CU-CSU hockey hits the Budweiser Event Center ice with an even series

Charles Darwin’s theory about survival of the fittest is often related to the animal kingdom, a make-it-or-Hockey_2break-it relationship or the struggle to finish a college career. For Darwin’s theory, the closest resemblance by far is the elevated warfare between rival sports teams.

The Rocky Mountain Showdown is not only settled on the football field and the basketball court, but it reaches an all-time level of hardship when skates thrash the ice and fists are thrown. This survival of the fittest will be seen Friday night in the Rocky Mountain Face Off at the Budweiser Event Center.

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“It is the battle of the Rocky Mountains of who has the better hockey team,” CSU assistant captain Collin Abitz said. “It means to us ‘play like the opportunity day.’ To play a special game for the orange-out, it is a once a year experience. You’ve just got to dig in and live it up.”

With bragging rights to be Colorado’s best hockey team on the line, this match up between CU-Boulder and CSU is expected to bring out the best play between each team this season. Expect fights to break out, players to dive across the ice and hits into the board to put opponents on the floor.

“It is a big game for the kids, and I think it is the game that means more to them than any other game because it is CU,” head coach Ken Fikins said.

While emotions run high to finish the season in a qualifying position for nationals, the main focus stands at regaining control of a winning games and the upper hand in the Colorado series.

In the last appearance between the Rams and Buffaloes, CU took down the Rams for the first time in four years. A 2-1 deficit tied the series at one back then, but when the puck drops Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the BEC, it will serve as the series tiebreaker.

“The way the team was talking on Tuesday was they felt we out-played them in the last game and out shot them and did everything right, but just could not score. But then again, that has been our problem for the last month,” Fikins said. “I think they know that they need to put the puck in the net if they are going to win this game.”

A win over the Rams did boost the Buffaloes’ confidence when competing against the in-state rival, but not any other team in the Western Collegiate Hockey League. Colorado stands 8-16-1 on the season and 1-9-1 in the conference, only adding the win against CSU to its record. CU is on a five-game losing streak heading into the showdown, CSU riding on six consecutive losses. The Rams stand at 13-22 and 4-18 in the conference.

“With games against CU, it is going to come down to which team wants it more,” CSU forward Chris Guidotti said. “A win against CU at Budweiser would be a huge turning point for sure.”

To earn a victory over the Buffaloes, CSU will need to take advantage of power plays, attacks in the offensive zone and defend its own net on a quick transition. The Rams have been solidifying fundamentals on the shot as well as playing physically for the entire 60 minutes. The Rams will need to surpass the Buffaloes’ goalie and defense to win the game.

CSU will look to earn its first win since January 16. The Buffaloes are craving another upset against the Rams with a recent addition to the defense. The CU zone will be a tougher obstacle to beat than ever before.

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“When these two teams play, all bets are off,” CU head coach Eric Ballard said. “There is an emotion, a feeling and a sense of pride for the state of Colorado. It is who ever shows up that night. We’re looking forward to a really good series of tough competitive play.”

Friday’s game at the BEC is an orange out to support its Aggie heritage. Tickets are still available at http://ev12.evenue.net CSU will play CU in Boulder on Saturday February second at 8p.m. for its final match up of the 2013-14 season.

 Collegian Assistant Sports Editor Haleigh Hamblin can be reached at sports@collegian.com