As we ring in the New Year of 2022, it is time to reflect on simpler times after two hard years. Let’s look back when times were “normal”. But on March 11th, 2020, the world as we knew it would change forever.
The coronavirus, while very unknown at the time, had been gaining traction across the globe. It was this infamous day where things really came to a sudden halt and became a harsh reality for all.
The very shorthanded and injury stricken Colorado Avalanche were hosting the New York Rangers at the then-Pepsi Center. While there were some worries before the game started, those worries became a terrible realization.
Just a few hundred miles away in the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder were hosting the Utah Jazz in their own regular season game. But it would not go on, as Utah player Rudy Gobert had tested positive for the virus. It was the first case the reach the sports world and subsequently cancelled the rest of the NBA season.
This occurred while the Avs and Rangers were already in progress in the first intermission. The players weren’t aware at the time while being focused on the game of their own. News quickly found its way into the stands and into the press and everything came to a crashing halt.
On this Wednesday night, there were not many sporting events going on out West. Between the NBA, NHL and MLB Spring Training, the Rangers-Avs game was the last game of the night. With the news of the NBA cancellation, it seemed as if the NHL wouldn’t be far behind considering the two leagues shared multiple buildings.
This left one final game for the sports world to watch before the imminent shutdown: the Rangers and Avalanche. It was a treat to watch.
When the news of the NBA’s cancelled season hit, the Avs and Rangers had played one period of hockey with goals from Mika Zibenijad to give the Rangers the lead at 6:28, before Tyson Jost equalized five minutes later on the power play to tie it at one.
The second period rolled along with Vladislav Namestnikov getting yet another power play goal, and giving the Avs an early 2-1 lead in the frame.
This scoreline would hold for an extensive period of time, mostly due to the spectacular goalkeeping of Pavel Francouz. He would be marvelous, especially in the third period on a handful of breakaways from the Rangers.
With the amount of drama that had occurred, it wouldn’t be 2020 without some more. With just 13 seconds left and the goalie pulled, the Rangers stormed up the ice and finally forced one past Francouz from Pavel Buchnevich to force overtime, extending the sports world as we knew it just a few minutes longer.
In the extra frame the teams went back and forth, not giving an inch. They both wanted to win what would eventually be the last sporting event for a long time. Cale Makar returned to this game for his first from injury, and was able to get a shot up high and his shot was deflected by J.T. Compher to earn the 3-2 win.
They ended the shortened regular season on 92 points, second in the Central Division only two points behind the St. Louis Blues. Almost two years later, the Avs and Rangers are in contention for the Stanley Cup back in their respective divisions. Times have changed drastically.
The Winter Classic kicks off the New Year this year with the Minnesota Wild hosting the Blues at the Minnesota Twins stadium in below zero weather. COVID continues to wreak havoc across the world. It’s kept the Avs in the midst of a three week long break, hopeful to finally play tomorrow against the Anaheim Ducks.
As the puck drops on 2022, let’s put this all behind us. Let’s be there for one another no matter what. Colorado especially has gone through a lot in the past week in Lakewood and Boulder County alone.
At the heart of it all, we have a great hockey team to rally around. The Avalanche are a great escape, let’s keep them around and support them to the best of our ability in 2022 and beyond. Let’s go Avs.