Pioneers shut out Tigers to win NCHC game-in-hand and earn Gold Pan inside track

In an odd Tuesday night game in the middle of a stretch of five games in nine days, the #6 Denver Pioneers played one of their most complete games of the season in a 1-0 shutout of archrival Colorado College at the World Arena. The Pioneers and Tigers, of course, had to play on Tuesday night to make up for the matchup on January 18th that was postponed after a blizzard and traffic kept the Pioneers from being able to make it to Colorado Springs. Denver made the best of a tough situation and pulled within a point of Western Michigan in third place and six points clear of North Dakota in fifth.

Devin Cooley played a flawless game between the pipes, the offense cycled the puck and played well in the offensive zone, and Denver’s defense stifled everything the Tigers wanted to do offensively. The only thing that kept the Pioneers from pulling away from the Tigers was, per usual, CC goaltender Alex Leclerc’s set of pads. Leclerc was once again at his best against the Pioneers allowing a lone Tyson McLellan goal in the first period. From that point forward, Leclerc and Cooley matched each other save for save.

Denver’s power play struggled once again, going 0-for-5 on the night and remains the Pioneers’ biggest concern as the regular season comes to a close and the postseason looms. However, none of that mattered as five-on-five and shorthanded play was flawless and the Pioneers were able to pull one win or tie away from retaining the Gold Pan for the fifth straight year.

With a trip to Omaha this weekend to play the Mavericks, a team the Pioneers have not lost to since January 2015, Denver has a chance to solidify their presence in the top half of the NCHC standings and potentially clinch ever-important home ice advantage for the first round of the NCHC Tournament if they can get some help around the rest of the conference.

With just four games left in the regular season, this was an important win, not just because it was a win over an archrival, it was a win over a top-quality opponent fresh off of an 8-2 rout of Western Michigan. CC had been playing great hockey since the holiday break and Denver silenced the Tigers on Tuesday night. They won their game in hand on the rest of the conference and earned some key momentum heading into the final two weekends of the regular season.

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