LOVELAND â€“ It took just five minutes for the CSU Rams hockey club to light the lamp Friday evening at the Budweiser Events Center, en route to a 10-4 demolition of the rival UNC Bears in the 2010 Rocky Mountain Faceoff.
The Rams (20-8-1) dominated play from the opening face off, with sharp skating, crisp passing and hard hits from end to end. The Rams out-shot the Bears 17-3 in the first period, and took complete control of the game in the first ten minutes with goals from Kollin Vandersluis, Dan Malone and Dale Dinnebeck.
â€œWe knew our speed would really dominate (UNC),â€ said Malone, who netted a hat trick in the win. â€œIt worked in the previous three games, so we stuck to our routine and it definitely worked out tonight.â€
If there were any doubts about which of the two sides were supreme, the Rams answered them in the second frame, extending their margin to 7-1. In fact, the game got so out of hand that Rams head coach Kelly Newton opted to pull starting goaltender Mike Dlugos after the Rams pulled out in front, 6-0.
The win marked the Ramsâ€™ third in as many games over the Bears this season, with a chance for a season sweep coming Feb. 19 in the regular season finale.
With just three weeks remaining until post-season play begins, Newton believes this team has what it takes to make a run at a national title.
â€œWeâ€™ve had a few hiccups along the way, but you can expect that with young guys,â€ Newton said. â€œNow itâ€™s time to get ramped up and headed in the right direction for nationals.â€
If the Rams hope to capture an ACHA National Championship, continued production from the teamâ€™s top-line of Vandersluis, Parker Harrison and Paul Jenkins will be paramount. The top-line accounts for all three of the teams leading scorers and combined for five goals and eight assists in the winning effort Friday evening.
â€œWe all think the same way, but we all bring something different,â€ said Jenkins, who leads the team in points. â€œItâ€™s the first time Iâ€™ve ever been on a line like this.â€
The Rams traveled to Boulder on Saturday evening to play archrival CU-Boulder, but were downed 7-5, giving the Buffs the final edge in the season series.
The Rams must now turn their focus towards the final four games of the season, including big match ups against Denver (Saturday) and Division I opponent Arizona (Friday). Both games are home contest for the Rams at EPIC.
Sports writer Joel Hafnor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.