Pioneers withstand UMass-Amherst push & Filip Lindberg heroics to exact Frozen Four revenge

Photo courtesy Nick Monaghan/Denver Athletics

DENVER – Filip Lindberg is a good goaltender. Denver Pioneers fans found that out just eight months ago on the ice in Buffalo at the Frozen Four where he backstopped the UMass-Amherst Minutemen to an overtime victory over the Pioneers. The #7 Pioneers were not-so-kindly reminded of that in their first matchup with the #9 Minutemen since that late April night in upstate New York. Only this time, at Magness Arena, Cole Guttman found a way to solve him in regulation for a 4-2 Pioneers win.

If there was any question about whether UMass-Amherst would be a different, less-effective team after losing 2019 Hobey Baker winner Cale Makar to the city of Denver by way of the Colorado Avalanche, the Minutemen quickly answered that with a resounding “no.” Coming in ranked #9 in the USCHO poll and in the top 10 of the Pairwise, there has been little to no drop-off since last year. And as soon as the puck dropped, it was clear the gap between Denver and UMass-Amherst was, once again, minimal as the two top-10 teams skated to a scoreless draw through a tight, weird first period.

The weirdness hit its peak with a bit less than six minutes left when a stick got caught in Magnus Chrona’s skate after a UMass-Amherst player drove the net. Play continued for more than 30 seconds and the Minutemen even found the back of the net before the referee waved off the goal and reviewed the play to put more time on the clock.

As tight-checking and weird as the first period was, the game settled into a more typical rhythm in the second and third periods as the two teams traded goals for the next 25 minutes of hockey. Matthew Kessel opened the scoring for UMass-Amherst in the second period before Slava Demin found a Cole Guttman feed in the high slot and fired it past Lindberg. Before the second period ended, Jake McLaughlin took advantage of a bad Denver turnover behind DU goaltender Magnus Chrona to restore UMass-Amherst’s lead. McLaughlin then promptly earned a five-and-a-game for elbowing Jake Durflinger in the head (sound familiar?). Tyson McLellan tied the game back up early in the third period off of a Demin wrist-shot from the left circle to finish off the even two-for-two trade.

The third period typified the kind of hockey that the 2019-2020 Denver Pioneers are trying to play. They were relentless on the puck, choked out every Minutemen offensive rush, and buzzed in the offensive zone. And if it wasn’t for Lindberg’s heroics (and a few red pipes getting in the way), it’s entirely possible that Denver would have run away with this nonconference game. It wasn’t until there was just more than 2 minutes left that Guttman added to his growing list of clutch goals against the Minutemen. Guttman found the puck after Emilio Pettersen pressed the puck deep, turned around, and fired a no-hope backhand shot from below the goal line right at Lindberg. The puck bounced off of the Minutemen goaltender and fell silently to the ice on the right side of the red line amidst a roar from the 6,017 fans at Magness Arena.

Jake Durflinger added an empty-netter with a minute left in the game to seal the come-from-behind victory and give the Pioneers a great start to 2020. The game was by no means perfect. There were lazy moments like the turnover that led to UMass-Amherst’s second goal and others throughout the first and second periods that forced Chrona to match Lindberg’s heroics. But that third period. If Denver could take one thing from tonight’s game, bottle it up, and use it for the rest of the season, it’s tonight’s third period. The Pioneers have shown flashes of that type of hockey this season, most recently against Colorado College, but it hadn’t really been on full display the way the Pios expect. But tonight’s third period, if anything, should be a perfect blueprint for Denver on how to play from here on out.

Maybe it’s a massive overstatement but if Denver plays the way they did in the third period tonight for another four months, they’ll be flying home from Detroit with some brand new championship hardware.

Highlights

Postgame Comments

David Carle:

Ian Mitchell:

Cole Guttman:

6 thoughts on “Pioneers withstand UMass-Amherst push & Filip Lindberg heroics to exact Frozen Four revenge”

  1. Gritty win that the Pios deserved. In a game like that after a long layoff, the team that gets their collective legs back first usually ends up winning. The Pioneers have a tendency toward flatness after layoffs, and it was good to see Denver take over the third with the game on the line.

    Will be interesting to see if Bobby Brink and/or Zac Jones return to either lineup tonight after the long flight back from the Czech Republic after Team USA loss in the WJC. I would imagine both guys could use the rest both physically and mentally, but with 18 year olds, they may be ready to go…

  2. I’ve seen DU vs UMass in a grand total of 2 games: last night and then last spring’s FF semifinal. I must admit, however, I’ve developed a healthy dislike of this UMass program and coaches. Between the bush-league chickensh** elbow that Trivigno threw last spring, the elbow to the head and game misconduct by McLaughlin last night, plus a borderline boarding call and a tripping call that sure looked like an attempt to initiate knee-to-knee contact last night, I’ve seen some very questionable on-ice conduct from this team. While they are a talented group no doubt and play an aggressive and physical style with an edge, I’ll respectfully disagree with Carle’s assertion that they play the game the right way. I’m not going to go as far as saying they are a dirty team, but against DU at least, they have crossed the line several times. And I remain very happy Duluth won the title last spring, not these guys.

    The game itself last night was really good. Fast-paced, exciting, physical, and had the feeling of a playoff game. Pios worked hard, especially late, to secure that one. I sure wish the PP had been able to cash in at least once. Pios had over 11 minutes of PP time with no results. Still, it was a hard-earned W over a good team.

  3. I think the following comment from the UMass coach says a lot about this team:

    “It’s frustrating, we had the lead in the third and I’m not so sure they deserved to win the game, but they did,” said UMass head coach Greg Carvel.

  4. What a bunch of douchebags. Hope we kick their butts tonight, and glad that they got properly embarrassed in the national title game, as well.

  5. It’s the ‘Patriot’s effect’ – a sense of entitlement that comes with a number of Massachusetts sports teams. Pretty unbearable, really. I hope the Pioneers put the hammer down tonight. And, we could use Brink, too.

    1. Would love to see Brink out there. DU can rightfully play pissed (not dirty, but extra motivated) due to all the cheap shots to the head that this team has done to DU in the last 2 meetings. They are NOT playing the game “the right way” and I’m surprised that Carle even said that they were. Carle should instead be harping on the refs to watch out for any further shots to the head.

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