Pioneers Bounce Back with 3-2 Victory over Western Michigan Broncos

The #8 Denver Pioneers (3-4-0, 10 pts) continue to learn and grow throughout the Pod. After erasing the memory of their season-opening three-game losing streak, they wanted to erase another loss from their memories, this time a 4-1 loss to Minnesota Duluth. Thanks to a strong performance from Yale transfer goaltender Corbin Kaczperski and a stifling presence in the defensive zone, DU bounced back from that loss with a 3-2 victory over the Western Michigan Broncos (2-5-1, 7 pts).

Kaczperski made his first start – second appearance – as a Pioneer and was a strong, calming presence for a DU team that had been searching for that in the crease. It was all the more impressive that he did it in a game where he only saw 14 shots, something that is always a challenge for goaltenders. While he did give up a couple of goals including one through his five-hole to tie the game early in the third period, he still made key save after key save, especially in the waning minutes of the game when the Broncos had an extra skater on the ice.

The strong performances, though, were not limited to the Denver goalie. Cole Guttman, Kyle Mayhew, and senior captain Kohen Olischefski each potted a goal to keep the Pioneers on the plus-side of the game and keep Western Michigan from building any scoreboard momentum. And while freshman phenom Carter Savoie didn’t find twine, he did contribute an assist to add to his three shots on goal.

Playing the Broncos has never been an easy task for the Pioneers, regardless of what the standings say and today was no exception. Western Michigan has been without its preseason starting goaltender, Brandon Bussi since the first game of the season, but Austin Cain has been stellar in the crease for the Broncos and kept the Pioneers at bay for most of the game. DU outshot the Broncos 26-14, overall a low-shot total for both teams, and the Pioneers were able to generate a number of good scoring chances throughout the game. But Cain was there time and again to keep the Broncos within striking distance.

But ironically enough, it was Cain’s own mistake that gave Olischefski the game-winning goal. Cain attempted to clear the puck past the DU captain and instead gifted the puck to him and all Olischefski had to do was poke the puck past Cain to restore DU’s lead less than two minutes after the Broncos had tied it.

Denver has been a bit of an enigma so far at the Pod. Coming in with sky-high expectations, they’ve run into a few obstacles that have kept them in the middle of the pack in the conference. Between an inability to win faceoffs, untimely poor goaltending, and periodically bad penalty killing, the Pios have yet to get on any kind of roll. Today, however, those problems weren’t at the forefront. DU didn’t win the faceoff battle – they won just 30 of 68 faceoffs (44.1%) – but Kaczperski was strong in the crease and the penalty-killing units were strong, killing off both of WMU’s power plays while generating a few dangerous scoring chances of their own along the way.

With three games left in the Pod against Miami on Thursday night, Western Michigan again on Saturday afternoon, and St. Cloud State on Sunday, the Pioneers have the opportunity to build some momentum heading into the holiday break and leave the Pod with a good taste in their mouths. It’s been a bumpy start to the season for DU, to be sure, but with their third victory under their belts in a scrappy, tough hockey game, the Pioneers will be happy to build on today’s performance heading into Thursday tilt against Miami.

Postgame Press Conference


Top photo courtesy of Denver Athletics

5 thoughts on “Pioneers Bounce Back with 3-2 Victory over Western Michigan Broncos”

  1. This game won’t rank high on anyone’s “Best of 2020” highlight reels, but the Pios were pretty workmanlike and got the job done against a Western program that doesn’t match up very well with a team like DU. The Broncos are big and heavy, and when they do get offensive zone time, they can be hard to handle down low for a team like DU. Western also schooled us on face-offs, and Washe played his usual excellent game against Denver.

    Additionally, I thought Kaczperski was ok, rather than strong. Western had only 11 SOG heading into the final four minutes, and they scored on two of those 11 shots. Both of those shots beat Kaczperski cleanly, and one was through his five-hole, which I am sure he’d like to have back…

    I liked Guttman’s play up front, Savoie had lots of chances and Olichefski and Barrow were strong enough to make plays, too. None of DU’s goals were all that pretty, but getting some greasy ones is good sign. It means that DU got to the hard areas, as all three DI goals were scored near the crease.

    A win is always something to build on, and the Pios need to pile up some points to maintain their relevance.

  2. Time to go with Caruso! If there is any consistency in commenting around here! I mean, good lord, all the clamoring for an average ECAC goalie?? Come on…he was average in a conference that is a couple notches below the NCHC. The best that can be hoped for from the Yale transfer is a spot start and some cleanup minutes. Get a grip, if this DU team is going anywhere it is with Chrona as the goalie.

  3. I was pretty happy with .920 saves percentage Chrona of last year, but I am not loving the .896 Chrona we’ve seen so far this year… He needs to pick up his game if DU is to contend. He knows it and the coaches know it. He needs to find his groove, and there will be a lot of chances to improve…

    That said, DU’s goaltending is not the only thing that needs drastic improvement. DU needs to really improve it’s 72% PK and 43% face-off win percentage if the Pios want to be an elite team this year. Those stat deficiencies are a big feeder to DU’s goaltending struggles…

    I think DU made some better strides from a discipline perspective – no stick penalties, and no really dumb mistakes like too many men, unsportsmanlike or CFB calls yesterday. Keep that up, boys.

    Hopefully, DU gets Benning back soon. He is a big part of DU’s early PP strength…

  4. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but I think this was a pivotal game for DU and an extremely important win. DU had to grind this one out against a tough WMU team. The Broncos don’t have a lot of the top end talent, and they are down in the standings this year, but they are no joke. Big and physical, with a north-south approach, they can present some real challenges. I like that DU played smart, disciplined hockey, limited WMU’s chances, and competed hard in traffic.

    DU has a chance to get to .500 tomorrow against Miami. Another very important game.

    In terms of goaltending, Chrona would most certainly appear to be the guy, but he sure as hell hasn’t played like it to this point. I think we are all waiting for him to seize the reins and establish himself as an elite goaltender. He had a really good year last year. He’s now in his 2nd year in the program. He should be progressing and be a better version of what he was last year. Instead, through the early part of this season, he’s regressed. Teams with mediocre goaltending end up being just that–mediocre. Hopefully he can turn things around.

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