It was a game that has encapsulated Denver’s entire season to this point – a lot of solid Denver hockey played, but ending in a embarrassing result, as the Denver Pioneers played well for the first 45 minutes but gagged-up a two-goal, third-period lead and fell to the Omaha Mavericks, 5-4 in overtime in a gut-wrenching loss that may have major implications for the Pioneers’ now-slim home ice playoff hopes.
DU coach David Carle said it best after the game: “The way we lost the hockey game was not good enough. It was embarrassing.”
Carle also said “It was a great first two periods, then we really got away from what gave us success. Give [Omaha] credit. They pushed in the third and made us uncomfortable.”
Indeed, on a Saturday night at Magness Arena everything was going well for the Pioneers, as the fifth-place Denver Pioneers (7-10-1) were cruising in full control of the game, up 4-2 with just 12 minutes remaining for a sweep of the #9th ranked Omaha Mavericks.
And then the wheels fell off the Pioneer train in the third period as the Mavericks erupted for three unanswered goals, forcing DU’s fourth straight split series and making a late season DU run to a home ice playoff spot a very difficult proposition with only a handful of games remaining in the regular season.
It was Omaha’s first win at Magness since 2013, and the final two Maverick goals had Colorado connections. Colorado Avalanche draft pick Tyler Weiss batted in his own rebound in the crease just 1:43 into overtime for the game-winner. Former Pioneer Kevin Conley, now captain of the Mavericks, had forced the OT by beating DU netminder Corbin Kaczperski from 15 feet out to tie the game at 4-4 with 8:13 left in the third. And UNO’s Nate Kneopke’s long shot goal through traffic had started the Omaha third-period rally, cutting the DU lead to 4-3 with about 12 minutes left in the third period.
The second period was almost all Denver, as DU’s Bobby Brink had put the Pioneers up 4-2 with 18 seconds left in the second period, converting a perfect 2-on-1 saucer pass from Cole Guttman into the open side of the Omaha net past the sliding UNO goalie, Isaiah Saville. Justin Lee had a pair of DU goals earlier in the frame, one a long wrist shot from the point that beat Saville just under the crossbar to send DU up 3-2, and the his first of the game a quick-release wristshot beat Saville shortside from the top of the face-off circle at 3:25 of the second.
Omaha had went up 2-1 when Johnny Tychonick scored a 35-foot wrist shot that beat Kaczperski through a screen just after the Omaha power play had expired, just 1:35 into the second period.
In the first period, the Pioneers got off to a dream start, as snakebit fourth-line grad transfer Steven Jandric finally scored a goal for the Pioneers, burying a nifty cross-ice feed from Jake Durflinger just 26 seconds into the game to send the Pioneers up, 1-0.
But that Denver first-period lead only lasted 59 seconds, as Omaha’s Tyler Ward leveled the score from 20 feet out on a wobbling wrist shot the beat DU goaltender Corbin Kaczperski over the shoulder after a face-off win and quick pass from Chayse Primeau.
DU outshot Omaha in the contest, 36-19.
DU now heads to Grand Forks, N.D. for a series with the rival North Dakota Fighting Hawks next weekend, Feb. 12-13th.
David Carle Postgame