CSU men’s hockey drops both games in weekend series vs rival CU

Ryan Loberger

Colorado State men’s hockey played rival Colorado in a two-game series starting on Friday at the Edora Pool Ice Center in Fort Collins. The Rams were able to mount a comeback from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime in a tight-knit opening contest.

“Obviously against CU it’s a rivalry game, people are gonna come out and support and I was really pleased with the energy that they brought,” CSU Assistant Coach Jameson Wicks said. “They brought a lot of energy and the guys really fed off that, especially after the first goal.”

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CSU forward Torin Foundos capitalized off a CU turnover and fired home a slapshot in the top right corner to get CSU on the board with 4:24 remaining in the second.

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Tito Moreno (11) drives down the ice rink during the CSU vs. CU hockey game. The Rams lost to the Buffaloes 3-2 in the last 30 seconds of overtime. (Matt Begeman | Collegian)

Heading into the third period, the Rams were outshot 35-21 and were able to get the equalizer off a backhand shot from forward Tanner Gillies with 11:20 left in the third period. But, the Buffaloes were able to salvage the victory and spoil the Rams’ comeback attempt by scoring with 24 seconds remaining in overtime.

The Rams were kept the game close with the strong play of CSU goaltender Avery McDonnell, who finished the game stopping 44-47 CU shots.

As is common in rivalry games on the ice, fights and suspensions were handed out to both teams. CSU forward Kyle Riley was suspended Friday for grabbing an opposing player’s face mask and was forced to sit out the Sunday Pepsi Center Game as a result.

The rough play and emotion set the tempo for the second leg of the Rocky Mountain Showdown at the Pepsi Center. 

The Rams have struggled at the Pepsi Center against the Buffs the past five seasons, going 0-5 and being outscored 37-9 over that stretch. For the Rams, their second game would fare no different as they were beat 8-3 by the Buffs to end the semester.

CU would again jump to an early 2-0 lead in the first period, scoring back-to-back goals less than two minutes apart halfway through the first.

The Rams responded 29 seconds into the second period when forward Ben Joseph slid a soft pass to senior forward Austin Ansay. The graduating forward chipped it high glove to get Colorado State on the board and within one.

CU responded at 16:07 of the second and regained their two-goal lead, then added two goals on the power play and a shorthanded goal to stretch the lead to 6-1 at the end of the second.    

The third period saw both teams swapping goals as Ansay was able to capitalize, shorthanded on a breakaway, snapping a wrist shot over the goalie’s glove for his second goal of the game. Forward Ben Joseph also scored in the third, off a CU turnover, as he one-timed an errant pass top right corner.

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The two goals were not enough to bring the game back for the Rams, and CU was able to continue their dominance in Denver. 

Adding to the loss, the Pepsi Center matchup serves as the last for Ansay, who used his last semester of ACHA eligibility this fall.

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Ben Joseph (21) passes the puck down the ice after a pass from Christopher Nitchen (17) as the Rams battle the Buffs. The Rams fall to the Buffs 8-3. (Devin Cornelius | Collegian)

“It has gone by quick, luckily I was able to get an extra year with the boys,” Ansay said. “It’s a lot of emotions right now to take in, and we didn’t get what we wanted at the Pepsi Center.”

Ansay posed as last years’ leading scorer and is currently tied for second on the team in points with nine. His absence will leave a hole in the Rams’ leadership and offense.

“It’s a huge hit losing him, he’s been a big part of this team,” forward Liam Millar said. “Now it’s time for other guys to step up now, this is the perfect chance for everyone to show what they’re made (of).”

The Rams head into a long-awaited break, having dropped their last five games, with three of the five coming in overtime.

”We have a strict (workout) regimen that we’re gonna follow, we’re holding each other accountable and we’re gonna come back stronger than before,” CSU captain Corey Taylor said.

Giving up early leads has also been a trend that the Rams are looking to break when they return. The Rams have given up the first goal in 14 of their 18 games. The attack is also sporting a conversion rate of 11.8 percent on the power play, scoring just 12 goals on 101 attempts.

The Rams will be back in action at EPIC Jan. 17 against Missouri State. They will then face the University of Arkansas Jan. 18 and 19. The team will be on the road for the last two weeks of January as they travel to Nevada for a matchup with University of Nevada, Las Vegas, then to Arizona the following weekend for matchups against Arizona and Arizona State. 

Ryan Loberger can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ryanloberger.