Pioneers’ Nightmare Start Continues They Fall 4-3 to Huskies

It’s early. There have only been three games played. The #4 Denver Pioneers (0-3-0, 1 pt) have shown flashes of brilliance, especially from their freshmen. But after another closely contested game, this time against the St. Cloud State Huskies (2-0-0, 6 pts), the Pioneers remain winless three games into the season. If there is a silver lining to this, DU, perhaps more than any other team in the NCHC, is proving themselves to be already battle-tested after hotly contested games against Minnesota Duluth, North Dakota, and now St. Cloud State. But silver linings don’t win games. No matter what positives you can take from these three games in the first four days of the Pod, the Crimson & Gold are still 0-3-0.

St. Cloud State, perhaps the most underrated team in the conference, did to Denver what Denver had tried to do to Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota. The Huskies beat the Pioneers with their elite speed and benefitted from top-flight goaltending. SCSU got the scoring started and despite three power-play goals on nine power plays from Carter Savoie and Cole Guttman, the Huskies were able to continue playing their game and dictate play for enough of the game to come away with the victory.

The Pioneers, for their part, once again showed great potential at times. Carter Savoie scored his fourth goal of the season, the power play was productive, scoring on three of their nine chances, and the penalty kill was perfect on the night, killing off each of the three Husky power plays. But it was their play at even strength that hurt the Pioneers most in this game. Missed assignments in the defensive zone, turnovers in all three zones, a lack of emphasis on generating shots, and an inability to win key faceoffs plagued the Pioneers at times against North Dakota and Minnesota Duluth and the most certainly did once again against the Huskies. Even goaltending has been an issue at times with Magnus Chrona giving up a few goals that he would no doubt love to have back. As an aside, Yale transfer Corbin Kaczperski will be officially eligible as of tomorrow and could factor into DU’s game on Tuesday.

And yet, despite the negatives, the Pioneers were still just a shot away from sending the game into overtime with a chance to win it in extra time. That’s been the story of Denver’s Pod experience so far. They’ve played three games and their goal differential is just -3, an indication that DU is right there and could get on a roll at any point in the next game or two.

Denver has played three teams that will factor in in the top half of the NCHC and, more than likely, near the top in the national polls throughout the year. That’s quite the gauntlet to face to start a season. But while there are some positives to take from that, it’s still nothing more than an excuse. Denver is 0-3 in a situation where they had hoped to be 2-1 at worst. If Denver is going to be a contender throughout the year, they’re going to need to win these games.

It’s still just December and the equivalent of early October. The 2017 national title-winning Pioneers started that season 0-2. All hope is not lost by any means. This is a rough way to start off the season, yes. But while overreactions are easy, especially in comment sections, perspective matters more just three games into the season. This is frustrating, yes. But as David Carle said after the game, “We dug ourselves into this hole. We’re going to have to dig ourselves out.”

Postgame Press Conference


Top photo: Denver Athletics

6 thoughts on “Pioneers’ Nightmare Start Continues They Fall 4-3 to Huskies”

  1. The stats don’t paint a pretty picture for the Pios. Not only are we losing on goals scores, but also on faceoffs, shots on goal, blocked shots, and most other categories. It appears that hole is pretty deep…

  2. Tough sledding thus far for this DU team. 3 games played, 3 losses by one goal each. DU has been in every game, had leads in every game, but the overall execution hasn’t been at a high enough level, and here we are. The goaltending needs to be better, even strength play needs to be better, DU needs to protect leads, do a much better job at faceoffs, and DU’s talented forwards need to start producing. I looked at the stats to this point and as a previous poster indicates, the stats are not tilted in DU’s favor. 38% winning faceoffs. Only 2 goals at even strength through 3 games. (I do like the 5 PP goals, though). .879 save percentage. Savoie has obviously been the star thus far with 5 points (4 goals). Otherwise there hasn’t been much to get excited about. Brink has 3 points, Barrow has 0, and there’s a bunch of guys with 1. Need more production from that group, no question.

    Last night was more of the same. Pios had some good sequences, had a lead but couldn’t hold it, Hrenak outplayed Chrona, SCSU got the goals they needed down the stretch, and the PP couldn’t cash in during an extended 5 on 3. Frustrating.

    Have to turn the page quickly, as another game with UND looms on Tuesday. Lots of hockey yet to be played but DU needs a W, and quickly.

  3. DU’s struggles have nothing to do with officiating, folks.

    If you are what your record says you are, the Pioneers are 0-3. Of course, DU has played the cream of the NCHC in the last three games, but for a team that is ranked in the top 5 nationally, 0-3 is an unacceptable record for this program.

    In my view, there are big three reasons why DU is losing games right now:

    1. Goaltending: Right now, Chrona’s saves percentage is .880. That’s way, way below average, and far from acceptable. He was a .920 goalie last year. That is a big drop. He’s not playing with confidence and he’s giving up deflating goals, some of them from long distances. That’s huge reason why DU is 0-3 right now. He’s also giving up goals in the third period, instead of slamming the door. Fanti carried UMD to a win over the Pios when DU was the better team. And Scheels and Hrenak made the big saves when Chrona didn’t, propelling UND and SCSU to victory, respectively. DU is going to need better goaltending, period.

    2. Face-off issues: The Pioneers are getting schooled in the face-off circle right now, with a season win percentage of 38%! Teams are getting extended O-zone time on DU right now because they are dominating the face-off circle, and winning more than their share of puck battles down low with physical size advantages. And in DU’s own offensive zone time has been limited by inability to gain puck possession after the face-off. That’s why DU’s 5 on 5 goals are so rare so far. Carle has to find a way to fix the face-off issues, or the Pioneers will continue to struggle.

    3. Mental Toughness: Giving up leads has been a problem in all three games. I think a lot of it has to do with Chrona’s struggles leading to a lack of confidence in team play, coupled with the natural mental deflation that comes from chasing the puck instead of owning the puck. But some of it also comes from not playing smart hockey in the big moments, leading to turnovers or dumb penalties by players who should know better.

    All three issues need to improve if DU plans to win games this year.

  4. Yikes, 0-3, I don’t remember the last time we started 0-3. Silver lining is that it’s against the best competition, and they are all super close games. But I’m used to DU starting the season with a ton of wins in the win column, and then kind of coasting the rest of the season. This season will be much different, maybe it will allow DU to peak at the end of the season?

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