Denver Melts Down, Gags-Up a 5-4 OT Loss to Omaha

Denver’s Justin Lee had two goals in DU’s 5-4 loss to Omaha. Photo: Brittany Evans

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

11 thoughts on “Denver Melts Down, Gags-Up a 5-4 OT Loss to Omaha”

  1. When DU looks back on this relative train wreck of a season, this is was the game that will be the fatal turning point. Yes, they pissed away the sweep. But they also probably pissed away home ice, too. Something is rotten in Denmark…

  2. I’ve spent the season listening to “DU is far better than its record.” Announcers said it again last night. But they are not. They are an average team. Not horrid, but not playoff material. They are not a good team this year. They have played 18 games. They are what they are, a 7-10-1 team.

  3. The fact that DU has beaten a loaded North Dakota team twice this year would lead you to believe that this DU team is talented enough to be a top four team in the NCHC. But as Chase points out, DU is 7-10-1.

    The reality is that all the top programs have down years from time to time, even recently. North Dakota missed the NCAAs in 2019 and 2018. BC went 14-22-3 in 2018. And Michigan went 13-17-7 in 2019.

    Perhaps the Pioneers were due for a down year…

    We are very, very spoiled as Pio fans with the Tenzer streak of 20 win seasons and NCAA appearances each year dating back to 2008 under three different coaches.

    The reality is while Denver has some good talent this year, the excruciating losses have come about largely because the DU goaltending this year is well below average. There are also some leadership issues, chemistry issues, coaching issues and character issues on this team too, but all of those would probably be covered if the DU goalies could save 91-92% of the shots on goal. But they haven’t. And DU is a fifth place team. You just won’t win many games when your goalie lets in five goals in any league, and in a league like the NCHC, bad goaltending will keep you buried…

  4. Swami is right…. DU’s Achilles Heal this season is goaltending.
    Yes, there are other weaknesses at times (Scoring, Faceoffs, Bad Penalties, Poor Power Play, Etc.). However, good goaltending would go a long way to making these other issues frustrating annoyances…and perhaps given DU 5 or 6 more wins.

  5. Brutal, but given the way this season has played out, not altogether surprising. As the 3rd period began I was cautiously optimistic that the Pios would be able to close this one out and finally sweep an opponent. But there was a huge shift in momentum, UNO took control, and DU had no answers. It was sad to watch as a Pioneer fan. Felt like a tidal wave coming and no one could get out of the way.

    Give credit to the Mavericks–they were thoroughly outplayed in the first two periods but came back with a vengeance. Definitely a character win for them.

    In terms of this 2020-21 squad, I’m not sure what to say that hasn’t already been said. This team continues to be plagued by a myriad of issues, most notably goaltending. There are lots of good pieces and certainly enough talent, but very little has gelled. At 7-10-1, this team isn’t great, isn’t even good. It’s mediocre at best.

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