Bo Hanson’s First DU Goal Lifts Shorthanded Pioneers Over Mavericks in Frozen Faceoff Quarterfinal Thriller

Bo Hanson is a graduate transfer defenseman from St. Lawrence who had not scored a goal this year. The fifth-seeded Denver Pioneers traveled to Grand Forks, North Dakota for the Frozen Faceoff without eight players due to COVID-19 protocols and dressed just 16 skaters, nine of whom were forwards and as a result, Hanson played forward instead of defenseman. In a thrilling rollercoaster of a game, it was Hanson’s heroics, with five minutes left and just a minute and a half after the fourth-seeded Omaha Mavericks tied the game at four, which gave Denver the 5-4 victory and a berth in the Frozen Faceoff semifinals on Monday. Denver’s opponent on Monday is dependent on the result of the last quarterfinal, between Western Michigan and Minnesota Duluth, tonight.

Coming into the tournament, the talk around the conference, and around the country, really, was Denver and Colorado College both traveling to Grand Forks massively shorthanded due to COVID-19 protocols. The Tigers traveled with just 15 skaters and one goaltender while Denver had the luxury of all three goalies in addition to its own 16 skaters. Unlike the Tigers, the Pioneers may have dodged a bullet, though, with each of their top scorers able to make the trip. The only thing that suffered, as it turned out, was Denver’s in-game depth and fatigue.

While the focus outside of the game was on the short roster that Denver fielded, it certainly wasn’t something that Pioneers considered in the slightest getting off to a red-hot start, dictating play for the first 10 minutes of the game, punctuated by Hank Crone’s goal just eight and a half minutes in. Unfortunately for the Pios, the dominance didn’t last long as Jason Smallidge and Matt Miller scored goals just 58 seconds apart on shots that DU goaltender Magnus Chrona would certainly like to have back in the final 5 minutes of the opening period to put a damper on the Pios’ good feelings. Little did anyone realize at the time, though, things were just getting started.

Denver’s already shorthanded situation got even worse early in the second period when freshman defenseman Antti Tuomisto earned a five-minute major and game misconduct for contact to the head leaving the Pioneers with just 15 skaters for the final 35 minutes of the game. It didn’t come back to bite them immediately but Omaha did eventually score in the second period to earn the game’s only two-goal lead as Mavericks goaltender Isaiah Saville caught DU in a line change on a long pass and Omaha took advantage of an odd-man rush to make it 3-1. It was short-lived, though, as Denver came roaring back two minutes later on a power play as Bobby Brink scored on a one-timer to reduce the deficit back down to one heading into the third period.

The third period of this game was, without a doubt, the Frozen Faceoff quarterfinal round’s pièce de résistance and it all got started with Mike Benning’s first of two consecutive goals just 42 seconds into the final frame. Benning’s wrister off of a rebound on a Cole Guttman shot tied the game at 3 with 19 minutes left to complete Denver’s two-goal comeback and pull the Pioneers back to even. It was the final 10 minutes, though, that brought this Jon Bois tweet (ignore the overtime caveat) to life.

With less than 9 minutes left, Mike Benning scored the second of his two goals to give the Pioneers their first lead since the first period on a power play slapshot from the point. Just like their first lead, though, it was short-lived thanks to Nate Knoepke’s shot into an open net after a scramble left Chrona reaching back across the crease with a glove-less glove hand to attempt to make the save. The puck found twine and the game was tied again.

A minute and a half later, though, it was Bo Hanson’s time to shine and grab the headlines:

Denver survived an Omaha flurry over the final five minutes including a full two minutes with an empty net and extra skater, the entirety of which was played in DU’s zone. But it was Chrona, who had endured a tough, inconsistent season, who was the best player on the ice, as head coach David Carle noted, over the final five minutes to seal the victory and put Denver into the Frozen Faceoff semifinals once again. Denver remains the only program in the NCHC to advance to the semifinals in every year the tournament has been held.

