First Sweep Eludes Pioneers as Omaha Finally Breaks 19-game Winless Streak Against Denver

Inconsistency has been the single biggest theme of the season for the #19 Denver Pioneers (6-9-1, 21 pts). Through 16 games, the Pios have won consecutive games just once, against North Dakota and then against Miami in December at the Pod in Omaha. Since then, they have struggled to string together sustained stretches of good, dominant hockey. Denver is playing .500 hockey with three wins and three losses in six games in 2021, all coming in series splits against Colorado College, North Dakota, and now, thanks to a 5-2 loss in the second game of this weekend’s series, #11 Omaha (9-4-1, 27 pts). Tonight’s loss ended a six-year, 19-game stretch that saw Denver go 16-0-3 against Omaha.

All season long, the Pioneers have been plagued by their own inability to build on positive outcomes. They’ve shown flashes of elite hockey but they’ve been completely unable to sustain it beyond a single game and it’s manifesting itself in very specific, high-risk areas. Last night, for example, Denver won the faceoff battle but tonight, they were dominated by Omaha 42-18. Last night, Corbin Kaczperski stopped 23 of 24 shots to keep Omaha from making it a game. Tonight, he gave up four goals on just 28 shots. And finally, last night, the penalty kill went 4-for-5 with a shorthanded goal but gave up two power-play goals on four chances tonight. The Pioneers have been playing inconsistent hockey and they’re getting punished for it.

Omaha opened the scoring in the first period on a breakaway goal from Jimmy Glynn that was the product of poor neutral zone defense by the Pioneers. Denver’s Slava Demin tied it up in the second period but Omaha’s Taylor Ward responded quickly and the Mavericks never looked back. Omaha made it a 3-1 game early in the second and despite Hank Crone’s response, Omaha denied any hope for a DU comeback less than 40 seconds later on Ward’s second goal to make it 4-2. One empty-net goal in the final minute later, it was 5-2 and the streak was over.

Not a single phase of Denver’s game tonight was at the level that it was a night ago and if it feels like we’re a broken record, it’s because these problems are showing themselves over and over again for the Pioneers. They outshot the Mavericks 44-29 but were only able to score two goals. The power play didn’t score again – it’s now four straight games without a power-play goal – and the Pioneers couldn’t finish on their numerous chances. The problems Denver faces in these games are not new problems. They’re problems that have been diagnosed and re-diagnosed multiple times throughout the season. They just haven’t been fixed.

Denver will face Colorado College next weekend, back to a traditional Friday-Saturday series,Β  in Colorado Springs – these are the games that were rescheduled from January 8th and 9th – with another chance to string together two consecutive good games. The Tigers were swept again by North Dakota this weekend in 4-1 and 5-0 games.

David Carle Postgame Interview


Top photo courtesy of Omaha Athletics

10 thoughts on “First Sweep Eludes Pioneers as Omaha Finally Breaks 19-game Winless Streak Against Denver”

  1. I found Carle’s post-game tone more than a little puzzling tonight. He seemed to imply that he was generally happy with the team’s play, with 40+ shots, and not finishing their chances was the reason why they lost. He may just covering for his guys, but DU problems are much deeper than just goalscoring/finishing.

    The team is 6-9-1, folks. 6-9-1.

    The reality is that DU’s goaltending, penalty killing, and face-offs are all ranked firmly in the lower echelons of NCAA Hockey this year, their power play has gone silent in the last four games and when you put those weaknesses out there with sporadic effort levels at times, you can see why the team is 6-9-1 hockey team. He’s right when he says that playing .500 the rest of the way won’t get it done this year, and I think we are seeing a DU team that just does not seem to be able to win on any kind of consistent basis. An NCAA at-large bid possibility is slipping away quickly and I think we’re now at the point where the only way DU may reach the NCAAs if they can win the NCHC tournament auto bid.

    This season has been a downer for DU fans who are used to a much higher standard of play from the Pioneers in recent years, and we’ve been spoiled by consistency of making it to the dance in every year since 2008.

  2. Unless the Pios win out the rest of the season,including the NCHC playoffs, NCAA Regionals, and the Frozen Four, the Tenzer streak will end. But if they do win out , it’s the 9th National Championship. And the Tenzer streak continues..

