Pioneers and RedHawks tie again in gritty affair

Photo courtesy DU Athletics

For the second time in as many nights, the #1 University of Denver Pioneers and the Miami University RedHawks tied at Magness Arena. With a victory in the shootout, the Pioneers once again earn the extra point for the NCHC standings.

For the game, the Pioneers outshot the RedHawks 51-26 in regulation and 5-on-5 overtime, but were only able to find the back of the net twice thanks to Dylan Gambrell and Troy Terry. The lack of goals was certainly not for a lack of excellent scoring chances. Time and again DU found themselves down low in high percentage areas, but either they hit the post or MU goalie Ryan Larkin came up with an improbable, borderline impossible save.

“I give [Miami] a lot of credit,” DU head coach Jim Montgomery said after the game. “They stuck to their gameplan a lot better than we did.”

The Pios started fast in the first period after alternate captain Evan Janssen left the game with an upper body injury. On the ensuing 5-minute power play, Dylan Gambrell got the Pios on the board early with a great snipe and it seemed like DU was going to take control of the game and skate Miami out of the building.

By the end of the first period, Denver had outshot Miami 22-3, but only had one goal to show for it. The low-scoring curse showed its power in the second period as Miami tied the game early in the period. Despite Denver’s dominance, the two teams were tied in the middle frame.

“It’s happened all year,” Montgomery said. “But it happened all year last year in the first half and we went from about 1.8 goals to about 3 and a half goals in the second half.”

The Pios held a 2-1 lead deep into the third period thanks to Terry’s late second period goal, but couldn’t hold off the RedHawks as Ryan Siroky beat DU goalie Tanner Jaillet off of an unfortunate rebound.

Even though Denver went on to earn the extra point in the shootout for the second night in a row, this weekend’s results seem troubling, not just to fans who struggle with the idea that top-ranked DU couldn’t put away a lowly Miami team, but for DU head coach Jim Montgomery as well.

“The thing that concerns me about this group is that they don’t move the puck as well as last year’s group,” Montgomery explained. “Even when we weren’t scoring last year, we were sharing the puck.”

With all the shots on goal, there has to be a reason why DU couldn’t find the back of the net more often. The easy answer is that Larkin had a good weekend and was seeing the puck well. But that doesn’t address the reason why DU hasn’t scored more than 4 goals in a game this year.

The lack of finishing ability has been a theme all year and now that we’re more than halfway through the month of November and things are starting to take shape, the frustration surrounding DU’s lack of scoring is becoming obvious. Whether it’s a good goalie on the other end of the ice or DU players are unwilling to share the puck as much as Montgomery would like them to, the bottom line is, DU simply isn’t scoring enough goals right now.

“A lot of our goals are unassisted or have just one assist,” Montgomery said. “I’ve never coached a team like that. It’s frustrating for me because i didn’t play the game trying to go through the whole team. I played the game sharing it, give and go. We’re going to try to get better at that. I don’t know if you can fix that. That’s my concern.”

If there is any consolation to this weekend and the season thus far, it’s what took place last November and into December. You remember those four straight losses against North Dakota and St. Cloud State, right? It’s still early, but the alarm bells are certainly ringing in DU’s locker room. They know they really need to start scoring more goals.

Coming out of a weekend with four of the six possible points is a good thing. Don’t be mistaken. DU is still in an excellent position going forward. But coming out of a weekend against Miami without a victory is, in a word, frustrating. DU plays Air Force and Wisconsin next weekend, so after what will certainly be a hard week of practice, we’ll see if the Pios are able to make the needed adjustments and score more goals.