Denver Slays AIC, 3-0, for Frozen Four Berth

Photo: Courtesy of Denver Hockey Twitter

It was David vs. Goliath – and Goliath won in the battle for the Frozen Four berth, and the Denver Pioneers are shuffling’ off to Buffalo for a shot at NCAA title #9.

Carle kept to the Denver ‘prosess’ and rolled out the same line-up as Friday night.

Sixteenth seeded American International College (AIC), a D-II school in most sports (but D-I in hockey), shocked the college hockey world Friday night with a win against #1 NCHC power St Cloud State University, 2-1. But Saturday night Denver took a late second period lead, 1-0, and added two third period goals to win the NCAA West Regional in Fargo, North Dakota.

Photo: Courtesy of Kelsey Lee, DU Athletics

It was the irresistible force of the Yellow Jackets 3.23 goals per game against Denver’s immovable defense, allowing only 2.03 goals per game. And, tonight, American International met its match. AIC finishes the season 23-17-1 and the Pioneers will be taking a record of 24-11-5 to Buffalo, New York.

The first two periods were a back and fourth affair with Denver out-shooting  AIC,  22-16. Both squads were 0-2 on the power play. It was a Colin Staub goal, assisted by Ryan Barrow, that broke the ice at 15:45 of the second period. The Pioneers seemed to gain energy following the goal and the Yellow Jackets had to call a timeout late in the second period to slow down the energized Pioneers.

The third period featured failed power plays by both the Yellow Jackets and the Pioneers. Denver played conservatively the middle part of the period but could never generate quality offensive possessions. Denver killed a knee-on-knee penalty at 10:56 on Jaakko Heikkinen – the Yellow Jackets fourth power play of the game.  The shots were even at 18 each with no shots on goal by Denver until the 3:50 mark. Then, in the blink of an eye, an unassisted Liam Finlay steal on a  AIC turnover gave DU a 2-0 lead with 3:30 remaining. Jarid Lukosevicius  finished off the Yellow Jackets with an empty-netter goal at 1:23 to make it a 3-0 final.

The Denver women’s tennis team traveled from Grand Forks to support men’s hockey.

Goaltender Filip Larsson had 26 saves for the Pioneers and recorded his second shutout in Fargo to star for the Pioneers. Juniors and seniors participated in all the Pioneer goals in Fargo. Unfortunately, freshman Emilio Pettersen was injured and his status is uncertain for the Frozen Four.

In what most people reasoned was a rebuilding season under first-year head coach David Carle, turned into a magic carpet ride. The Pioneers relied on sterling goal tending, staunch defense and an opportunistic offense to propel them to this season’s Frozen Four in Buffalo, N.Y. April 11th & 13th. Denver will face UMass-Amherst in the semifinals.

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5 thoughts on “Denver Slays AIC, 3-0, for Frozen Four Berth”

  1. Yesssss!!!! What an amazing surprise this DU team has been this year! I know the players had confidence that they could do it–much credit to them for that. But to lose the players from last year, to lose your head coach, to have one of the youngest teams in the country led by the youngest head coach, and still get to the Frozen Four. Wow! Hats off to the players, and MAJOR hats off to Carle. The ride continues, book that Buffalo trip! It is so great to be a DU hockey fan.

    I know Luko still has room to expand his game. How great is it to have a guy on your team that already notched a hat trick in a championship game? Hoping for the best for Emilio, but I’m preparing myself mentally for him not being able to play in the FF. Hopefully the injury is not as bad as it seemed.

  2. Very solid game last night. The Pios never really let AIC get set up in the DU zone at even strength and consistently won the 50-50 battles for the puck along the boards. While UMass is on a different level than AIC I think the Pios also have another gear that will match it. If Larsson especially continues his stellar play than DU wins. Otherwise think it’s a toss up.

  3. 2 down, 2 to go. On to the Frozen Four baby!!!

    It wasn’t easy and wasn’t always pretty, but once again, with an opportunistic offensive output, solid defense, and stellar goaltending, DU wins a gritty contest. In two national tournament games, the Pios have surrendered 0 goals. I don’t care who the opposition is, that is very impressive.

    Give credit to AIC. While I’m sure most Pio fans were very happy not to see St. Cloud, AIC put up a good fight and proved to be a formidable opponent.

    Any updates on Pettersen’s injury?

  4. Bravo, Pioneers!

    AIC played well, but the Pioneers were better and got the job done, as DU’s speed and puck control wore down the Yellowjackets. DU attacked the seams in the AIC defense, and found enough goals to move on to the big dance, and Larrson slammed the shutout door on OSU and AIC. This season is already a smashing success, and I love that this young DU team is proving people wrong every game.

    Few are going to pick the Pios to win this Frozen Four. UMass was a dominant team in its two regional shutouts, and they have the best player in the country in Cale Makar. DU will be the visiting team, and UMass will have last line change. To beat the Minutemen, DU will probably need another shutout from Larsson. But when you have great goaltending, you can beat better teams. Paging Adam Berkhoel….

    Go Pios!

  5. Emilio Petterson left the game with an arm injury in the second period and was seen in the postgame handshake line wearing a sling. He is to be evaluated by doctors in Denver to determine his potential to play in the Frozen Four.

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