What started out as a blowout by the CSU Rams in the first period turned into a close game in the second and a long drive back home to Fort Collins after the third.
The Rams lost to the rival CU-Boulder Buffaloes, falling 5-3 Thursday night at the Pepsi Center in front of a divided crowd of nearly 3,000 college hockey fans.
The Rams started out strong, but were shut down after the first period while giving up five goals to the Buffs in the game’s final 40 minutes.
Down 3-2 to start the third period, the Buffs wasted little time tying the game as CU forward Max Meyers guided the puck past Rams goalie Mike Dlugos, evening the score.
The Buffs took the lead for good just more than a minute later on a power play goal from forward Matt Ulrich right in front of the Rams’ net.
They added an empty net goal with seconds left in the game finalizing the 5-3 victory, the first over the Rams since February 2008.
CSU head coach Kelly Newton was critical of his team’s performance and said they didn’t play a whole game tonight.
“It all starts when you think you can score three goals, and the game is over in 15 minutes,” he said. “Last time I checked it’s a 60-minute game, and we came out flat in the second. Then we took some stupid penalties. Then you’re playing in reverse the rest of the night.”
CSU got off to a quick start, taking a 1-0 lead just five minutes into the game. Rams forward Kollin Vandersluis put the green and gold up by scoring from just feet away from the CU-Boulder net.
The Rams weren’t done in the period, adding goals from forwards Derek O’Donnell off a power play late in the frame and Parker Harrison just with 38 seconds left, taking a dominate 3-0 lead.
The first fight of the game came midway through the second, marking the beginning of the Rams’ decline. After grabbing a Buffs player’s facemask, O’Donnell was ejected from the game, costing the Rams a five-minute major penalty.
CU would take advantage of the opportunity as Meyers put the Buffs on the board for the first time off the power play, beginning the string of five unanswered goals.
CSU captain A.J. Hau said that the Rams got “lax” after a good beginning, causing the loss.
“We got over-confident and stopped working hard,” the forward said. “We stopped doing simple things. We didn’t do the little things when it mattered, and it killed us.”
CSU struggled on with penalties throughout the game, racking up seven penalties totaling 17 minutes.
Newton gave credit to the Ram penalty kill, but said the team just can’t win with that many mistakes.
“The penalty kill did its job, but you can’t keep a team like that off the board all night if you’re buried in the box,” Newton said. “They buried a couple of power play goals and got a little momentum, and we were playing catch up the rest of the night.”
The Rams have a quick opportunity for redemption as they take on the Buffs for the second in a four game series tonight in Boulder.
Vandersluis was disappointed with the loss, but explained a win tonight will help the healing process. The forward said he knew exactly how to recover.
“We just have to go out tonight and rock them,” Vandersluis said.
Assistant Sports Editor Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at email@example.com.