Denver ends 2016 with shorthanded tie and loss at Providence

Photo courtesy DU Hockey

The final two games of 2016 were always going to be difficult for the #2 University of Denver Pioneers even before considering their opponent, the Providence College Friars. Thanks to the great seasons Troy Terry and Henrik Borgström have had to this point, they were chosen to represent the United States and Finland, respectively, in the IIHF World Junior Championship. Dylan Gambrell was also not available for Friday evening’s game because of a spearing penalty after the final buzzer against UMD in DU’s last game.

So, Denver didn’t have their top three scorers for one of two games and didn’t have the other two for the entire weekend. Calling the Pioneers shorthanded wouldn’t do the real situation justice. They didn’t have their scoring leaders for their final series of the calendar year and the two results certainly reflected that.

On Friday night, the Pios and Friars tied at 2. PC scored first in the opening frame, but barely two minutes later, Matt Marcinew snuck into the slot unnoticed and buried a pass from Evan Janssen from below the goal line to tie it at 1 with just a minute and a half left in the first period.

Providence grabbed the lead back in the 2nd period with a goal from Garrett Gamez and DU’s less than potent offense couldn’t respond immediately like they did in the first period despite outshooting the Friars 12-8 in the period.

In the third, the Pios returned the favor. PC outshot DU 13-8, but it was Jarid Lukosevicius who notched the frame’s only goal to tie it back up at 2. That’s how the game would stay until the final buzzer to end overtime. Providence did outshoot Denver 4-1 in the short overtime frame, but goalie Tanner Jaillet remained a brick wall and kept the puck out of the net.

Saturday was a tad more disappointing for the Pioneers. Even though Dylan Gambrell made his return to the line chart after serving his suspension, the Pios couldn’t get the offense going well enough to earn a road victory and stay unbeaten on the road.

The Friars dominated most of the night on Saturday outshooting the Pioneers 36-22. On top of that, DU’s normally consistent penalty killing unit was disastrous on the evening giving up two power play goals, one in the second period and the other in the third.

The Pios kept it close for most of the first half of the game as Will Butcher buried a Gambrell pass five minutes after Providence opened the scoring, but the goal didn’t get the Pios going offensively as the Friars went on to claim the 3-1 victory over the Pioneers.

There was some good news over the weekend for DU, though as Emil Romig made his return to action for the first time since sustaining a brutal lower body injury at North Dakota in late October. He didn’t get himself onto the scoresheet, but he did get three shots on net in both games as he worked to knock of some rust.

As we get further into 2017, the pairwise rankings will grow in importance, so it’s worth noting that the tie and loss this weekend didn’t hurt DU’s pairwise positioning much at all. Coming into the weekend, DU was #3 in the PWR behind Penn State and UMD. As the weekend comes to an end, they will remain in the same position in the rankings.

Arizona State makes their first ever trip to Denver next weekend as the Pioneers will host the Sun Devils for the first time in the Devils’ short history.