Lack of urgency costs series sweep as Pioneers blow three-goal lead

photo courtesy of Shannon Valerio

After blowing a three-goal lead and relinquishing a three-goal run, the No. 5-ranked University of Denver Pioneers were faced with an all too familiar challenge of battling a relentless opponent for the victory. The Pioneers (18-9-7, 12-7-5 NCHC) were unsuccessful in earning the weekend sweep and lost 4-3 in overtime against the last team in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) standings, the Miami University Redhawks (12-18-4, 7-14-3 NCHC). 

Tied at three goals, the final 20 minutes of regulation was not enough time for either team to clinch the winning result. In the second period of extra-time, the Redhawks secured the overtime win by burying the game-winner on the fly.

“It was what we talked about last night and has been a trend this year,” Senior assistant captain Adam Plant said. “It starts with a lead of three goals, at some points four goals and then we just blow it. It’s unacceptable.”

The last conference game of the regular season on Saturday, March 3, Denver came out blazing against Miami. The game mirrored a similar fashion as the previous night where DU won 6-3, but held off a late Miami rally. The series finale, which honored DU’s four seniors; Tariq Hammond, Tanner Jaillet, Rudy Junda and Adam Plant, unfolded to be a test of urgency and will. 

In just under five minutes into the opening period Denver had three goals on the board. The first two shots Miami goalie Ryan Larkin saw were turned goals and scored 18 seconds from one another.

After receiving a slashing penalty committed in Miami’s offensive zone, DU junior forward Jarid Lukosevicius slipped in a backhander. Sophomore forward Henrik Borgstrom drew the Miami blueliners in before sending his feed to Lukosevicius down low.

Seconds later, Ryan Barrow doubled Denver’s lead on a breakaway as he toe dragged the puck across the crease and into the net.

Adam Plant struck twine on a wrist shot from the right faceoff dot. The defenseman scored his third goal in four games, fittingly on senior night.

The three-goal lead was cut down to two at the end of the first period. Miami’s Gordie Green crashed the crease where he beat Denver goalie Tanner Jaillet.

Rushing at full speed, Green caused a collision between Jaillet and sophomore defenseman Michael Davies. Both were assessed for potential injuries. Davies went to the locker room for the remainder of the first period, but rejoined action in the second frame. Jaillet played the last three minutes of the first frame, but did not return for the last 40 minutes of action. Rookie Dayton Rasmussen replaced Jaillet in between the pipes for the remaining 45 minutes. 

The Redhawks equalized the score during the second period at three with a pair of goals scored from sophomore forward Karch Bachman, which ultimately forced overtime.

The challenge for Denver heading into postseason where there is more at stake allocated with each game, is to play the full 60-minutes without any unwavering committment or intensity fluctuation.

“It’s the lack of urgency,” Plant said. “We get up, we think it’s going to be easy, take our foot off of the gas, then they get one and have all of the momentum. We struggle to get that momentum back.

“We’re done talking about it. We just have to put our heads down and do it.”

Denver will host Colorado College next weekend on March 9 and 10 in the First Round of the NCHC conference tournament. The winner will advance to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff tournament in St. Paul, Minn. during the weekend of March 16 and 17.