Photo Credit: Matt Christians, SBN College Hockey
With 7.8 seconds left and the score sitting at 2-1 in favor of the University of Denver Pioneres, three Minnesota-Duluth players, on each end of the ice, starting punching and tackling DU players. In true hockey form, DU players retaliated and the game was one punch away from a benches clearing brawl.
In the end, Denver won the game by a score of 2-1 and secured a very important sweep to put some more distance between them and the Bulldogs. As it stands now, DU is in 3rd place in the NCHC and now 7 points ahead of UMD, who is in 4th place.
The game started much differently than game one of the series. Both teams played fast, end-to-end hockey, but through the first half of the first period, the goalies, Evan Cowley for Denver and Matt McNeely for Duluth, had the upper hand and maintained a scoreless tie.
At the 10:32 mark of the opening frame, just off the faceoff on a power play, Trevor Moore passed the puck from the point across to Dylan Gambrell in the left circle. Gambrell then found Danton Heinen in the slot and all Heinen had to do was direct the puck up past McNeely’s shoulder to give DU the early lead.
For the next 7 minutes, Denver controlled much of the play and and at the 17:40 mark, the Pioneers struck again. This time, on a 2-on-1 chance generated by defenseman Will Butcher, Heinen found Gambrell to his left on a perfect pass and Gambrell found the back of the net on a nearly wide open net to double the lead.
“It’s nice to see [the top line] break through and score 2 goals per game” DU head coach Jim Montgomery said. “We need them to continue doing that if we’re going to keep trending in the right direction.”
The second period was dominated by great goalie play on both ends. Throughout the middle frame, both Cowley and McNeely flashed great glove hands to rob chance after chance for both teams. In the end, Cowley made 16 saves in the period and McNeely made 12.
“Evan was spectacular tonight,” Montgomery said. “That’s the best I’ve seen him play this year. Hopefully he can build on this.”
As the middle period wore on, both teams grew more and more frustrated as the referees (Derek Shepherd and Dan Dreger) were reluctant to call anything. Though they did call 4 minors in the 2nd, there were countless other blatant penalties ignored on both ends of the ice.
As Shepherd and Dreger lost control of the game, both UMD and DU players began to throw punches and grab at each other after every whistle. The more infractions that the referees ignored, the worse the post-whistle scraps became.
“We were talking on the bench about staying out of crap like that after whistles,” Montgomery said. “We just wanted to keep our sticks on the ice.”
In the third period, after calling two early penalties against Duluth, Shepherd and Dreger went back to their first and second period form and let infraction after infraction go uncalled.
Through the first 12 minutes, it felt like UMD had all but given up on the game and resorted to trying to get as many uncalled cheap shots in on DU’s players as they could. As it turns out, the strategy worked. At the 12:53 mark of the regulation period, a Willie Raskob shot bounced off of Cowley and onto Tony Cameranesi’s stick who shot the puck past DU’s goaltender and into the back of the net to cut the Bulldog deficit in half.
As soon as the puck went in, it was as if Duluth’s focus shifted from hitting DU’s players low and after the whistle to actually playing hockey again. The goal certainly shifted the momentum and UMD felt like they had a chance to at least force overtime.
With just under 2 minutes to go, UMD coach Scott Sandelin pulled McNeely for the extra skater. After a couple decent looks, Bulldogs captain, Andy Welinski was called for boarding with just 56 seconds left. At that point, UMD was no longer able to keep the extra skater on the ice as DU held the zone for the next 30 seconds.
With 7.8 seconds left, all hell broke loose as the Bulldogs decided to let frustration trump good sportsmanship. On both ends of the ice, UMD players took cheap shots at Denver players and DU players retaliated. For about the next five minutes, the 4,939 people in attendance got to watch the referees try to separate the fighters and sort out the penalties.
In the end, DU’s Troy Terry and UMD’s Neal Pionk were issued minors for unsportsmanlike conduct while Bulldog Dominic Toninato was issued a roughing minor.
For the next 8 seconds, DU skated 5 on 3 and killed the clock to secure a hard-fought, well-earned sweep over the very frustrated UMD Bulldogs.
“They’re a frustrated team,” Montgomery said of the Bulldogs. “They’re not scoring goals and they’re not winning games. It’s tough when you were the preseason number 1”
While the referees were certainly to blame for losing control of the game, all the credit must go to DU for doing their best to kind of rise above and put some more space between themselves and 4th place. At this point, it’s hard to see DU relinquishing their stranglehold on 3rd place in the conference.
With his goal tonight, Heinen now has sole possession of the team lead in goals scored with 9; Marcinew is 2nd with 8; Butcher’s assists on Gambrell’s goal was his 12th of the season; DU’s Power Play is slowing getting better as they went 1-for-5 with the man advantage tonight; In the third period, on a 5-on-3 advantage, Heinen and Butcher hit the crossbar on consecutive shots; After 25 total shots in the 1st period and 28 in the 2nd, there were only 11 in the 3rd.
1/29 & 1/30
@ Miami (OH)
Steve Cady Arena
5:00 PM MT & 5:05 PM MT
Watch Friday: CBSSports
Watch Saturday: Fox College Sports or NCHCtv
Listen: 104.3 FM