Photo courtesy DU Athletics
The last-place Miami University RedHawks earned the meaningless extra point in three-on-three overtime for NCHC standings purposes but the #4 University of Denver Pioneers and the RedHawks tied on Senior Night at Magness Arena. Denver started the game well, scoring three goals within the first five minutes of the game, but Miami cooled Denver’s offense off for the remaining 60 minutes of hockey and scored three straight goals of their own to earn the tie. However, by the end of the first period, very few minds were on the result of what was a meaningless NCHC game.
With a few minutes left in the opening frame, Gordie Green and Kiefer Sherwood had a two-on-one odd-man rush. Green shot the puck off of the pass from Sherwood and DU goalie Tanner Jaillet made the initial save, sprawling back across his body. However, Michael Davies, the lone defenseman back for the Pioneers crashed into Jaillet and pushed the puck over the line for Miami’s first goal. Both Davies and Jaillet were down on the ice for an extended period of time, both with what looked like head injuries. Before play resumed, Davies went back to the locker room but Jaillet stayed on the ice to finish the first period.
Backup goalie Dayton Rasmussen led the Pioneers back onto the ice for the second period and there was immediate concern for Jaillet’s health with what the Pioneers hope will be a long postseason run on the horizon. There was no instant indication as to whether Jaillet’s injury was serious, but in the meantime, it was up to Rasmussen to finish the game and send Denver’s seniors off with a victory.
“It was a real tough situation [for Rasmussen]” DU head coach Jim Montgomery said. “He hadn’t played in a long time. I thought he fought well in his crease, he fought to see pucks, and he gave us an opportunity to win a hockey game.”
Unfortunately, Denver didn’t respond to the injury as well as one might have hoped in the second period and the Pioneers blew another three-goal lead as Karch Bachman scored two straight goals about 10 minutes apart to tie the game at three in the middle frame. While Rasmussen certainly wants both of those goals back, all blame can’t be placed on his shoulders for the collapse. Simply put, Denver’s overall play in the second period wasn’t that of a national title contender. They looked lost at times and Miami took full advantage.
“Our team didn’t respond well when the backbone of our team got injured,” Montgomery said. “In the second period, I thought we played tight and tense and Miami came back at us and was able to tie it up.”
Denver looked much better in the third period, outshooting Miami 16-4 in the final period of regulation, but Ryan Larkin recovered from a disastrous first period and kept the puck out of the net and the RedHawks forced overtime.
After the game, with focus shifted back to Jaillet and his health, Montgomery indicated that Jaillet will be healthy and ready to go for the NCHC Quarterfinal round against Colorado College. Montgomery said that taking Jaillet out of the game was simply precautionary and didn’t want to risk any additional injury with the postseason starting next weekend.
“We’re just looking forward to next weekend,” Montgomery said. “It’s been an up-and-down regular season and we have to get ready for the playoffs. We’re going to be close to 100% healthy starting next week so we have to get ready to play a real good CC Tiger team.”
Colorado College is coming back to town for a rematch of the 2017 NCHC Quarterfinal round and the Pioneers will need all hands on deck to get out of the opening round and to the Frozen Faceoff. The Tigers took five of six possible points from the Pioneers at Magness Arena this year so this won’t be anything like last year’s matchup. Denver may not be playing their best hockey of the season right now, but the slate has now been wiped clean. All you can do is watch to see how the Pioneers respond now that the games count.