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.
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.
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.
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.
— Denver Hockey (@DU_Hockey) March 31, 2019
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.