McKade Webster’s Shootout Heroics Give Pioneers Extra Point in 3-3 Tie with Western Michigan

No game in the first 10 games of any season is a must-win game for any team. Even for the #8 Denver Pioneers (3-5-1, 12 pts) who came off of a demoralizing 3-0 shutout loss against Miami just two nights ago, no game this early is a must-win game. But given everything that DU has gone through so far in the Pod, you’d be forgiven for feeling like this afternoon’s game against the Western MichiganΒ  Broncos (2-6-2, 8 pts) was one. Staring down the barrel of a 3-5-0 record, it certainly felt like the Pioneers needed a victory immediately to get things back on track. And they got one…kind of…as they tied the Broncos 3-3 and took the extra NCHC standings point in the shootout.

It wasn’t the start to the game that head coach David Carle and his Pioneers wanted, though. The result was positive but the path to get there was fraught with Bronco-shaped obstacles and Pioneer-shaped inconsistencies throughout and they were both on full display on the first goal of the game less than three minutes in. Paul Washe and Luke Grainger were the beneficiaries of lackadaisical neutral zone coverage and a complete lack of a backcheck from the Pioneers and they easily connected on a two-on-one, backdoor goal to beat DU’s Corbin Kaczperski who was making his second start of the Pod.

If nothing else, though, WMU’s goal might have woken the Pioneers up as they ended up outshooting the Broncos 16-7 in the opening period. Unfortunately for the Pioneers, they were facing an upset-minded goaltender in Austin Cain who turned away each of DU’s first-period shots. But for all the momentum DU built by the first intermission, it was squandered just 13 seconds into the second period when Ronnie Attard beat Kaczperski after a one-timer from the right circle to make it 2-0 Broncos.

The Pioneers didn’t go away, though. Those periodic flashes of brilliance finally translated into goals as Brett Edwards and McKade Webster both scored in the first half of the second period to even the game at two goals apiece and end DU’s four-period goalless streak. As great as those flashes of brilliance were, they were once again immediately followed by periods of inconsistency and bad mistakes. Just 28 seconds after tying the game, freshman Connor Caponi took a hooking penalty to give the Broncos the opportunity to seize the momentum back and eventually retake the lead before the second intermission. DU did kill off Caponi’s penalty but Hank Crone took a slashing penalty that perpetuated the problems that started building with Caponi’s penalty and it was on Crone’s penalty that the Broncos were able to make it 3-2 on a hard-nosed goal from Drew Worrad in the middle of a mass of humanity in front of Kaczperski.

Once again, DU didn’t go away. They kept peppering Cain – the Pioneers won the shot battle 49-20 – and kept the pressure going in the third period when Cole Guttman finally tied the game less than five minutes into the period when Webster found him back door where he was able to find twine with a wide-open net to shoot at. Guttman’s goal made it 3-3 and the Pioneers kept dominating for the final 15 minutes of regulation. Cain kept the Pioneers at bay, though, and almost singlehandedly forced overtime and then the shootout, where McKade Webster scored again in the third and final round to earn DU the extra NCHC point.

The result is positive. The Pioneers added points to their total. But this game was a perfect encapsulation of what the Pod has been so far. They’ve won some games, they’ve lost close ones, and were thoroughly outplayed in others. in all, DU seems to still be searching for its identity nine games into the season. The high-end talent is there. The effort is usually there. But the results haven’t come. It has a lot to do with inconsistency but as Carle noted in his postgame press conference (below), some of it is also luck – DU has yet to score on a single breakaway and they’ve had double-digit looks on such plays. But this is Denver Hockey. 3-5-1 is not an acceptable record for such a storied, proud program. The hole that they dug themselves in the first three games of the season is still just as big the only difference is there are fewer games left to dig themselves out. The season is young but the clock is always ticking. A shootout win/tie is positive but it’s not enough.

Postgame Press Conference


Top photo courtesy of Denver Athletics

5 thoughts on “McKade Webster’s Shootout Heroics Give Pioneers Extra Point in 3-3 Tie with Western Michigan”

  1. Poppycock. This wasn’t about luck or refs or being unstoppable. This is about a DU team that is struggling to put a complete game together and really hurt itself with low energy period starts in the first and second, and took stupid penalties that allowed WMU to take the lead 3-2.

    DU did more than enough to win this game outright in terms of shots and offensive dominance (they deserved more than the tie they got) but they also have themselves to blame for creating conditions that led to the tie with some negligent sleepwalking early in the first and early in the second.

    DU was also held back for the tie by fabulous goaltending from Cain, as well as taking some pretty stupid penalties, especially Crone’s slash in the offensive zone, which led to Western’s third goal on the PP. Crone had just made a great play outracing the d-man to negate the icing, and then put WMU on the PP by being stupid in the offensive zone.

    Finally, DU’s finishing still leaves a lot to be desired. When you get 49 shots and only score three, you are not shooting well enough…

  2. Swami calls it like he sees it. This has nothing to do with the refs. The team is struggling all around and it’s sad to watch.

  3. Hugh sigh of relief. I didn’t know what to expect after Thursday’s debacle against Miami. In this weird up-and-down season, DU’s confidence appears to be lacking, and we just don’t know yet who this team is and what their identity is. A fragile state of affairs of sorts. I just kept cringing, as DU was down in this game on several occasions, and given the way things have gone this season, I sort of expected the worst. But overall, the Pios were really good. Lots of shots, offensive pressure and puck possession, and had WMU chasing quite a bit. Even with that, DU still had to claw back, force OT, and then thankfully won the shootout.

    I rarely endorse taking penalties, but I liked Edwards’ penalty. It’s nice to see a DU player knocking someone from the other team on their ass for a change. Typically it’s a Pioneer player on the ice or falling down along the boards while battling for the puck.

    Last game in the Pod this afternoon against St. Cloud. It sure would be nice to get a W and put Omaha in the rearview mirror.

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