Pioneers ride dominant second period to 3-0-1 record vs. Tigers, NCHC third seed on Senior Night

DENVER – There may not have been much to play for in the fourth and final game between the #6 Denver Pioneers (21-9-6, 11-8-5-4) and the Colorado College Tigers (11-20-3, 4-17-3-1), but apparently that message never reached DU’s -locker room. With the Gold Pan clinched thanks to a 2-2 tie in Colorado Springs last night, all that was left for Denver to play for in the final game of the regular season was seeding for the NCHC Tournament. That motivation was plenty enough for Denver to score three times in the second period and twice in the third to coast to a 5-1 victory over the Tigers at Magness Arena on Saturday night. The win clinched an unbeaten 3-0-1 record against their archrivals to the south and vaulted them over Western Michigan – the Broncos beat Miami handily again earlier in the evening – into third place. With the #3 seed, Denver will host #6 Omaha next weekend.

The Pioneers have a tradition at home, starting this year, of frequently spotting the opposition an opening goal before bearing down and demolishing the other team. Most recently, it happened against Miami in game one two weeks ago and somehow, it has become a harbinger of success. Tonight, it was Tigers senior Nick Halloran – he later left the game with a lower-body injury – who benefited from this tradition as Denver lost track of him during a line change at the 4:29 mark of the opening period and he coasted to a backhand breakaway goal to give the road team an early lead.

Denver, to their credit, didn’t let the goal become anything more than a blip on the radar as they continued peppering CC goaltender, tallying 14 shots in the period but didn’t have any goals to show for it. It was no matter for the Pioneers, though, as they opened the second period looking like a team with a renewed sense of purpose. The Pios netted a special trifecta of goals, scoring a power-play goal, an even-strength goal, and a short-handed goal, scored by Emilio Pettersen, Michael Davies – his first goal of the season, scored on his Senior Night, no less – and Ryan Barrow, respectively. Denver’s three-goal outburst in the middle frame – after getting held down once again by an upstart goaltender in freshman Matt Vernon in the first period – was the culmination of 40 minutes of hockey that Denver utterly dominated. By the end of the second period, Denver led shot attempts 61-22.

Hank Crone and Cole Guttman each added backdoor goals in the third period for good measure and avoid a repeat performance of last night’s blown two-goal lead in the final minutes of the game and clinch the 5-1 victory. 12 different Pioneers recorded a point by the time the final buzzer sounded and clinched the blowout. As a result of the victory, Denver finished the season in third place in the NCHC standings and will host the Omaha Mavericks in the best-of-three first-round series next weekend.

The Pioneers did not host the Mavs this year but did travel to Omaha for a two-game series at the end of January, near the end of Denver’s midseason 11-game unbeaten streak. The Pioneers played well in both games, outshooting the Mavericks 56-51 in total and dominating long stretches of both games, but left Omaha with just two ties. Those two ties, however, did extend their unbeaten streak against UNO to 18 games at 15-0-3.

Earning 5 of 6 points against CC will no doubt serve as a confidence boost for the Pioneers as they enter the postseason next weekend. DU ended the season 20-2-4 against teams not named North Dakota, Minnesota Duluth, or Western Michigan and that should give DU fans plenty of confidence entering next weekend’s series against Omaha.

But in the playoffs, those regular season stats don’t matter. Yes, winning back the Gold Pan this weekend was great. Clinching a 3-0-1 record against the Tigers is sweet. But none of that matters now as the postseason has arrived. Denver must turn the page on a successful regular season and kick their game into high gear if they’re going to accomplish what they set out to do at the beginning of October – win a 9th national championship. That journey starts by winning two games next weekend against the Mavs.


Postgame Comments

Michael Davies:

David Carle:

Top photo courtesy of Shannon Valerio/Denver Athletics

14 thoughts on “Pioneers ride dominant second period to 3-0-1 record vs. Tigers, NCHC third seed on Senior Night”

  1. That’s more like it, dominant puck possession, dominant shots on goal, better skill, plus actual GOALS. Nice screen by Olishevski on the first, awesome play by Davies and Durflinger on their goal. Really hope this game is a building block, and not an aberration against a lesser skilled team.

