This season’s Rocky Mountain Showdown has been more of a showcase for CSU hockey than a showdown between two fierce rivals.
The Rams captured their third win in as many games against CU-Boulder on Friday night with a three-goal third period to give CSU a 5-3 victory.
Tied 2-2 after two periods, the Buffs came out flying in the third and were rewarded with a goal less than three minutes into the period giving CU a 3-2 lead.
But the Rams never flinched.
“It’s tough to go down, but we kept positive on the bench,” said CSU forward Erik Waring. “We knew that the next one was ours, and once we got that one we kept chipping away.”
The equalizing goal came from Paul Jenkins when he hammered home a rebound to ignite the crowd of nearly 4,500.
Thunderous chants of “CSU, CSU” echoed through the Budweiser Events Center, as the Rams applied waves of pressure to the CU defense.
And when the Rams went on the power play with about six minutes remaining, there was a feeling that a winning goal was just moments away.
That goal appeared to come early in the power play when a scramble unfolded in front of the net, and the puck appeared to sneak in. The referee immediately waved the goal off, despite protests from the Rams.
A decisive goal would come seconds later as Waring scored his second goal of the game with a slap shot from the top of the face-off circle through a screen set by captain Nik Burge.
“The defense backed up a little bit, and I took advantage of that and just put the puck on net,” Waring said. “It was just a solid effort from the whole power-play unit.”
The CSU defense and goalie Ryan Perich stonewalled the Buffs to hold onto the lead, and the Rams added an empty net goal with two seconds remaining to seal the victory.
The Rams can complete the season sweep of the Buffs when the two sides meet in Boulder next Friday. Coach Kelly Newton is pleasantly surprised with the Rams success against their in-state rivals.
“That puts us 3-0 against (CU) this year, and to be honest, we have 12 freshmen, they have nine seniors,” Newton said. “I fully expected this year to be the other way around, and we were just hoping to hang with them. The guys have stepped up, and this might be the year we sweep them.”
The CSU players were happy to get such an important victory in front of a packed Budweiser Events Center.
“I love CSU from the bottom of my heart,” Waring said. “It’s a great pride to put on that jersey every single day.”
Sports reporter Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.