Denver star defenseman Ian Mitchell scored one of the most memorable goals of his Pioneer career on a short-handed, unassisted breakaway — a decisive game-winning goal at 7:16 the third period, as the Denver Pioneers blew open a tight game in third period and cruised to 6-3 NCHC win over St. Cloud State University to delight the nearly 6,000 fans at Magness Arena in Denver.
Sophomore transfer Hank Crone added his best performance as Pioneer with two goal performance of his own (after being benched last weekend), to help the Pioneer cause.
The #5 Pioneers (14-4-3, 3-3-2-1), now winners of five straight games, moved up to #4 in pairwise rankings. DU used relentless offensive puck control to dominate SCSU (6-9-4, 3-6-0-0) for most of the evening. The Pioneers unloaded a season-high 48 shots on SCSU goalie David Hrenak, almost twice the margin of the 26 shots that the Huskies could manage on DU goalie Magnus Chrona. Hrenak had not seen that many shots since 2017.
“Our effort overall was really good tonight,” Denver Head Coach David Carle said. “There weren’t a lot of dips in our game. I thought our puck pressure was there all night long and we put some in the back of the net. Overall, it was a really good night executing with and without the puck.”
Despite the massive advantage in offensive opportunities for DU, the Pioneers were still clinging to a 3-2 third period lead, as the Huskies had scored twice on both of their two earlier power plays, exploiting two blown backdoor DU coverages. Faced with a third power play opportunity, SCSU looked to tie the game up, but Ian Mitchell was not having it, as he would provide his own special teams magic. The Calahoo, Alberta native picked up a loose puck in the Pioneer zone, beat a pair of Huskies as he sprinted into the SCSU zone, and roared in down the left side, all alone on Hrenak with Mitchell’s eyes bulging open in anticipation. The DU captain then skated towards the crease, dipped his shoulder and beat Hrenak for the five-hole dagger breakaway goal, giving the Pioneers the 4-2 lead they would never relinquish. The goal sent a full DU student section into delirium along with the rest of Magness Arena, as Mitchell jumped into the glass at the student end to celebrate.
Here is the Mitchell game-winner:
— Denver Hockey (@DU_Hockey) January 11, 2020
“It was like [Mitchell] was shot out of a cannon,” said Carle of his captain’s game- winner. “He got faster once the puck got on his stick…[He] sealed the win for us.”
Crone, who came to DU from Boston University, would score the insurance goal on a 5-on-3 power-play seven minutes later, and Brett Stapley added an empty netter in the final minute to put the Pios comfortably up, 6-2. The Huskies did score a garbage-time goal to make the final 6-3 with two seconds remaining, but it was too little too late.
The Pioneers also had earlier game scoring from Crone, Kohen Olifschefski and Ryan Barrow, building a 3-2 lead heading into the third period, and Mitchell had a pair of assists to go alongside his game-winning goal.
Jack Poehling, Easton Brodzinski and Chase Brand had the three Husky markers in defeat.
The two teams meet again in the series finale on Saturday night, Jan. 11th at 7:00 PM.