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.

Postgame Comments

Highlights

One thought on “Pioneers shut out Tigers to win NCHC game-in-hand and earn Gold Pan inside track”

  1. Very good road shutout of a rival on only a few days of rest- Devin Cooley did a nice job of bouncing back with a strong performance after a bad outing against Miami.

    It’s nice to know that the Pios can win those kinds of close games with a sputtering offense at this time of year, when every game feel like playoff hockey, especially with regulars Stapely and Barrow out of the lineup with injuries. Hopefully, we’ll see those guys again this season. Nice to see Tyson McLellan finally get a goal this season – he’s a hard working player who does a lot of little things for the Pios that help them be successful.

    The Pios’ taking three penalties in the third period on the road is not my idea of smart hockey though, and a really good opponent will make you pay. Fortunately, DU only gave up eight total shots in the period and Cooley was equal to the task. Of course. having only four shots of their own in the third period for the Pios is not what you want on the road with a one goal lead, but DU gutted out the win and moved up to #4 in the PWR, which is kind of astonishing.

    Now it is on to Omaha, a team that is playing better hockey than their record and also gave DU fits at Magness in a pair of tight one-goal losses to the Pios, including one in overtime. Omaha netminder Evan Wenninger had some of his best games against DU, and the Pios will need to get lots of traffic to score goals.

    Home ice in the NCHC playoffs is on the line – I don’t think the Pios would enjoy another trip to Grand Forks, so let’s hope the Pios can secure fourth place in the league race…

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