known this would not be their night late in a scoreless first period when usually reliable defenseman Matt Carle, who has registered 12 goals this season, took a pass from Adrian Veideman on a short-handed two-on-one rush . . . and cranked a shot off the left post.
It was about as close as DU would come to scoring.
"You could really tell as the game went on that whoever was going to get that first goal was going to get a huge emotional lift," Gwozdecky said.
CC (26-6-3, 19-6-2) got one, then another in a span of 3 minutes, 15 seconds of the second period, getting the goals from Aaron Slattengren and Brandon Polich.
Polich's goal, which came at 11:42 and gave the Tigers its two-goal cushion, came on a short-handed breakaway.
Polich, a sophomore who had registered two goals in 53 career games, took away the puck from Matt Carle and broke in alone on goalie Glenn Fisher, then whistled the puck over his right shoulder.
"I don't know, the puck kind of popped out," Carle said. "Maybe I should have stayed back."
Slattengren opened the scoring at 8:27, a little more than a minute after the Tigers finished killing off a penalty.
Richard Petiot skated behind the net, came out the other side with a DU defender in pursuit and passed to Slattengren in the slot for a shot that eluded Fisher to the stick side.
"It was uncharacteristic of us in that we got a little rattled once they got that first one," Laatsch said. "We started making silly turnovers and not playing the way we should defensively."
CC's Marty Sertich, the nation's top scorer with 59 points, closed the scoring at 15:57 of the third period after a giveaway by Veideman.
"I thought this was probably as untypical offensively as we have been in quite a while," Gwozdecky said. "Our execution offensively was obviously not very good. There were many times where we had the puck on the right guy's stick or the puck was being sent to the right guy and it bounced off his stick.
"We squeezed the stick a little bit too hard. That's something that's a little unlike us, but it's a lesson we'll take into (tonight) and be a lot better because of it."
At the same time, McElhinney was as good as it gets. He made 10 of his saves in the third period, including a couple when DU was on a five-on-three power play for the final 65 seconds.
"That last minute of the game was typical of our offensive execution, just a little bit off," Gwozdecky said. "I think guys were a little anxious at times. I thought perhaps that might have been one of the reasons why we weren't as smooth offensively as we normally are.
"But I don't want to take any credit away from McElhinney. He was terrific. He played very, very well when we had great chances."
DU defenseman Nick Larson had a hard time getting off the ice after absorbing a big hit from CC's J.P. Brunkhorst behind the Pioneers' net at 6:17 of the first period. Larson did not play the rest of the game and his condition will be re-evaluated today.
"He got banged up pretty good," Gwozdecky said.
Denver ......0 0 0 - 0
Colorado College ......0 2 1 - 3
First period - No scoring. Penalties - Sertich, CC (tripping) 8:28; Stastny, DU (hooking) 15:02; Drummond, DU (interference) 17:36.
Second period - 1. CC, Slattengren 8 (Petiot) 8:27; 2. CC, Polich 3 (unassisted) (sh) 11:42. Penalties - Sterling, CC (holding the stick) 5:18; Brannigan (holding) 11:11; Halme, DU (holding) 13:53; Frischman (interference) 17:08.
Third period - 3. CC, Sertich 24 (unassisted) 15:57. Penalties - Carle, DU (hooking) 1:19; Foster, DU (hooking) 4:21; Polaski, CC (hooking) 10:34; Paukovich, DU (tripping) 12:11; Petiot, CC (cross-checking) 17:15; Carle, DU (boarding, misconduct) 17:15; Laatsch, DU (roughing) 17:15; Greco, CC (tripping) 17:15; Sterling, CC (slashing) 18:37; Frischmon, CC (roughing) 18:55.
Shots on goal - DU 8-13-10-31 . CC 10-6-11-27. Power-play opportunities - DU 0-7. CC 0-6. Goaltenders - DU Fisher (27 shots, 24 saves). CC McElhinney (31-31). A - 7,881.