Special teams, strong second period power Denver past Boston College to Pioneers’ third straight sweep

Photo courtesy Shannon Valerio/DU Athletics

DENVER – A goaltenders’ duel this game was not. On Saturday night at Magness Arena, the top-ranked Denver Pioneers used three early second period goals and a strong special teams performance to put away the #6 Boston College Eagles and extend its regular-season nonconference winning streak to 17. The Pioneers’ impressive – if stressful – 6-4 victory came just a night after they struggled to score just one goal against BC goaltender and 2019 NHL first-round draft pick Spencer Knight.

Tyson McLellan scored once in each of the first two periods – once on the power play to tie the game in the first period and then again in the second – to give Denver the lead that it would not relinquish. His second goal kicked off a two and a half minute stretch within the first five minutes of the second period that saw Denver score three unanswered goals. Ian Mitchell and Liam Finlay both added insurance goals in this stretch to put the game out of reach.

As good as Knight was just the night before, he and his skaters could not repeat the performance and were shaky at best in BC’s defensive zone, especially in the second period. Denver’s speed and elusiveness were on full display throughout the game, especially in the second and into the third period. After a hotly-contested first period when BC opened the scoring and then came back to tie it at 2 before the first intermission, Denver’s special teams took over the game in the second period. Mitchell’s goal came on the power play, Denver’s second such goal of the night, before the Pios’ penalty kill had to come up big to kill off a long 5-on-3 situation midway through the period, The second period was about as successful as Denver could have wished it to be and entered the final frame up 5-2.

Some say a two-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey while others claim it’s three. On this night, the latter nearly came true as Denver returned to their sloppy first period form and gave up two straight BC goals 12 minutes apart as Mike Hardman knocked home a rebound and then Jack McBain tipped a Drew Helleson shot past Magnus Chrona. All of a sudden, a three-goal lead had shrunk to one with more than five minutes left.

Denver’s special teams remained in control of the game, though. After BC pulled within one, Cole Guttman was called for hooking and Denver was forced to go on the kill with four minutes left. Denver’s penalty kill – which had given up just one goal in 19 chances coming into the night – remained stellar, killing off the late penalty before the Pioneers drew a power play of their own with less than two minutes left. Bobby Brink was the beneficiary of an Ian Mitchell shot that bounced off of Knight’s pad right to his stick before he backhanded it past BC’s helpless goaltender to seal the victory and third-straight sweep to start the season.

This weekend may not have been pretty at times for the Pioneers but the bottom line is this: they swept a very good Boston College team – possibly the best Eagles team since 2016 – and dominated them at times. This series felt a lot more like a midseason NCHC bout than an early-season nonconference cupcake of a series. BC is big, fast, and skilled, and Denver came out on top both nights. You may hate to see them bend the way the Pioneers did in the third period, but they most certainly did not break and that’s an important takeaway.

Denver has its first bye week of the season next weekend before Niagara comes to town for DU’s 70th Anniversary Celebration weekend. Niagara just split its weekend series in Minneapolis with the Golden Gophers of Minnesota.

Highlights

Postgame Comments

David Carle x2:

Liam Finlay:

Tyson McLellan:

3 thoughts on “Special teams, strong second period power Denver past Boston College to Pioneers’ third straight sweep”

  1. What a great weekend for the DU hockey team! Certainly, the team is really fast and skilled, but more importantly, resilient and versatile. They proved that they can beat good teams in tight games as well as disjointed penalty-laden scorefests in the same weekend.

    I think Ian Mitchell is grasping the opportunity to be a dominant, Hobey Baker-level candidate with his development and captaincy. Petterson, Guttman and Brink may be one of college hockey’s best lines this year – they bring puck control, imagination and clutch goalscoring to the team’s swagger. And the Finlay/Crone/McLellan line played with heart and skill, especially on Saturday. Chrona shows talent and promise, and is learning to be consistent, and I think Denver’s solid defense will be even better once Erich Fear returns from injury.

    And kudos to BC, too. They played with heart and desire all weekend, and once they get their odd tendency to take dumb penalties under control, they will be an elite team by the years end.

  2. Statement weekend and series for DU. Terrific performance. There was a lot to like out there. Pios used their speed and skill to create space and ample scoring opportunities, but they also were effective in the corners and played with a physicality and grit. And it’s still very early in the season. If these guys continue to gel and improve, this team could really be special.

    Pios are 6-0 heading into the bye week, with Niagara on tap in 2 weeks. A sweep over a talented BC team has to be a big confidence builder.

    Legendary BC coach Jerry York is 74. David Carle is 29. A 45-year difference! I would love to take both of them out for beers and listen to them talk hockey.

  3. DU is a legitimate championship contender. Jimmy’s can play and the coaches have them playing hard. Will be a fun season. Big test at Minn-Duluth coming up!

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