COLORADO SPRINGS – It wasn’t pretty, but the #2 University of Denver Pioneers ran their winning streak over the Colorado College Tigers to nine and their 2016-17 unbeaten streak to 13 games. It may not have been pretty, but Denver skated onto the Olympic-sized sheet of ice at World Arena, took care of business, and left.
This was about as clinical a dismantling of the opponent as we’ve seen this year by the Pioneers. From the opening faceoff, it was clear that Denver was the better team. From the passes to the heads-up plays in all three zones, DU was just better than CC. Rivalry game aside, that will tend to happen when a National Championship contender is playing a national bottom feeder.
“There’s always an adjustment period, especially breaking the puck out,” DU head coach Jim Montgomery said of playing on the World Arena’s larger sheet of ice. “They’ve got the deepest corners in the world here. It just doesn’t make for a fluid game. It makes for a lot of sloppy play.”
As a result, Denver had a number of missed chances over the course of the evening, but none of them seemed to be out of the ordinary for the 2016-17 Pioneers. Time and again, the Pios had odd-man rushes, but they weren’t able to convert. Whereas in years past, those missed chances may have caused Denver to crumble and start to press too hard, this squad remained calm and kept working to find the markers to earn them the victory.
After a dominating though scoreless first period, Denver came back out in the second period and drove the net even harder. As a result, both Troy Terry and Jarid Lukosevicius got the Pios on the scoreboard with two important tallies. Terry’s goal came on what looked to be an innocent rush as he beat CC goalie Alex Leclerc high to the stick side while Lukosevicius’ was about as gritty a backhanded transition goal as they come.
“I thought we weren’t screening their goalie very well [in the first period],” Montgomery said. “In the second, we made more of an emphasis to being around the net front and I think that paid dividends.”
By the end of the second period, the score was 2-1 after CC captain Sam Rothstein pulled the Tigers back within one, but even with just a one-goal lead, the game felt like it was over. By the second intermission, it easily could have been 3-1 in favor of the Pios by way of a Dylan Gambrell wraparound shot, but after review, it was deemed that there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the call of no-goal on the ice.
Even still, Denver controlled play all over the ice for the remainder of the game and defenseman Tariq Hammond scored his first goal of the year in the third period.
In short, tonight, the Pioneers did everything that the college hockey world expected them to do, except score 20 goals. They outplayed the Tigers in every phase, they outclassed the Tigers all over the ice, and they just played better hockey than the Tigers did. The Pioneers did to the Tigers what any good hockey team will this year. They won by playing good, fundamental hockey while the Tigers played more like Kittens.
Denver and Colorado College hit the ice at Magness Arena in game two of this home-and-home at 7 PM. It won’t be televised.