Pioneers overcome UMass-Amherst & officials to sweep Minutemen

Photo courtesy of Shannon Valerio/Denver Athletics

DENVER – Any hockey fan worth their salt understands that outcomes are never blamed on the officials. Sure, officials can play a significant role in a game’s flow and predictability, but in the end, it’s the two teams on the ice that determine who wins and loses. Tonight, in the #7 Denver Pioneers’ final nonconference game of the season against #9 UMass-Amherst Minutemen, was a perfect example of just that as the Pioneers had to beat the opposition and overcome some…inconsistent officiating to earn an emotional 4-3 victory and sweep the Minutemen at Magness Arena to end the season’s nonconference slate.

For the second straight night, the Pioneers conceded the opening goal only this time, it came in the opening period. In fact, Denver conceded the game’s first two goals as Bobby Trivigno found Denver goaltender Magnus Chrona’s five-hole and John Leonard took advantage of poor defensive coverage on a power play to take an early 2-0 lead. After Denver had come back to win with a dominant third period the night before, they found themselves trailing big early against a great defensive team and elite goaltender in Matt Murray (no, not that one). Liam Finlay did manage to pull Denver back to within one before the period ended on a slap shot that would make even Zdeno Chara blush.

Now, if you’re a current or aspiring hockey official, this may be where you want to stop reading. Denver won, that’s what you need to know.

Here are the second-period stats: 11 penalties: 7 on Denver, 4 on UMass-Amherst. 22 penalty minutes: 14 for Denver, 8 for UMass-Amherst. One five-on-three killed by Denver. One power-play goal scored by Denver (Liam Finlay).

Here are the third-period stats: 10 penalties: 6 on Denver, 4 on UMass-Amherst. 20 penalty minutes: 12 for Denver, 8 for UMass-Amherst. Zero goals scored.

It would be far too kind to call the efforts by Joe Sullivan and Ryan Hersey ‘inconsistent.’ In the second and third periods, Denver played shorthanded more than they did even strength or on the power play with objectively weak calls accounting for the vast majority of penalties called while the same penalties committed by the Minutemen were blatantly missed. The second period alone was a circus and I’m not sure Magness Arena has ever been louder than when the boos rained down from the crowd after Ian Mitchell was issued an embellishment call (a bad one, mind you) after being tripped near the end of the middle frame.

Despite the officials, though, Denver not only erased the 2-1 deficit in the second half of the period, they scored three times in the span of two minutes and 20 seconds to take the lead thanks to Denver’s second power-play goal of the night from Emilio Pettersen and two even-strength goals by Cole Guttman – who continues to torch UMass-Amherst – and Bobby Brink, fresh off the plane from the Czech Republic. Jack Suter pulled the Minutemen back to within one with three seconds left in the period, but even with the officials doing their best to make the game about them, Denver completely flipped the script on UMass-Amherst and entered the third period with the lead.

The circus did continue in the third period but the Pioneers continued to pepper Murray with their best efforts while Denver’s defense and Magnus Chrona held strong to keep the puck out of the net. But it was abundantly clear that the officials had completely lost control of the game halfway through the final frame. Every whistle offered a new opportunity for a scrum and every trip down the ice presented a chance for a penalty to be called…or not.

What matters tonight, more than anything, is that Denver survived and completed a gut-checking sweep of a top-quality nonconference opponent to finish 10-1-1 in nonconference play. And with the physicality and emotion that assuredly awaits them over the next two months of nonconference play, maybe this series, though it ended up being more a circus than a college hockey series, is exactly what the Pioneers needed to experience. With St. Cloud State waiting for them next weekend, we’re about to find out.

Highlights

Postgame Comments

David Carle:

Ian Mitchell:

8 thoughts on “Pioneers overcome UMass-Amherst & officials to sweep Minutemen”

  1. I saw the Pioneers step up their overall team unity and actually gain confidence despite the poor officiating. UMass thought they have the talent and toughness of the NCHC…they don’t.

    I hope this galvanizes this young team to bigger and better things in conference play.

  2. Most importantly, great job by the Pios…down 0-2 and storming back for 4 straight goals. Great gut check which hopefully shows the character of this team. Shaky start, at best, for Chrona. But he came up huge down the stretch. Fun atmosphere at Magness with a big crowd that rightly expressed its anger at the refs. Plus, the free DU bomber hat is awesome.

    Bad things: you can’t…can’t…can’t give up a goal with 3 seconds left in the 2nd with a 2 goal lead. U mass hits a post in the third that should have tied the game.
    DU is lucky they were able to weather the storm after the huge mistake of not running out the clock in the second.

    Awful, awful, awful officiating tonight…some of the worst I have seen. DU was already getting hosed on the calls, they finally catch a break with a call against UMass, and then the worst embellishment call ever to keep the teams at even strength. That, plus a five on three, plus putting DU in the box with less than two minutes to go, it seems clear that these refs wanted UMass to win…it was that bad.

    Anyway, DU prevailed against the odds, and sends the m-holes home on the receiving end of a sweep. Buh bye, and go Pioneers.

  3. First of all, UMass-Amherst is a legitimate NCAA contender that outplayed the Pios for good stretches in both games this weekend. They hustled, they hit hard and they have a bunch of guys who can score goals. They probably deserved a better result than they got…

    However, all credit to the Pios for playing just enough gutsy hockey to get the results they needed this weekend. Timely goalscoring, excellent response to adversity and good special teams play were just enough to get a needed sweep.

    I think this should be a huge DU confidence boost to know that they can come back against good teams after some poor starts.

    As for the officiating, I rarely blame them – because they are part of the game, and the NCHC usually has the best of the crews in college hockey, that usually gets it mostly right, and rarely does it factor much in the results.

    Tonight, though, was truly awful night for the stripes. Inconsistent, out of position, and head-scratching decisions that almost took the game away from the athletes. The embellishment call on Mitchell (while calling the trip on the UMass-Amherst player at the same time) was an egregious mistake, coming right after a 5-on-3 that was questionable.

    Nice to see 6,000 people in the house for a game during school break, too.

  4. The officiating was worse than Todd Anderson… Possibly worse than ex-CC player Andy Gambucci from back in the 1960s.& 70s.

  5. Gritty, determined effort by DU this weekend against a very good UMass team. This was a stern test coming out of the holiday break. I’m really happy DU earned the sweep. Pios showed a lot of moxie and perseverance last night to come back from being two down to hang on and win. Overall, this was a physical, emotional, and edgy series and one that will likely help DU down the stretch–I think this Pioneer team, while more of a finesse team and with not a lot of size, proved it can be physical and can hold its own.

    I definitely will not be sending any well wishes to this UMass program, its players, or coaches. While I respect the talent level they have and I have no problem with a team that plays tough physical hockey, I’ve seen enough horsesh** from them recently in terms of cheap hits and shenanigans.

    Like most people, I never want to harp on officiating. Most officials do a really good job. A bad call on occasion is part of the game. But last night was an absolute clown show. I don’t know what those guys were doing, but it was embarrassing and compromised the integrity of the game. Hopefully we never have to see that type of thing again. It was a joke.

    DU wraps up its non-conference schedule by going 10-1-1. Really impressive. NCHC play resumes next weekend against St. Cloud, who seems to be having sort of a down season to this point–under .500 overall and in conference play. Can’t wait.

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