Photo courtesy DU Athletics
For a game that saw 11 goals, 13 penalties, a game misconduct, three different goalie changes, and two goals on the same power play, you’d think that it would have been a back-and-forth game. Such was not the case this evening at Magness Arena when the #2 University of Denver Pioneers hosted the University of Wisconsin Badgers. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
“Everything has to be a one-goal game. We find a way,” DU head coach Jim Montgomery quipped after the game. “But at least we’re finding a way to win them.”
Throughout the first two periods of the game, Denver dominated play. In fact, after the first period, they held a 20-9 advantage in shots on goal on top of their 2-1 lead.
Despite dominating play for most of the opening frame, Denver conceded a goal to Wisconsin before notching two markers of their own before the end of the period. The first period was marked by a bad case of “no puck luck” for the Pios. They were able to generate chance after chance, but the puck just wasn’t finding its way past Badgers goalie Jack Berry.
It was a fun opening period, but over the course of the second period, things started to open up and it became clear how this game would go.
Wisconsin opened the scoring just 14 seconds into the middle frame, but three straight Pioneer goals over the course of the remainder of the second period put the Pios up big. It felt like it should have been for good at that point. DU just doesn’t squander 3-goal leads, right?
Well…the third period happened.
DU and Wisconsin traded goals in the first part of the period, but at the Evan Ritt hit Corbin McGuire hard and high into the boards behind Wisconsin’s net and drew a Game Misconduct for checking from behind. As a result, Wisconsin was given a 5-minute, nonreleasable power play in addition to Ritt’s ejection.
Over the next five minutes, the Badgers worked themselves back into the game with two power play goals from Gran Besse and Seamus Malone. All of a sudden it was 6-5 and that three-goal lead had turned into a precarious 1-goal lead with Wisconsin buzzing.
As they say, a win is a win is a win is a win, but for DU this year, it has seemed that if one thing is working, the other isn’t. Until tonight, it was the defense that has played incredibly well, but the offense struggled to get unhinged. Tonight, however, the offense had no issues finding the back of the net, but the defense couldn’t stop anything. In fact, tonight was the first time all year that DU has scored more than four goals in a game.
“We’ve had more rush chances in the last two games than we’ve had in any other game this year,” Montgomery said. “We’re going to have to do more of the same drills we did early in the week to continue to improve upon that.”
While it was difficult to pinpoint the specific defensive issue for the Pios tonight, Jaillet clearly struggled. At times, he couldn’t see the puck and at others, he was slow to react to Wisconsin’s shots. After the 5th Badgers’ goal, Montgomery made the decision to replace Jaillet with backup Evan Cowley.
“To me, it just looked like he got tired,” Montgomery said of Jaillet. “I thought about changing him after the fourth goal, but I love how Evan Cowley is a great teammate. He’s been working is rear end off and he comes in and he wins us a game. He had to make several key saves.”
The bottom line is that DU got out of the game with a victory over a nonconference foe. In late November, this victory doesn’t matter. It’s just another notch on DU’s road to 20 (12 left). But come March, a nonconference loss at home to the Badgers could have and likely would have hurt the Pios. So while this victory doesn’t seem like much at the moment, as close and frustrating as this victory was, it may end up being more important than we think.
Oh and hey, by the way, DU plays CC next weekend.