Photo Credit: Sasha Kandrach
For the 15th straight season, the No. 7 University of Denver Pioneers won their 20th game. Tonight, the Pioneers shut out the No. 15 University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks 3-0 to complete the feat and extend their winning streak to 8.
Tonight’s game started fast for both teams. Neither team could get anything going in the offensive zone. After the first whistle at around the 2:45 mark of the first period, the Pioneers and Mavericks played more than five minutes without a whistle. Both teams skated fast up and down the ice and with purpose. For much of the opening period, UNO had much of the better play.
“I thought Omaha was better than us early,” DU head coach Jim Montgomery said. “I thought in the second period, we started to play better hockey.”
It wasn’t until the 12:44 mark of the first period that Grant Arnold was able to open the scoring after a couple of great looks by Quentin Shore and Troy Terry down low just in front of Omaha goalie, Evan Weninger. After Shore shot the puck down low from the high slot, Terry found the puck to Weninger’s glove side, where his shot was tipped to Arnold. Denver’s captain then tapped the puck past Weninger to put the Pios on the board. After a lengthy review to see if the puck was played by a Denver high stick, the goal stood and DU was up 1-0.
If it wasn’t for Weninger’s incredible glove, Denver could have easily made it 2-0 or 3-0 by the time the first period came to an end. But the first intermission came, and DU was up by only one goal.
“I thought both goalies were really good,” Montgomery said. “There could have been a lot more goals if not for how good both goalies were.”
Denver came out on fire in the second period and had the Mavericks on their heels for most of the middle frame. Time and again, Weninger bailed Omaha out and kept the Mavs in the game.
Finally, at the 6:42 mark of the 2nd period on the first power play of the game, Will Butcher sent a Dylan Gambrell feed past Weninger’s glove top right to double the lead, 2-0. Butcher was just above the right circle, found an opening over Weninger’s shoulder and simply didn’t miss.
“I think all of our defensemen are getting a lot more confident at the offensive blue line, ” Montgomery said. “They’re doing things with their head up and when they have to shoot it, they’re pounding it. They’re making a lot of good decisions.”
Less than five minutes later, Denver struck again. This time, Gambrell took an incredible pass from Moore and just beat Weninger to make it 3-0. Moore entered the zone with Gambrell trailing him and Moore dropped the puck to his linemate and Gambrell immediately found twine.
Despite seemingly unending pressure by the Pioneers throughout the rest of the middle frame, the second period came to an end with no more scoring by either team.
The Pios picked up right where they left off in the second period. The Mavericks’ defense was constantly under fire and Denver was sustaining every possession they had. Yet again, if it wasn’t for Weninger, Denver could have scored at least three or four goals in the final period.
Near the middle of the third period, there was a controversial moment when it appeared that DU had scored on a great tip by Matt Marcinew. On Denver’s second power play of the night, Butcher fired a shot from above the left circle and the puck glanced off of Marcinew’s stick just in front of Weninger and past the goalie. Queue the celebrations.
After the initial excitement, the referees went to the video monitor for the second time on the night to see if there was anything clear to wave it off. The first instinct was that Marcinew’s stick was too high when he tipped the puck in.
After another long review, it was determined that Marcinew had actually interfered with Weninger and prevented him from being able to do his job as a goalie. Montgomery wasn’t happy about it and neither was Marcinew as both sought out the referees for an explanation.
“If it’s called a goal on the ice, there has to be incredible evidence to overturn it,” Montgomery said. “I was wondering what they saw and they thought that Matt [Marcinew] impeded the goalie from playing his position so they made the call.”
Thanks to the great NCHC replay official at DU’s games, I was able to see exactly what they were looking at during the review and from what I saw, they got it right. Marcinew collided with Weninger in the crease and prevented him from being able to make the save. No goal.
The game ended pretty tamely with neither side mounting much of an offensive effort and Denver extended their winning streak to 8 and their streak of winning 20+ games to 15 straight seasons.
NCHC Tournament Implications
DU has already clinched home ice in the first round of the NCHC Tournament. The only thing left to be decided is who next weekend’s opponent will be, Western Michigan or UNO.
The only way DU can avoid playing Omaha for a second straight week is if they get some help from Colorado College against St. Cloud State. As it stands now, if both DU and SCSU win in regulation tomorrow night, Denver and St. Cloud will be tied with 53 points apiece. Thanks to their sweep of Denver in December, the Huskies hold the tiebreaker and would earn the #2 seed in the NCHC Tournament.
Now, if DU wins in regulation tomorrow and CC wins or takes SCSU to 3×3 overtime, DU will pass SCSU in the standings and take the #2 seed to play WMU next weekend. If that doesn’t happen, DU will be hosting Omaha for the second week in a row next weekend in the first round.
No matter what, in 24 hours, the 1st round of the NCHC Tournament will be set.
Moore earned his 30th assist of the season on Gambrell’s goal; Arnold’s goal was his 5th of the season…He didn’t score until the NCAA first round against Boston College last year; The first goal of senior weekend was scored by senior Grant Arnold and two of the three points on his goal were from seniors as Shore had the assist; Denver outshot Omaha 34-26; With the victory, DU moves into a tie for 6th in the PairWise Rankings with Michigan.
Saturday, March 5