When two top-ranked teams square off, people expect to see a competitive, hard-fought game. However, no one expected the fireworks produced over the weekend from the CSU and University of Colorado club hockey teams.
Friday night’s game in Boulder resulted in a slew of fisticuffs and disqualifications, forcing the referees to stop the game 15 minutes into the second period. Despite the fact that the Rams were losing 6-1, the game will not count toward either team’s record because two full periods of play weren’t completed. The only things that came out of the game were hard feelings and several one-game suspensions, including both teams’ starting goalies.
On Saturday, the Rams and the Buffs hit the ice at the Providence Ice Arena in Windsor in front of a packed house of boisterous CSU fans. For the Rams, it was more than just their final home game of the season; it would also be the seven seniors’ last chance to perform in front of a home crowd.
“I asked the guys to come in two hours before the game started,” head coach Brian Sutton said. “I talked to them and asked the guys how they wanted to end their last home game.”
With senior goalie Aaron Gaddis on the bench, junior Zach Young stepped in between the pipes for the Rams. Both teams and the fans were poised for a game that would go down to the wire with physical play and lots of goals.
They both got what they expected, though the Buffs couldn’t manage to muster any offensive production.
The Rams came out of the gate fast and furious. Utilizing their speed and puck handling, No. 3 CSU dominated all aspects of the game and defeated the No. 1 Buffaloes, 5-0. The secret weapon for the Rams was the superb play of Young, who became the only goalie to shutout the Buffs this season.
“This game meant a lot to me,” Young said after his 32-save performance. “I haven’t played a lot this season, so it was good just to get out here. It feels pretty good.”
The Rams started the scoring in the first period when senior forward Matt Merritt capitalized off an assist from junior defenseman Sam Kincaid, one of his three assists on the night. Only a minute later, sophomore forward Braden Grieser added another goal for the Rams off junior forward Josh Bower’s assist. Young made several improbable stops in goal as the Buffs threatened, but could not get the puck past him. The Rams went into the second period up 2-0.
“Zach got his opportunity and he cashed in,” Sutton said. “You can’t beat that.”
There was no letdown in the second period as senior forward Travis Burge and defensemen Travis Ellison and Ian Vincent all added goals within three minutes of each other to push the lead to 5-0. The Rams never looked back.
“Last night (Friday) we weren’t as focused, and let in some weak goals,” Ellison said. “Tonight we played how we’ve been playing all semester.”
The win pushes the Rams’ record to 20-10-1, and continues their unbelievable spring semester, in which they still have yet to lose. Sutton tried to explain his team’s second-half success after the game.
“Dedication and confidence, with that you can’t ask for much more,” Sutton said.
The Rams will play their last regular season game this Saturday against the University of Wyoming in Laramie. n