Pioneers drop two points to archrival North Dakota in defensive struggle

Photo courtesy Shannon Valerio/DU Athletics

DENVER – The puck fell to Colton Poolman’s stick in the right circle. The North Dakota senior captain took a chance, put it on net, and found twine just over Magnus Chrona’s shoulder. And just like that, in the second overtime, with the #2 Denver Pioneers and #9 North Dakota Fighting Hawks playing for an extra point in the NCHC standings, the team in green took two of the first three points on this rivalry weekend with a 2-1 victory at Magness Arena in what will go down as a 1-1 tie for NCAA purposes.

In a rivalry series like DU-UND, you really never know what you’re going to get. So many times, this series has ended in a 6-4 barnburner just as it’s ended in many 1-0, 2-1 defensive struggles. Tonight’s game fell into the defensive struggle category. Neither team could find a consistent, effective way through the neutral zone and both goalies stood on their heads for all 67-plus minutes of hockey.

Of course, as strong as the two defenses were, this was still a Denver-North Dakota game. Scoring chances were there and there were plenty of them. But every time, it seemed either a stick got in the shooting or passing lane, the pipe redirected the puck out instead of in, or Adam Scheel and Chrona were just in great position to keep pucks out of the net. With the exception of a flurry of activity in the middle of the second period that saw Jasper Weatherby – a UND forward and somehow not a character on Downton Abbey – tip a Jordan Kawaguchi shot past Chrona’s left shoulder on the power play followed by a gritty tip-in from Kohen Olischefski a minute later, offensive production was at a premium tonight.

While Denver struggled to sustain offensive pressure and relied on a dangerous rush for its offensive production, North Dakota was the opposite. Once Fighting Hawks entered the zone, they set up their offense and at times peppered Chrona with shots. The contrasting offensive styles made for an even game of swings and momentum shifts.

Despite all the chances, the Pioneers’ power play struggled again, at least on paper, going 0-for-5. As he said below, head coach David Carle was pleased with his team’s overall effort both even strength and on the power play. Chances were there but communication was lacking at times (i.e., two too-many-men penalties in the same game). As well as Denver played and as close as this game was, the Pioneers are going to have to clean up these parts of their game if they’re going to earn three points tomorrow night.

Of course, Denver would like to have taken two if not three points tonight but if there’s one thing this game taught us, it’s that after a lackluster 2018-19, North Dakota was never going to stay down for long and they’re back at an elite level competing for a top spot in the NCHC. What we saw at Magness Arena tonight was the return of a fierce rivalry between conference and national juggernauts. If, like me, you thought North Dakota would be a middling NCHC team again, tonight’s game put you on notice. The Fighting Hawks are back, ready to contend near the top of the conference standings and you better be excited for round two of this battle between what may end up being the best two teams in the conference tomorrow night.

Denver was ready tonight. North Dakota was ready tonight. Tomorrow night? You better get ready for some fireworks.


Postgame Comments

David Carle:

Also David Carle:

Apologies for the lack of Periscope tonight. Likely thanks to a weak connection, audio was not working on the broadcast. I am hoping to have this problem fixed tomorrow night.

Ian Mitchell:

2 thoughts on “Pioneers drop two points to archrival North Dakota in defensive struggle”

  1. I was late getting to the game and missed the 1st period, but what I saw in the 2nd and 3rd was a lot of fun. It was an entertaining, back and forth contest. DU had some really good chances in the 3rd to take the lead. Pios really needed to cash in on one of those PPs. I thought DU looked a bit tired in OT. UND had more jump and was the better team in OT. It stunk seeing UND get the extra point, but oh well.

    UND is really good, as usual. Their depth always impresses me.

    I’d love to see a more sustained forecheck from DU tonight. I saw a lot of “one and dones” in the offensive zone. DU did create some good chances off the rush, but I’d like to see them put more sustained pressure on Poolman and the other UND defensemen. Easier said than done. I also saw DU lose some big draws in the UND zone that could have led to scoring chances.

    Looking forward to another exciting game tonight. Go PIOS!!!!

  2. This was a well-played game between two good teams with two good goalies. North Dakota impressed me with size, defensive play and ability to create nearly 40 shots on goal.

    That said, DU needs its big guns to score goals. Pettersen had six shots and no goals last night. Guttman, Finlay and Brink need to score, too. All of them had good looks but could not finish, and that’s why the game was tied. The Pioneers are 1-12 on the PP recently, and that also needs work.

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