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Rams pick up 5th straight win, top CU 2-1 in shootout

Winning the rivalry game comes with an extra feeling of pride and accomplishment, and that was the case going into Friday night’s game between the Colorado State men’s hockey team and the University of Colorado Buffaloes.

The emotions of senior night, with families present, combined with the deep-rooted rivalry between the Rams and Buffaloes created an electric atmosphere. 

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Colorado State forward Kyle Nelson advances the puck up the ice in the Rams’ 3-2 shootout win over the visiting Colorado Buffaloes.  (Gregory James | The Collegian)

“It’s more than a game,” forward Kyle Nelson said. “Our two games went into overtime last semester. It means a little more to (the Buffs) too.”

Riding a four-game winning streak coming into the night, CSU prevailed 2-1 in a shootout to take down the rival Buffs and extend their hot streak. Both goalies played phenomenal games: Grant Payne for Colorado and Joseph Morgan for Colorado State.

Many scoring opportunities for the Rams were negated by the quick glove of Payne. At the other end, Morgan was essentially a wall, fending off almost every offensive attack from the Buffs.

A packed, raucous crowd at Edora Pool Ice Center got everything they could’ve hoped for between these two teams. The game was physical from the moment the puck was dropped, and the teams ramped up the intensity each period, feeding off the energy from the crowd.

“Every year, it seems to be a battle every time we play these guys,” senior Liam Millar said after the game. “We definitely feed off the cheering. It’s great for us.”

Senior Noah Miller opened the scoring for the Rams at 7:56 in the first period off an offensive zone faceoff for CSU. The puck slipped out to Miller, who fired a quick shot through traffic that beat Payne on his glove side and rattled off the post and in, giving the Rams a 1-0 lead. 

The Rams took the lead into the first intermission, but early into the second period, just under four minutes into play, Adam Trunko for the Buffs scored off a rebound to even the score at 1-1. 

Emotions had been running high all night, and they boiled over in the latter half of the second. CU’s Conor Sullivan was called for hitting from behind, and a brawl broke out when CSU’s Christopher Nitchen came to his teammate’s aid. Sullivan was ejected from the game, and Nitchen was given a five minute roughing penalty.

The scuffles that broke out near the end of regulation were foreshadowed throughout the first two periods with aggressive play from both sides, and a few of those were limited to mostly verbal exchanges.

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Junior forward Nikolas Marconcini shoots the game-winning goal in the shootout in the Rams’ home win against the Colorado Buffaloes on Feb. 21. The game was tied 1-1 after three periods and overtime. (Gregory James | The Collegian)

Rivalry games always come with heightened intensity and a sense of urgency. Combine that with the existing animosity between the two teams, and something was bound to happen.

The crowd was rowdy and raucous for the first two periods, and the atmosphere going into the third was no different. A back-and-forth period ended with no goals scored, sending the game into overtime. Each team had their opportunities in the extra five minutes, but neither could capitalize, bringing the two teams to a shootout.

Senior Ben Joseph scored on the Rams’ first attempt, giving them the advantage. Colorado netted their third attempt to tie the shootout as CSU’s leading scorer, Nikolas Marconcini, skated up and found the five hole of Payne on the final shot to catapult the Rams to a 2-1 shootout victory. 

The Rams and Buffaloes will play their final game of the home and home series in Boulder on Saturday night. Hopefully Colorado State will sweep the season series against the Buffs with a win. 

Owen Stephens can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @OwenStephens16.

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