Lackluster 2nd period dooms Denver against Ohio State

Photo courtesy Karl Gehring/The Denver Post

15-6. The 3rd-ranked University of Denver Pioneers were outshot 15-6 in the 2nd period against the unranked Ohio State Buckeyes in the second game of the Ice Breaker Tournament. For a team that has aspirations of returning to the Frozen Four for a second straight year, the Pioneers can’t make a habit out of getting outshot like that in any period.

As a result of the shot discrepancy, the Pioneers were outscored in the second period 2-0 and realistically, that’s what gave the Buckeyes the victory.

The poor 2nd period was a surprise, though. After giving up a goal to the Buckeyes just 29 seconds into the game on a botched line change, the Pioneers settled in and controlled the game for most of the rest of the first period. Even though they were only able to tie the game at 1 by the time the first period buzzer sounded, it felt like Denver had taken over the game, outshooting OSU 12-6, and was going to start to run away with it in the middle frame.

It didn’t take long for Ohio State to take control of play in the 2nd period. They peppered Denver goalie Tanner Jaillet with shots early and often. That strategy paid off. By the time the middle 20 minutes had ended, both John Wiitala and Matt Joyaux found the back of the net and the Pioneers found themselves down by two goals entering the regulation period.

“i thought we deferred too much,” Denver head coach Jim Montgomery said of his team’s offensive approach. “I didn’t think we had enough net-drive mentality…it’s like we wanted to be cute. A big part of our gameplan is to get pucks to the goal line and we didn’t do that tonight.”

Jarid Lukosevicius was able to add one more goal for Denver just a few minutes into the final period, but the Pios just weren’t able to push the puck past OSU goalie Christian Frey. They came close many times, they even hit a post, but the puck just didn’t find its way over the goal line. The Pioneers lost to the Buckeyes 3-2 as a result.

The bottom line is this: the Pioneers expect to compete for both an NCHC title and a national title. Denver cannot afford to take a period off like that. The NCHC is the best conference in college hockey. Ohio State scored twice in the 2nd. If DU has a period like that against North Dakota, the Fighting Hawks will score 4.

It’s early. Upsets happen early in the season. DU has started pslowly in each of Montgomery’s first three seasons. Hell, DU lost to Air Force, who beat Boston College this afternoon, last year to open the season and still made a run to the Frozen Four. One game does not a season make.

“We lost our first game of the season last year. I’m not a very good coach to get out of the gate,” Montgomery said. “[Before the season], we get four days to practice. That’s why you see a lot of upsets in the first weekends of college hockey.”

There were some concerning aspects to this game, namely the defense’s inability to deal with OSU’s stretch passes and the offense’s struggle to find the middle of the ice, but there is no reason to believe tonight’s second period is a sign of things to come for this Pioneers team…at least not yet.