    Where is the gold pan? It would have been nice to show that to the crowd. I mean, we can be all snotty about our preferred trophy, but still… (Watched on TV, maybe they showed it live?)

    Always a pleasure to hear Starman do a call. As to his partner…blah, needs to step up his game.

    1. Starman and Sharee are the best. Liked his comment he got from NHL GM that although very talented, ND may not be ready for the the bright lights.

  2. Pios got the job done and sent the SRO crowd of 6500 home happy after beating CC like a rented mule…

    Can’t wait to see Bobby Brink return to the lineup against Omaha.

  3. Pioneer fans have to be pleased that DU took over the game in the second period and never looked back. I’d like to see DU and CC figure out a more uniform protocol for awarding the Gold Pan Trophy so that home fans get a chance to see the thing and reward their team without showing up the other side.

    Overall, the Pioneers are now in a good place for a playoff run, and may have an opportunity to make a run at a top 4 NCAA seed if they can do some damage in the NCHC Tourney.

    With all the good news, I think the one thing that has to stick in the back of every Pioneer fans mind a bit is DU’s propensity for poor starts. Now that we’re moving into playoff territory, a poor start can kill your season, as opponents play lock-down defense at this time of year. I am hoping the DU coaches and captains can figure out a way to get DU’s best effort right out of the chute.

  4. That was fun. After tying things up, the Pios hit the gas and never looked back. CC had no answers and was clearly overmatched.

    Hard to believe the regular season is over. Went by in a blur. Time to turn the page and get ready for the postseason.

  5. Let’s not get too caught up in an easy victory over cellar-dwelling CC. We’re tough on lower division clubs, but we’re 0-6-2 vs Soosies and Dawgs. Next week will be the last tomato can DU will play this season, after that, all legitimate contenders. We need to step up to a playoff hockey level (which includes the very start of a game) or else we will be a quick out.

  6. So….is it looking pretty sure that we will be playing in the Loveland regional, regardless of whether we are a 1 or 2 (or 3) seed? If so, does anyone know whether DU will be getting an allotment of tickets that they will be selling to the public? The only tickets that I have seen online are on Stubhub.

    1. They sent e-mails to season ticket holders several weeks ago. You could buy seats before the general public. Got a couple on the glass. Hope to see you there!

      1. Gotcha, thanks! For some reason, I wasn’t too excited about the location when I first heard about it. I’m getting more excited about it, though, as we’re getting closer to the event. Got me thinking–was the last time that DU played in a regional in Colorado, the rather miraculous win vs. North Dakota in Colorado Springs in 2004?

  7. DU sent out season tickets renewals this week. The price of my seats (Section 18 Row 1) went up 44%! I talked to my ticket rep last night. I told him a 44% increase is ridiculous, and a poor way to treat a 34 year season ticket holder. His response, “It’s supply and demand.”

    Glad to see they care about a long time fan.

  8. That sucks, Scott W. But longtime fandom won’t protect you from across-the-board increases. I’ve been surprised at how strong DU’s attendance has been this year. People are talking about how bad Minnesota’s attendance was the other night, and CC is going to a 2,000 person arena. But DU seems to be pulling in close to 6K for most games. Good for DU, but bad for ticket prices, I suppose. Overall, I’d rather see price increases and healthy attendance, than price decreases and an empty arena. (Ask me if I still agree with that if I end up buying season tix next year…)

  9. We should be fine in the tournament. Lots of NCAA tournament experience on our roster and in our coaching staff. Slightly concerned we didn’t fare too well against top NCHC teams. We did sweep BC and MASS, but BC Is much better now.

  10. I don’t completely buy the supply and demand excuse.

    Hockey is generating revenue to subsidize the lame basketball program nobody wants to attend.

  11. Not really. DU’s athletic budget is about $35 million, and hockey might generate $3-4 million in revenue and a million or two in profit each year. All other programs cost more than they generate and that’s ok, as only a very few D-I sports programs can pay for themselves and throw profit back to the university, Most of DU the basketball budget comes from DU tuition (70+% of overall DU revenue comes from student families), not from hockey revenue…

    That said, the athletic budgets are tight. DU didn’t send the band or cheerleaders to Sioux Falls this year, which they have done in most years…

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