photo courtesy of Shannon Valerio
The No. 7-ranked Denver Pioneers never trailed during tonight’s 5-2 victory. After the Miami Redhawks handed the Pioneers a 3-1 loss to and their first home loss since Dec. 7 Denver returned to Magness Arena with vengeance. Denver’s win was bolstered by the hot hands and two-goal efforts from Jarid Lukosevicius and Jack Doremus.
“I thought our start was really good,” head coach David Carle said. “We were on top of them. We were very assertive. We were very aggressive.”
“I give our guys a lot of credit. We stuck with it. It was not easy to generate offense against this team.”
Doremus finally struck twine as he scored twice in the third period, picking up where he left off last night after bestowing a Grade A chance during the waning minutes.
The sophomore nearly cut Denver’s deficit down to one goal last night midway through the third period but was thwarted by Miami goaltender Ryan Larkin. The left-winger would go onto beat Larkin twice tonight scoring his first and second goals of the season just 17 seconds apart in the third period.
“Jack was great,” coach Carle said. “I think he was our best forward last night, creating energy, being physical and getting pucks to the net. Tonight it was great to see him get rewarded.
“He’s been through a lot here in the past year and a half trying to find consistency in his game. We’re starting to see the player that we all recruited. And the big power forward that he can become. It’s a credit to his work ethic and what’s put into himself since he’s been here.”
Lukosevicius scored the first goal of the night just 3:31 into the first period off of a feed from linemate Emilio Pettersen. The senior right-winger notched his 15th goal of the season and second of the night to restore Denver’s lead to a two-goal margin with 12:14 remaining in regulation.
Following a monotonous first and second period, the intensity amplified in the third period and escalated all the way until the final buzzer. The Redhawks cut their deficit down 3-2 following Doremus’ back-to-back tallies. The Redhawks scored their second of the night 8:13 into the third period. Despite Miami’s late pushback, the Pioneers preserved their 5-2 lead.
During the final minutes of action, the Redhawks pulled Larkin from the goal. Denver fired multiple attempts on the open net but was unlucky until the final 2:32 when senior forward Colin Staub extended Denver’s lead 5-2.
Tonight’s contest was less of a shooting match compared to last night where Denver fired 47 shots on frame but only scored once. More conservative and composed efforts were displayed tonight from both sides until the spirited third period.
The Redhawks leveled the score 1-1 in the second period with a shorthanded goal from Josh Melnick. Miami’s Casey Gilling was assessed with hooking with six minutes left in the period. The Redhawks penalty kill forced a turnover which provided an odd-man rush opportunity for Brian Hawkinson and Melnick. After forcing the loose puck, the duo fled the neutral zone and Melnick stoned Larsson with his top-shelf snipe on the fly.
“They were opportunistic,” coach Carle said. “They’ve got some really good hockey players on their team. They will execute if you have mental lapses defensively, we saw that last night. You did see it again tonight on the two goals they got tonight. They don’t need a lot of time or space to do that.”
Shuffled Up: Denver’s lineup was tweaked since taking the ice last night. Lukosevicius was bumped up to the top line alongside Pettersen and Kohen Olischefski. Junior right-winger Liam Finlay dropped to the third line with Jack Doremus and Tyson McLellan. Cole Guttman centered the fourth line with Tyler Ward and Jake Durflinger.
Back in Net: Freshman goaltender Filip Larsson received the starting nod tonight. Larsson recorded 15 saves on 17 shots. Larsson a goals against average of 2.43 and ranks fourth in the NCHC with a save percentage of .918.
Conference Standings: St. Cloud clinched it’s second-consecutive NCHC regular season champions and Penrose Cup title after blanking Nebraska Omaha 5-0 tonight. Tonight’s win over the Redhawks advances the Pioneers past North Dakota and into fourth place in the conference standings.
Injury Update: Forward Ryan Barrow left the game with a lower-body injury that is still being assessed. Denver was also without forwards Brett Stapley and Jared Resseguie.
“We’re running thin [on forwards],” coach Carle said. “All 11 healthy [forwards] were playing. We’ll get Ryan evaluated and see what it looks like for him.”
Up Next: Denver will embark on a stretch of three games over the next week beginning with Colorado College on Tuesday night. The game was originally scheduled on Jan. 18 and was postponed due to weather. Denver tied CC 4-4 on Jan. 19 in their first meeting of the 2019 Battle of the Gold Pan. Three days later, the Pioneers head to Omaha for their last regular season conference road series against Nebraska Omaha on Friday, March 1 and Saturday, March 2.
“It’s a quick turnaround,” coach Carle said. “We need to turn the page quickly. It’s a big hockey game in front of us and on the road on Tuesday.”