Denver Hockey Road Trip Recap: Pios’ Trip to Northeast Turns Sour

Well, that sucked.

The #8 Denver Pioneers (4-2-0) returned to the northeast this weekend for the first time since December 2018 and came home with its first two losses of the season, one that featured a spectacular third-period collapse while the other continued and finished off the weekend’s downward spiral. And to think it all started so well in Rhode Island, too…

Game One: Late Collapse Dooms Pioneers as Providence rallies for 5 Third-Period Goals

You couldn’t have asked for a better first 40 minutes of hockey this weekend if you were the Pioneers. After a scoreless first period when DU outshot Providence (4-2-0, 1-0-0 Hockey East) 19-9, the Pios exploded for four goals on 14 second-period shots and entered the dressing room with what felt like a perfectly comfortable 4-1 lead.

Justin Lee opened the scoring with a beautiful snipe of the top left corner early in the second period before senior captain Cole Guttman doubled the lead just three minutes later. Providence got one back on the power play but it only temporarily paused the Pioneers’ onslaught. Cameron Wright and Mike Benning rounded out the second-period scoring with goals less than three minutes apart in the final 7 minutes. It was all Denver through 40 minutes and they were poised to cruise to an easy Friday night road victory, which would have been their first one outside Colorado this year.

Then, it just all came apart.

Providence’s Nick Poisson turned the third period into his own personal highlight reel as he opened the third period with a power play goal just 33 seconds in before scoring his second of the period at even strength three minutes later. It was the first five-on-five goal surrendered by the Pioneers this season. Then, barely 30 seconds later, Jamie Engelbert tied it, and just like that, 4:14 into the final period, Denver’s three-goal lead had evaporated.

Carter Savoie gave Denver the lead back with a power-play goal of his own about halfway through the period, but Poisson wasn’t done yet, scoring his third goal of the period, just a minute and a half later. 5-5. Then, with just a minute left in the game, to pour salt on the wound, former Denver captain Kohen Olischefski assisted on Brett Berard’s game-winning goal to seal Denver’s collapse and the Friars won 6-5.

Denver’s alarming special teams woes, especially on the penalty kill continued on Friday, allowing three power-play goals for the third time this year. They killed off the other two to finish with a bad 40% penalty kill success rate. Magnus Chrona, for his part, allowed six goals on 33 shots for a tough .818 SV%. Simply put, anything that could go wrong went wrong for the Pios in the third period and it set the tone for the rest of the weekend in Chestnut Hill.

Game Two: Listless Pioneers Finish Off Disastrous Weekend With 5-1 Loss at Boston College

As you might expect for a young team on their first road trip of the year, Friday night’s collapse carried over into Saturday’s game at Boston College, who also lost on Friday against Colorado College. After a second straight scoreless first period with relatively few shots, it was Boston College who opened the scoring as Colorado Avalanche defenseman prospect Drew Helleson found the back of the net on a shot from the point. Denver couldn’t answer despite generating plenty of chances and with about four minutes left in the second, Trevor Kuntar doubled BC’s lead and the Eagles took the 2-0 lead into the third period.

Of course, Denver was right there all game and they had a number of great scoring chances all night long. It was just that BC’s defense and goaltender, Eric Dop were up to the challenge of slowing down Denver’s red-hot offense. Ryan Barrow did manage to find the back of the net for DU within the first two minutes of the third period to cut the lead to 2-1 and it seemed like the Pios might be able to do to BC what Providence did to them, but a power-play goal from Jack McBain, the fourth allowed by the Pios on the weekend, with six minutes left, essentially sealed the Eagles victory. BC added two more goals, one with an empty net, in the final three minutes to put the game fully out of reach and send the Pios back to Denver without a win in New England.

As bad as this weekend was – and it was bad – the Pios now have two weeks to regroup, analyze what went wrong, and fix it before heading north to Grand Forks for their only matchup with North Dakota this year. There is plenty of tape to look at and hell, no championship team has ever won anything without experiencing some adversity.

Plus, our good friend Red Army Omaha reminded all of us of one very important thing:

This weekend sucked. The worst-case scenario unfolded right in front of our eyes. But it’s only October, Denver is still 4-2-0, and:

Be frustrated, let it all out in the comments, but do yourselves a favor and avoid pushing that panic button for now.

Top photo courtesy of Denver Athletics

10 thoughts on “Denver Hockey Road Trip Recap: Pios’ Trip to Northeast Turns Sour”

  1. Saying we “do this” every October is of little consolation. Sure the team is young and this was their first road trip. Come on, CC beat them Friday night. Grand Forks awaits them and as we know, all to well, that arena and crowd can be unforgiving. Time for coaching and leadership to step up before this season gets away from them.

  2. It seemed that Denver played too fast and too unsettled most of the weekend. This was almost the opposite of their first four games. I think they just need to establish a reasonable pace, puck control and moving their feet (thanks Swami) on ‘D, not throwing sticks out to slow forwards.They need to play to their strengths.

  3. We don’t do this most October’s. We usually play well enough in OOC games so we have some cushion come conference play. We have enough experienced talent so weekend’s like this should not happen.

  4. I don’t recall DU historically struggling in October. I do know if the Pios don’t get better goaltending, get better on special teams, and figure out how to put teams away with a 3rd period lead, it’ll be another frustrating and disappointing season.

  5. Denver lost twice using the same poor tactics. Bad goaltending, losing special teams play. How are repeating the same mistakes an example of good coaching. Losing in October leads to winning in April. Is that the coaching mantra?

  6. There is a continuity of key issues between this year and last year – specifically poor goaltending, poor special teams (esp pk) and poor third period effort levels leading to collapses. These are all have schematic and mental toughness elements to them that need to be fixed.

    With this two week period with no games, let’s hope that they do.

    They all know how unnacceptable last weekend was…

    These are the lumps that young teams take from time to time, and it won’t get easier in Grand Forks…

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