    (I’m not holding my breath.)

  3. David Carle’s comments are indeed puzzling. I believe some of the blame lays at the feet of the coaching staff and even the team leadership.

  4. The unfortunate reality is this: 2/3 of the regular season is over, and this team is 6-9-1 and doesn’t appear any closer to being a finished product than it did in the Pod. The team has been off from day 1 and at this point appears poised to finish with a losing record. When is the last time that happened??

    It’s year 3 of Carle’s tenure and this team has regressed significantly. It’s very odd. I would love to be able to peel back the layers and understand why. Is it confidence? Chemistry? A lack of leadership/accountability? Is Carle’s message getting stale? Something COVID-related that we don’t know about? Was the program simply due for a reset, sort of like a stock market correction? Even Duke basketball is struggling, so maybe there is something in the air. I don’t know……it’s just a weird season.

  5. Last time I checked, COVID wasn’t just isolated to DU. I think DC is quickly running out of excuses. The talent appears to be there. There is no consistency, no sense of urgency and no direction. Certainly not a recipe for a winning program. The best this program can hope for this year is to reach .500. That may be a lofty goal based on past performances. With the basketball program in the tank, hockey struggling and lacrosse an unknown, it may be time to start looking at the AD. Just saying.

  6. Underperformance is a team wide issue and everyone shares the blame when things don’t go well. There may well be factors that we can’t see here in fan world that are contributing to the Pioneer regression, as Twister points out. Teams don’t like to be criticized by anyone, but at this level, it comes with the territory.

    It seems pretty clear, at least to me, that the largest factor holding DU back is the poor goaltending, which is where the team dysfunction stems from. Chrona was a fine goalie last year, and is struggling this year, while Kaczperski has never seen a steady diet of quality NCHC shooters before, as his good Yale numbers/experience have not yet really translated to Denver at a consistent level. Carle really can’t call out his goalies in public (nor should he), but it is all right there on the stat sheet for all to see. If DU had its normal level of .920 svs pct goaltending, instead of the sub-.900 goaltending it has right now, I think DU’s record would have at least 3-5 more wins (and 3-5 less losses), and DU would be very much back in the NCHC race. Good goaltending can cover a multitude of sins, and as I’ve said before, it’s a huge team confidence sapper when your goalie gives up softies. DU’s poor PK numbers are also an outgrowth of poor goaltending, as your goalie is your best penalty killer. DU’s PK numbers won’t move up unless or until the goaltending does.

    The face-off losses are harder to fathom. DU has had great face off guys like Tyson McLellan and Matt Marcinew in recent years, but no one has stepped into that role this year, and that is on the coaches for either not recruiting well enough or not developing that skill in the guys they have. You can’t be a puck possession team when you are chasing the puck, and those lost possessions are leading to higher shot totals by opponents and more goals for opponents.

    I think Twister is also certainly right to question the leadership, when team effort levels and team discipline have also been more sporadic this year. I find it really hard to stomach when seniors, who should know better, take poor penalties — as that sets a poor example and undermines the messages they send to rest of the team. And coaches are responsible for inspiring the guys, and we’ve seen a fair amount of flat play this year when the feet aren’t moving.

    Carle is a young coach and there is a learning curve to be expected. You can drive someone else’s Ferrari for a year or two, but eventually, the replenishment and repairs of a fine-tuned hockey team are your reponsibility. I hope to see him take more more ownership of this team and his program for those areas where DU is not meeting its own high standards. All great programs have tough years from time to time, including BC, Michigan, North Dakota, Minnesota and BU. Perhaps DU was due for one, but this isn’t over yet, and there is talent enough on this team to still be a factor, if they can stop the bleeding…It is a weird year with Covid, but it does not seem to be affecting the other good programs much.

    The Tenzer streak of 20 win seasons and NCAA appearances feels almost automatic at DU, and perhaps we take that for granted as fans. There are a lot of other programs working their asses off, and perhaps this current adversity will hopefully lead to better days ahead for the Pios..

  7. On top of all the other possible reasons for this season’s struggles…. DU’s team chemistry may also be lacking.

  8. This year is over. Average goal tending loses the clutch games that make the difference. That is what we have –so so goal tending.

    Lets hope that Dave has his recruiting hat on for an above average G.T. for next year.

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