Pioneers hold off Huskies to break out brooms and extend winning streak to 6

Photo courtesy of Shannon Valerio/Denver Athletics

DENVER – Winning in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference is never easy. Sweeping series in the NCHC is downright difficult. That’s just the nature of this conference. Even if it’s first-place vs. eighth-place, or, in tonight’s case with the third-place #5 Denver Pioneers (15-4-3, 5-3-2-1) taking on the eighth-place St. Cloud State Huskies (6-10-4, 3-7-0-0), even a 4-0 lead with five minutes left in the second period wasn’t totally safe. However, thanks to some puck luck and clutch late goaltending by Magnus Chrona, the Pioneers were able to hold off the Huskies to win 5-3 at Magness Arena to finish off the weekend sweep and pull to within five points of second-place Minnesota Duluth in the NCHC standings.

Just a night after Denver skated to a dominant 6-3 victory, the Pioneers and Huskies came out a laid an egg (or rather two eggs) of a first period. DU did outshoot SCSU 10-3 in the period but it was about as uneventful a period as Denver has played this year. The second period, though, was the polar opposite with the two teams combining to find the net six times in the middle frame with Denver scoring the first four over the first 15 minutes and St. Cloud State accounting for the final two in the last five minutes. Tyler Ward scored twice in less than a two-minute span while Brett Edwards and Emilio Pettersen added markers of their own to complete the Pioneers’ second-period onslaught.

The nearly 6,000 on hand at Magness Arena were feeling comfortable and confident as soon as Pettersen’s marker beat Husky goaltender Jaxon Castor. But it seemed everyone in the building except for the 21 Huskies on the away bench forgot that this was an NCHC game and there were still 25 minutes of hockey left to be played. Jake Wahlin jumpstarted the Husky rally with a top right corner snipe after a great stretch pass from Kyler Kupka. Denver head coach David Carle did challenge that the play was offside but lost and lost his timeout. Will Hammer added another before the second period was over and what was once a 4-0 Pioneers lead had been quickly halved by the period’s end and SCSU was right back in the game at 4-2.

St. Cloud State picked right up where they left off in the third period and a little more than seven minutes into the final frame, Nick Perbix tallied the proximate goal for the Huskies. The Tampa Bay Lightning prospect took full advantage of poor DU defensive coverage and awareness to give the Huskies hope with 13 minutes left.

After Perbix’s goal, Denver woke back up a bit in both zones and started to press harder and play a lot more like they did in the first 15 minutes of the second period. They got pucks in deep (cliche!) and took advantage of some sloppy Husky plays to generate some good transition scoring chances. However, St. Cloud didn’t go away. Chrona was equal to the task and kept the puck out of the net long enough for Pettersen to tally his second goal of the night with an empty-net tally with 47 seconds left.

The NCHC is the toughest and best conference in the country for a reason and that reason was on full display at Magness Arena on Saturday night. The Huskies are in a down year. They’re sitting in eighth place just a year removed from winning its second straight Penrose Cup, awarded annually to the regular-season conference champion. But none of that mattered when Denver took a 4-0 lead. The Huskies believed they could come back from a four-goal deficit against one of the four best teams in the country and very nearly did so.

In the process of rallying to nearly tie the game, the Huskies may have given the Pioneers their best lesson in what the rest of their season is going to be. Denver has 14 games left and 10 of them are against Omaha, Miami (OH), St. Cloud State, and Colorado College, all teams that are currently in the bottom half of the NCHC standings. No matter the points gap, the rankings gap, or Pairwise gap between Denver and their opposition, no lead is safe. Not even 4-0 with 5 minutes left in the second period against the eighth-place team.


Postgame Comments

David Carle:

Tyler Ward:

3 thoughts on “Pioneers hold off Huskies to break out brooms and extend winning streak to 6”

  1. Nick pegged it. This was typical NCHC meatgrinder midseason hockey. Be very happy with DU winning 4 or 5 out of six periods on the weekend, and getting the sweep.

    This kind of game prepares a team for postseason hockey.

  2. I give this win to David Carle and his staff. So easy to let up after a big Friday night win. It takes strong leadership to keep the effort level high on Saturday. Good teams win games they should win. Thrilled with a sweep.

  3. Wild game last night. Give St. Cloud a lot of credit. After looking outmatched for long stretches on Friday night and being down 4-0 last night in the second, they showed a lot of moxie, pushing back and responding to make it a 4-3 contest. I’m sure most fans were feeling pretty good and confident after Pettersen made it 4-0. A few minutes later it’s 4-2, and then a lot of anxious moments in the 3rd after the lead was cut to 4-3. DU hung on, but it wasn’t easy.

    SOGs were about even last night. Quite a difference from Friday’s game when DU piled up nearly 50.

    It’s a good lesson, as DU now hits the road two weekends in row, Omaha and then Miami. On paper at least, those series appear very winnable, but as we all know, there are no easy weekends in this conference.

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