photo credit: Sasha Kandrach
In a thrilling series, Denver swept No. 2 ranked North Dakota. After an energetic, emotional first game the Pioneers defeated the Fighting Hawks 4-1 in the second, calmer contest.
“I really liked the way we played. I thought we managed the play a lot better tonight. We didn’t give up odd-man rushes, they had to go through two-to-three players to make plays and that’s what you want against a team like North Dakota.” said Head Coach Jim Montgomery.
At 8:31 into the first Boston Bruins prospect Danton Heinen fed linemate Dylan Gambrell low in the slot. Gambrell sniped a wrist-shot perfectly over North Dakota goaltender Cam Johnson’s left shoulder to tally the first point of the night.
Exactly thirty seconds later, UND forward Austin Poganski scored his seventh of the season on a tough angle shot. Denver’s Adam Plant and North Dakota’s Joel Janatuinen were crowding Tanner Jaillet’s vision of the puck.
The remainder of the first frame was quiet from both sides. Magness Arena’s atmosphere was no where as energetic as last night and the lack of intensity from the crowd transferred to the ice.
At the start of the second period, Trevor Moore drove his way to the net early into the second period and drew the hooking penalty against Brock Boeser. Denver was unable to convert on the power play.
“We’ve been working on driving to the net and putting pucks on the net. Off of that guys are forcing the opposing team to crash down to the crease and we’re finding guys open higher.” said Montgomery.
At 17:20 in the second, assistant captain Gabe Levin found freshman winger Jarid Lukosevicius in the slot. Lukosevicius wired a wrist-shot in the top right of the net over Johnson, scoring the only goal of the second frame.
Three minutes into the final period Tanner Jaillet gave up a dangerous rebound in front of the crease. As a result, Moore dragged his man down to prevent any potential finish and was whistled for hooking. Denver killed the penalty; Moore picked up the puck for a breakaway opportunity, but was unsuccessful with his finish launching the puck high.
North Dakota dominated the remainder of the final period recording 17 shots on goal compared to Denver’s six.
With less than five minutes remaining, Will Butcher played a sensational pass to split North Dakota’s defense giving Moore another breakaway opportunity. With a second one-on-one attempt Moore gathered his composure and passed the puck effortlessly past Johnson.
In the final three minutes of the game, Lukosevicius was whistled for roughing. North Dakota pulled Johnson to give a six-on-five advantage over Denver.
The Pios killed the penalty and Lukosevicius skated free with a chance to score his second, but missed on the open net for the second night in a row.
Seconds later, Gambrell tapped in the puck on the open-net off a setup from Heinen to extend Denver’s lead 4-1 . Denver held on the remaining minute to secure the sweep.
Jaillet earned the first star of the game with 34 total saves. Denver’s top line scored 6 out of 10 goals for the series. Heinen (2 G, 5 A) Moore (2G, 4A) and Gambrell (2 G, 2A). Moore leads the team in assists with 25 after tonight. For the first time ever, North Dakota’s CBS line didn’t not score or record a point tonight.
Denver travels down to the World Arena on Feb. 18 for game one of their second series against CC this season. On Saturday Feb. 20th the Pios and Tigers will make history at Coors Field for the first outdoor college hockey game in Colorado; the Battle on Blake. Puck-drop is scheduled for 6:10 p.m.
“I don’t think theres any challenge getting up for Saturday. The challenge is getting up for Thursday. We just beat an incredible college hockey team, moved up in pair-wise and are feeling great about ourselves. We need to be able to focus and play hard hockey against a great team.” said Montgomery regarding the week ahead.