#18 Denver Delivers its Best Performance of Year in 4-1 Drubbing of #2 North Dakota

We have waxed poetic over the years about what it means when Denver and North Dakota hit the ice against each other. Long rivalry, 16 combined national championships, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. These two rivals have treated us to so many tight, action-packed, close hockey games over the past seven decades but tonight, the #18 Denver Pioneers (5-7-1, 18 pts) threw all of that out the window. The #2 North Dakota Fighting Hawks (9-3-1, 26 pts) were nothing more than a minor obstacle in DU’s path as they routed the Hawks 4-1 in David Carle’s 50th career victory as head coach on a chilly January Sunday night at Magness Arena.

Denver has struggled to maintain any level of consistency this year, especially at even strength. Their special teams, the power play specifically, have offered DU a strong foundation through the first half of the season but at 5-on-5, the Pioneers have largely been outplayed. They’ve been outplayed at even strength, that is, until two weeks ago when Denver turned the tables and dominated their other rival, the Colorado College Tigers, 6-1 at Magness Arena. Denver scored four even-strength goals, three in the third period, en route to their biggest win of the season to that point.

Now, fast-forward two weeks, a stretch where the Pioneers were unable to play any live hockey games due to the NCHC’s Covid-19 protocols, DU built on that performance against the Tigers and skated UND out of the building from the jump. Denver outscored North Dakota, Denver outskated North Dakota, and Denver outworked North Dakota. It was a clinic-type game for the Pioneers who are hoping these past two games serve as a kind of spring-board into the stretch run of the season.

What made the Pioneers so effective and lethal against the Fighting Hawks, though, was the fact that DU was able to roll all four lines throughout the game. As a result, the Pios boasted four different goal-scorers – Ryan Barrow, Reid Irwin, Jake Durflinger, and Justin Lee – while 10 different players tallied at least a point. That’s the kind of depth of scoring that Denver had been planning to lean on coming into the season.

Make no mistake, though, North Dakota very easily could have made this a game at various points but Magnus Chrona – recipient of various amounts of ire in the comment section of this blog – was there every single time as he stopped 28 of 29 UND shots. It was a performance that North Dakota’s counterpart, Adam Scheel, could not remotely match as UND head coach Brad Berry pulled him in favor of Peter Thome to start the third period.

This victory was, without a doubt, DU’s best game to this point in the season.  They played a complete 60 minutes of relentless hockey and didn’t let North Dakota breathe. Now the task is to do this all over again tomorrow night and keep the momentum going. Denver and North Dakota return to the ice at Magness Arena on Monday night at 7:07 and it will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.

David Carle Postgame


Top photo: Mark Kuhlmann, The NCHC

3 thoughts on “#18 Denver Delivers its Best Performance of Year in 4-1 Drubbing of #2 North Dakota”

  1. Was this the same DU team we saw in the Pod? What a great effort for all 3 periods. Another similar performance tomorrow could put us back into the NCAA tournament conversation.

    Congratulations to DC on besting Monty’s run to put 50 wins on the board!

  2. There is no pairwise this year, due to the lack of non league play so no league is guaranteed 4 or 5 slots in the NCAAs. To make the NCAA tourney, DU will need to win the NCHC tourney for an auto bid or probably be top 3 in the league to ensure a berth. The team that finishes 4-5 in the league are bubble teams at best.

  3. That was a superb Denver effort from the drop of the puck. Haven’t seen the Pios be that physical in a long, long time and that jump and physicality opened the 5-on-5 spaces for DU to get depth scoring up and down the lineup, with all four DU goals coming from hard-working, undrafted players (Barrow, Irwin, Durflinger and Lee). Chrona was also fortunately dialed-in on his game, slamming the door when UND made its biggest pushes in the second and third periods.

    The DU fourth line set the tone, and UND could not match it. Durflinger and Caponi really kept the Fighting Hawks off balance. DU also blocked a lot of shots last night, which makes goalies and coaches happy to see that high level of commitment.

    As good as DU was for 50 of the 60 minutes, I think the Fighting Hawks came out flat, which is unusual for that program against the Pioneers. I fully expect North Dakota to be in a full, snarly mood in tonight’s rematch. DU took a lot of penalties last night and they can’t do that again and expect not to pay for it. I am sure that will be a point of emphasis in the pregame meeting.

    By the way, DU has clearly adjusted the PK to take advantage of its team speed up top to be more aggressive, and it was really excellent last night.

    This DU team is as good as it wants to be when the Pios play with jump, passion and commitment, and will be a factor in the NCHC if they can play this way for the next 6 weeks.

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