After the game, as you’ll see in the postgame video below, David Carle was firm in his belief that by virtue of this victory, Denver is deserving of a potential fourth bid to the NCAA Tournament. There has been much debate about whether the NCHC should be a four-bid conference (they should be, they’re a four-bid conference in a normal year with a full 60 teams playing) and it’s Carle’s belief that if the conference does earn that fourth bid, it should be Denver and not Omaha playing in the national tournament if they don’t win the conference outright.

For the Denver Pioneers, this was the gutsiest performance of a tough season that has seen them get victimized by terrible puck luck from start to finish. The Pioneers were down to 16 skaters, then 15, and pulled out a victory against an excellent Omaha Mavericks hockey team to keep their season alive. Regardless of whether their season ends on Monday or Tuesday or a month from now in Pittsburgh, the Pioneers have every reason to be proud of the effort they put forth this afternoon. Bo Hanson stepped up when he was needed most, Mike Benning turned on the clutch factor, and Magnus Chrona slammed the door on the Mavs. It was a sight to behold and hopefully, a hint at what’s to come.

Postgame Press Conference


Top photo: Mark Kuhlmann, The NCHC

5 thoughts on “Bo Hanson’s First DU Goal Lifts Shorthanded Pioneers Over Mavericks in Frozen Faceoff Quarterfinal Thriller”

  1. A thrilling game? Definitely.

    A gutsy Pioneer performance with a depleted lineup? Absolutely!

    But are the Pioneers NCAA material?

    Well…that’s another question. Ask me Monday night after the NCHC semis. There is no way of knowing if the NCAA will take four or five NCHC teams this year, based on prior year history/eye test. My guess is they won’t take five in a Covid season without a valid PWR and no inter-league play. Perhaps one way they might take DU without an autobid is to make a little bit of money in Loveland if the Pios are there, but with Mike Kemp of UNO running the NCAA selection committee, even if he recuses himself, I don’t see DU getting any bid without winning the NCHC autobid, or perhaps convincingly beating North Dakota.

    Is DU better than Omaha head to head? Yes. 3-1-1 for DU this year would say they are, even if the overall league records favor the Mavs. However, the Mavs also had a definite advantage in having the entire pod on its home ice in Omaha, and DU had two games cancelled against CC so there is that.

    If the NCAA selection comes down to taking Omaha or Denver, the Pioneers certainly have a good case. But I see the committee perhaps taking Notre Dame instead, but the Irish shot htemselves in the foot by losing to Penn State in the BTT.

    However, there would be no case for Omaha at all if the Pios could have gone .500 or better in league play. DU should be over .500 every year, even with the harder league schedule it played.

    What I saw on Saturday was a hungry DU team that gave it all in the ice with a depleted lineup, but I also saw a DU team that gave up 3 goals on about 10 shots up until that point, and DU team that took some dumb penalties that made its road so much tougher than it needed to be.

    DU is a good hockey team, but for the Pioneers, a third win over UND win in the semi would really help boost their case. Right now, the DU losses to CC and Miami still hurt the Pios…

  2. What a game. Pios had a really good start but found themselves down 2-1. That second goal let in by Chrona was a bad one. That’s one he has to stop. After DU got down 3-1 I figured that might be it….season over. But credit the Pios–they fought back, kept playing hard, and Brink pulled them to within 1. Hard to believe that was only Brink’s 2nd goal this season in 14 games. But that’s the way it’s been this year. Anyway, Pios reclaimed the lead and then it was nail-biting time late in the 3rd. No question this was a gutsy and a character win. I’m really these guys live to fight another day. I know it’s been a very difficult and strange season, but to get bounced in the first round would have been even more bizarre in may ways.

    Huge challenge looming tomorrow against UND. All due respect to Omaha–they are a good team, a solid team, but UND is a different animal. Pios will have to play a much cleaner game, stay out of the box, and hope that they have enough gas in the tank by the time the 3rd period rolls around. UND would like nothing more than to end DU’s season, so I’m sure they will be supremely motivated.

  3. If the Pios can somehow defeat NoDak tonight they will be responsible for 3 of only 5 NoDak losses this season. In my book that should qualify them for the dance.

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