The Denver and Colorado College hockey programs debuted the Gold Pan trophy in 1994. It’s awarded every season to the team that wins the most head-to-head regular season games between these two teams. The creation of the formal trophy certainly wasn’t the beginning of this in-state rivalry. In actuality, it began four decades earlier when the two teams met on the ice for the first time January 6, 1950. It was just the fifth game in program history for Denver while the Tigers were playing in the program’s 12th year of existence.
The featured photo was taken at some point between 1953 and 1959 at the old University of Denver Arena. The home team is wearing the dark crimson sweaters while the visitors are sporting the white sweaters with Tigers written diagonally down the front. In the head-to-head games played between the two teams throughout this time frame, the Pioneers won 20 games compared to the Tigers’ 13.
The battle for the Gold Pan trophy resumes this weekend where Denver will look to retain the trophy for the fourth-straight year. The home-and-home series this weekend will be a little special this time around in that Friday’s home game for Denver will be played at Ball Arena – home of the Colorado Avalanche. Saturday’s game will take place at Ed Robson Arena on the Colorado College campus. This is the second season the Tigers have played in the new arena.
The first hockey game between the University of Denver and Colorado College was played January 6, 1950. It was just the fifth game in program history for Denver. The twelve-year head start in hockey for Colorado College was evident in a 16-0 shellacking that the Tigers provided to the new kids on the block. The next night was a closer contest when the Tigers only won by ten goals in another shutout. It didn’t get any easier for the Pioneers that season – or the next – as Denver went winless against Colorado College in the first two seasons of the program. Denver finally struck gold in the tenth game between these intrastate rivals and won 4-3 in Colorado Springs.
By the time the 1953-54 season arrived, Denver was ready to build upon a 17-6-1 season. Colorado College had dipped to a 9-11-0 record the year before. The two teams played four times during the season with three of the four games taking place in 1954. Colorado College hosted the first meeting December 19, 1953. The visitors won the game 7-5. It was the first conference game of the season for both teams with each program having played school alumni and the Edmonton Oil Kings to open the season. A home-and-home series was on tap the following month. On January 15, 1954, Denver welcomed the Tigers to the University of Denver Arena and won 5-4. The next night the teams traveled to Colorado Springs and the Tigers earned a split in the series with a 6-5 victory. The final game of the season between these two teams took place February 27. Denver’s archives state that the game was played at home while Colorado College’s archives state that the game was played at that school’s home rink. We here at College Hockey History are led to believe that it was played in Denver in order to complete the even schedule of two home games per team. The Pioneers won the final game against their rival 6-2 and won the season series 3-1. Denver ended the season with a 16-9-0 record. Colorado College bounced back with a winning season at 14-9-1.
Did Denver’s early losses to Colorado College in the opening stages of the program jump-start this rivalry for Denver? Did it provide an extra kick to this program and ultimately fuel a dynasty that emerged the following decade? This could very well be the case. Either way, the rivalry took off and Denver quickly fielded a competitive team.
The Pioneers would have won the Gold Pan trophy in 1954 if it had been around at the time. However, it was first introduced in 1993 to be awarded every season to the team that wins the most head-to-head regular season games between these two teams. Denver won the Gold Pan last season with a 3-1 season record over Colorado College. The two teams have yet to play this season. That changes this weekend as the teams play a home-and-home series starting in Denver at Magness Arena on Friday. The Saturday game will be the first game between these two teams at the new Ed Robson Arena for Colorado College. This also marks the first time the two teams will play against one another on the Colorado College campus. Fans attending the games this weekend or watching at home will see games 329 and 330 in the all-time series.
In the featured photo, two players wearing number 9 for Denver and Colorado College vie for the puck in the corner. Colorado College is in white while Denver is wearing Crimson sweaters. The referee looks on as well as a ring of fans in the standing-room section at ice level. The University of Denver Arena was almost-assuredly a full house for the rivalry. The photo was taken either January 15 or February 27, 1954. The Denver player is Barrie Middleton.
On February 17, 2020, Air Force and Colorado College took the Battle for Pikes Peak outside for the first time. Air Force hosted Colorado College in the second game of a home-and-home series. It was played outdoors at the football stadium in game that was touted as the Faceoff at Falcon Stadium. It was the first outdoor hockey game in program history for Air Force and the second for Colorado College – the first was against Denver at Coors Field in 2016. This was also the second outdoor hockey game played on the field at Falcon Stadium in three days. The NHL hosted a Stadium Series game two days earlier on Saturday that saw the Los Angeles Kings defeat the Colorado Avalanche 3-1.
The Tigers won the first game of the weekend at home on Friday night 6-2 and were looking for the first back-to-back wins since sweeping Princeton in December. The Falcons were hoping to get back in the win column for the first time since a sweep against Niagara in January. And above all, the Pikes Peak Trophy hung in the balance. The two teams first met in 1969 and created the Pikes Peak Trophy in 2013 to be awarded each year.
Grant Cruikshank broke the proverbial ice when he scored a power-play goal in the first period. He scored the second goal of the game halfway through the second period to make it 2-0 Tigers. The Falcons got on the board with a power-play goal of their own with only 34 seconds left in the second frame. The teams traded goals early in the third period. With Air Force down one goal, Grant Cruikshank netted the hat trick and put the game away with 37 seconds left in regulation. Colorado College defeated Air Force 4-2 and retained the Pikes Peak Trophy.
The same two teams will reignite the Battle for Pikes Peak this weekend. The rivalry was put on hold last season due to COVID scheduling. The home-and-home series starts off (indoors) at Air Force on Friday with Colorado College hosting the second game at the brand new Ed Robson Arena on Saturday. Air Force will be looking to bring home the Pikes Peak Trophy for the first time since 2017.
In the above photo, Luke Manning drives to the net as Colorado College goalie Matt Vernon prepares for a shot.
Intrastate rivals Denver and Colorado College are shown here at the old University of Denver Arena in the 1950s. The two teams first met on the ice in 1950 during Denver’s inaugural year of fielding a team. In the game featured in this photo, Denver wore white sweaters while Colorado College wore gold. In 1993, the Pioneers and Tigers established a Gold Pan trophy to be awarded every season to the team that wins the most head-to-head regular season games between the two teams. The season series this year is currently split 1-1. However, the chase for the Gold Pan will need to wait a little longer because the series that was supposed to happen over the weekend has been postponed due to COVID. The two teams are slated to play six regular season games this year instead of the typical four due to an all-conference schedule.