The Western Michigan Broncos earned the extra point in the NCHC standings on Saturday as they topped the Denver Pioneers 3-2 in 3-on-3 overtime. Taylor Fleming shot the puck past Jaillet on the rush just 1:13 into the 2nd overtime of the evening and immediately the Broncos players poured onto the ice to celebrate their nationally recognized tie.
The game started slowly for both teams. About five minutes into the game, the Pioneers took control of the game and dictated the pace. Despite their constant pressure, DU just couldn’t manage to beat WMU goalie Lukas Hafner.
Finally, with just 1.2 seconds left in the opening frame, Gabe Levin received a pass from Dylan Gambrell low in the slot and tapped the puck past Hafner’s outstretched pad to give DU the first lead of the game at 1-0. As the two teams went into the locker room, it felt like the game was about to explode in favor of DU. After all, DU outshot Western 18-4 in the period.
“The shot total is a little misleading, in my opinion,” DU head coach Jim Montgomery said. “We shot a lot of pucks from the outside.”
The second period progressed with a lot of up and down hockey for both teams with WMU dictating much of the play. It wasn’t until late in the period that DU started to push the play and put pressure on Hafner. DU had a few great chances in the waning minutes of the 2nd period, but Hafner didn’t let anything past him.
“The second period is where we needed to put our foot on their throats,” Montgomery said. “We didn’t do it. That killer instinct has to come from our group.”
The third period progressed much more like the first period did with DU pressing the puck and dominating much of the play. They strung together some good possessions but Hafner continued getting in the way of every shot.
It wasn’t until the 9:43 mark of the final regulation frame that DU extended their lead to 2. DU shot the puck at Hafner who made the initial save, but Matt Marcinew kicked the puck into Hafner. Hafner had the puck covered, but the puck somehow rolled over the goal line and into the net. After a lengthy review, the goal stood and play resumed.
Just 26 seconds later, the Broncos answered. Colt Conrad found himself alone in the slot in front of DU goalie Tanner Jaillet and after a good pass from Aidan Muir, Tiffels shot the puck over Jaillet’s shoulder and into the back of the net to cut DU’s lead back down to 1.
DU responded to the goal well and they continued to pressure and test Hafner, but it was to no avail as Hafner stopped everything sent his way.
With just one minute left in regulation, Hafner finally made it off the ice to give the Broncos the extra skater. After some sustained WMU offensive pressure, Frederik Tiffels flipped the puck past Jaillet to tie the game at 2 with just 20 seconds.
DU had a chance to win the game in the waning seconds, but the buzzer sounded just as Trevor Moore was pushing toward the net with the puck.
“We didn’t finish enough tonight,” Montgomery said. “We’re not hard enough inside the dots as a team. We’re a perimeter team right now.”
The 5-on-5 overtime was controlled by Western Michigan as they outshot DU 5-3. They had the better of the scoring chances, but Jaillet was equal to the task on all five shots.
Just 1:13 into the 3-on-3 overtime, Taylor Fleming handled the puck around the back of the net and, as he pushed to the front, he slipped the puck through Jaillet’s five-hole on a weak shot to end the game and give Western Michigan the extra point in the NCHC standings.
Just before the game-ending goal, referee Todd Anderson missed an interference penalty in the WMU zone against the Broncos that would have halted play and given DU an extra skater for two minutes. Instead, because Anderson missed his 14th penalty of the weekend, DU was unable to earn an important extra point for the NCHC standings and is going to bed with a sour taste in their mouths.
The new overtime rules have confused NCHC hockey fans all year. For national purposes, because the game didn’t end in the 5 on 5 overtime, the game is recorded as a tie. For NCHC standings purposes, because Western Michigan won the game after the 5 on 5 overtime, the Broncos earned 2 points while DU only earned 1. DU came into the night with 19 points for NCHC standings purposes and will go into their matchup with Minnesota-Duluth next weekend with 20.
Both of DU’s goals came on the power play and went 2 for 4 with the man advantage in the game; Colin Staub’s 3 game point streak was snapped tonight as he didn’t pick up a goal or assist; DU extended its unbeaten streak to 6 with the official tie; Marcinew’s goal was his 7th of the season; Thanks to UNO’s loss at North Dakota and Duluth’s 3 on 3 overtime loss to St. Cloud, DU stays in 3rd place in the NCHC; DU maintained their #14 position in the PairWise Rankings with the tie; Denver outshot WMU 51-33 on the night.
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