Photo: Courtesy of Friars.com
The Pioneers played a workman-like first half, weathered a tepid comeback and went on to defeat the Providence Friars Saturday afternoon on Chapey Field at Anderson Stadium. Providence fell to 5-9 overall (1-3 BIG EAST), while the Pioneers improved to 10-2 (4-0 BIG EAST). This sets up the inevitable showdown next weekend when the Pioneers play Marquette 6-6 (3-1 BIG EAST) for the Big East Regular Season Championship at Peter Barton Stadium.
For the contest, Denver out-shot the Friars 37-30 and won the ground ball battle 28-16. Trevor Baptiste was 17 of 22 (77.3%) from the X while Sean Penna went 1-1 for the Pioneers. Josh Matte got the win for DU with Alex Ready and David Windsor in late relief. Joe Reid led the Pioneers with a hat trick and Colton McCaffrey, Colton Jackson, Ethan Walker, and Ted Sullivan all had deuces for the day.
During the first quarter, Denver connected on its first two shot attempts of the game to take a 2-0 lead through the first 2:05 of the game. The Friars made it a 2-1 on a Sean Leahey unassisted goal. The Pioneers closed out the opening quarter with a tally from Colton McCaffrey at the 1:22 mark to give Denver a 3-1 lead.
Providence opened the scoring in the second quarter at 1:22 to make it 3-2. Denver responded with back-to-back goals from Austin French and Ethan Walker to push the Pio lead to 5-2 with 7:08 left on the clock. The score remained 5-2 until halftime.
Denver came out strong in the second half with three-straight goals to start the third quarter and mounted an 8-2 lead with 11:31 remaining on the clock. Providence answered with back-to-back goals to get within four (8-4). But that was as close as the Friars could get. Denver halted the Friars’ momentum with goals by Colton McCaffrey and Ted Sullivan at 2:57 and 1:44, respectively. Denver held a 10-4 lead heading into the final stanza.
Denver opened the fourth quarter with three-consecutive goals to mount a 13-4 advantage and ice the game. Providence finally got on the board to make it 13-5. The Friars earned the game’s first extra-man opportunity with 3:15 remaining on the clock and were able to cash in with a goal by Austin Goltz to draw the final score of 13-6.
DU made the contest look easy. And, they avoided the temptation to look past Providence to their showdown with Marquette in Denver next weekend. All good signs as the Pioneers seem to be peaking at just the right time. But there is no rest for this Denver squad, as a loss against Marquette and a stumble in the Big East playoffs could put the Pioneers on the bubble or worse – out of the NCAA playoffs. The Pioneers currently sit 12th in RPI and a loss to the #26 Warriors could be extremely damaging to Denver’s post-season aspirations.