The No. 8-ranked University of Colorado women’s hockey team (18-7) celebrated senior night and their final game of the regular season on Saturday night by defeating the University of Denver (3-18) handedly, 14-0.
After being shut out in each of their last three games, the Buffs opened the floodgates in a goal-filled galore of a game at the CU Rec Center.
“We just worked together as a team,” said forward Julia Dessart. “The last couple of games, we’ve kind of been working as individuals … tonight we kind of clicked again.”
On a night meant for celebrating the Buffs’ seniors, there was certainly plenty to cheer for as Colorado concluded their season on a high note.
On senior night, of course, it was only fitting for a senior to open the scoring.
Senior forward Kathleen Ash tallied her team-leading 29th goal of the season just under three minutes into the game. Ash, who is set to represent Team USA at the World University Games in Russia in early March, also leads the entire American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) women’s DI league in goals.
After the opening goal by Ash, Colorado never looked back.
“It means a lot to the seniors,” added Dessart of the win. “Obviously it’s an emotional night and it’s great to end the season on a high note.”
CU found the back of a net once more on a goal by senior forward Leah MacArthur off a nice feed from fellow senior Mariah Dally. In the span of less than two minutes, the Buffs tallied two more quick goals to make it a 4-0 game, thanks to forwards Maura Kieft and Morgan Mciver, respectively. The two would team up for two more goals in the ensuing minutes.
Three minutes later, Mciver intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and scored her second of the game on the breakaway. It was then Kieft who finished the first period by putting the Buffs up 6-0 on her second of the game.
To start the game on such an offensive high note was big for a team that had been shutout in each of its last three games.
“We haven’t been shutout — I can’t even tell you — like maybe over a year,” said senior goaltender Natalie Warnes. “I think that kind of hit us and we kind of reflected on those last couple games and we all thought about what we could personally do to help the team, and it all came together for us this game.”
The second period began much like the first had ended for CU. Just 17 seconds into the second period, Dally found the back of the net to make it a 7-0 game. A few minutes later, Dally would set up forward Kenzie Zaumseil to make it 8-0. Dally finished the game with a total of five assists and six points.
Mciver completed the hat trick before the game was even halfway over when she tallied her third of the contest off a pass from Ash at the 13-minute mark of the second period. Mciver would add one more before the second frame was over, scoring the seventh goal of the period for the Buffs.
The seven-goal offensive outburst is the most goals scored by the team in one period all season long.
Before the game was even halfway over, the Buffaloes had already tied their season-high of goals scored in a game. And with less than eight minutes left in that second period, Colorado set a new season-high, after MacArthur made it a 12-0 contest on her second goal of the game.
The third period was far less dramatic and exciting than the previous two periods had been. It was also the quickest frame.
The Buffs were beating the Pioneers badly enough that the “Mercy Rule” was put in effect, meaning the game clock didn’t stop for the entire period even if a whistle was blown or a goal was scored.
The most exciting moment of an otherwise docile finish happened with about four minutes left in the game. MacArthur finished her senior season strong — notching a hat trick on her third goal of the game — and what was the final goal of the regular season for the Buffaloes. MacArthur finished the game with a team-high seven points, upping her total to 54 on the season, which leads the entire ACHA.
While the Pioneers could only muster a lowly eight shots on CU’s net all game long, it still counts as a shutout for senior goaltender Natalie Warnes. It was her fifth shutout of the season.
“It was pretty amazing … it was just amazing to have our last home game be like this,” Warnes said. “We were just so hyped in the locker room and on the ice and we just had such a positive attitude. We really needed that after the weekends we’ve had [recently]. To have that for my senior night, I’ll forever remember how genuinely happy everyone was tonight.”
The win completes the sweep of the Pioneers this season, as CU beat Denver all five times they played each other this year. The Buffs outscored DU 47-3 this season.
With the regular season now finished for Colorado, the Buffs now head to Las Vegas for the Western Collegiate Hockey League (WCHL) playoffs. The tournament will be held from Feb. 22-24 and the winner receives an automatic bid to the ACHA DI National Championship held in Frisco, Texas during the last week of March.
“[The win] tonight will definitely help us in the standings,” Warnes said. “We definitely all believe in ourselves to get to Nationals and that’s our goal; and we really believe we’re actually going to achieve that. We’re looking forward to Vegas for [the WCHL playoffs] and really just focusing on that. That’s our first obstacle. But we definitely have in our minds that we’re going to get [to Nationals], there’s no question about it.”
The Buffs won the WCHL playoffs last season, but if they’re unable to repeat this year, there’s still a chance CU could compete in the ACHA Nationals. The top eight-ranked teams get to compete.
As it stands now, before the win against DU, the Buffaloes are currently the No. 8 team. The final ACHA rankings will be released on Feb. 18.
Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Scott MacDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ScottTopics.