Tanner Jaillet outduels a rumbling Buffalo as Denver shuts out Dartmouth in defensive struggle

Photo courtesy Shannon Valerio, DU Athletics

On paper, the #2 University of Denver Pioneers have one of the country’s best offenses. With the likes of Troy Terry, Henrik Borgström, and Dylan Gambrell leading the offense, it’s hard to imagine Denver scoring just one goal in any game. But that’s what happens when a team runs into a Buffalo, specifically Dartmouth’s goaltender, Devin Buffalo. Fortunately, one goal was enough for the Pioneers to secure the 1-0 shutout.

The Pioneers were held to just one regulation goal for the second straight game. Last weekend, Colorado College’s Alex Leclerc limited a high-flying Pioneers team to a single goal through 60 minutes of hockey and tonight, Buffalo took a page out of Leclerc’s playbook and kept the Pioneers at bay, giving up a lone power play goal to Jaakko Heikkinen late in the 2nd period.

But, when you have the reigning Mike Richter Award winner between the pipes, sometimes one goal is enough to get the job done. Denver goalie Tanner Jaillet just outplayed Buffalo and it was enough as he kept all 23 Dartmouth shots out of the net.

“I think Tanner is getting into a groove right now,” DU head coach Jim Montgomery said of his goalie’s performance. “Five games in a row now. The game against [CC] that he gave up four, I couldn’t blame him. He’s really seeing the puck well and you can really hear him talking in our D-zone.”

Denver didn’t exactly play poorly offensively, but it was a combination of good Dartmouth defense, a bit too much offensive patience. and a career game from Buffalo that kept the Pioneers from lighting up the scoreboard. They still had 32 shots on goal and ended the game with 65 shots attempted.

“We don’t shoot pucks quick enough,” Montgomery said. “It’s hold on, hold on and then look to make the perfect shot. We don’t have to make the perfect shot. If a goalie makes a mistake, it’s in the net and our players need to realize that quicker releases are either going to go in the net or create rebounds that allow someone else to score.”

However, sticking to that gameplan still may not have led to much success for the Pioneers on this night. Not only was Buffalo strong throughout the night, Dartmouth’s defense clogged the middle of the ice and played extremely well in front of their stalwart goalie. Denver had little trouble breaking out, but once they entered Dartmouth’s zone, they had trouble setting anything up in the middle. The Big Green were able to get sticks in passing and shooting lanes to keep the Pioneers frustrated all night long.

Heikkinen’s goal was the result of a rare opportunity in the low slot. Kohen Olischefski passed the puck from the left boards to Colin Staub below the net where he immediately found Heikkinen in the low slot. Heikkinen then hammered the puck past Buffalo to complete the tic-tac-toe play and break the scoreless tie.

“I thought [Dartmouth] did a really good job,” Montgomery said when asked about the Big Green’s defensive effort. “I thought watching film that they were a much superior team than their record showed. Obviously getting good goaltending like they did tonight helps a lot.”

Denver played an overall good game of hockey. They cycled the puck well and they were doing most of the little things that are characteristic of a top-ranked team, but they ran into another hot goalie. A good defensive effort and a heroic performance between the pipes was the difference for the Crimson and Gold this evening and in the end, the Pioneers earned their 10th victory of the still young season.