Pioneers Emerge from Unexpected Covid Bye Week with Victory over Mavericks, Not Huskies

Just a week ago, the #6 Denver Pioneers (13-5-1, 6-3-0 NCHC, 18 pts) were beginning their preparation for the then-#4 St. Cloud State Huskies after being given a bye due to Covid-19 protocols within the #15 Omaha Mavericks program. Now, with Covid causing problems within the Huskies’ program, the Pios emerged from their unscheduled bye week to play Omaha (14-7-0, 4-5-0 NCHC, 12 pts), just a week later than expected and in Denver rather than in Omaha. Then, before the game, it was announced that head coach David Carle would not be with the team this weekend due to his own edition of the Covid protocols. Given all of this turbulence and uncertainty over the past two weeks, it would have been at least a bit understandable if the Pios stumbled a bit out of the gate. But they didn’t. They did the exact opposite as they welcomed the Mavs back to Denver with a 5-2 victory at Magness Arena.

As Omicron continues to spread through the United States at an alarming speed, sports, and more specifically college hockey has not been spared. Over the past few weeks, there have been numerous postponements and cancellations across the country. In fact, it was the widespread nature of this variant that even made this Saturday-Sunday series between the Pioneers and Mavericks possible. Covid protocols within North Dakota’s program forced the postponement of this weekend’s originally-scheduled UND-UNO series in Grand Forks.

So, instead of traveling north, the Mavericks traveled west with little notice and less preparation time than a normal week for both teams. Denver had Omaha’s number but in a game that was always going to have little flow and rhythm, 16 penalties – 7 to Omaha, 9 to Denver – were called preventing either team from generating much momentum in either end.

With that many penalties called and that many power-play minutes for both teams, it was somewhat jarring to look at the scoresheet see just one power-play goal scored – by Omaha’s Kevin Conley in the second period – all game long. But that goal didn’t affect the Pioneers offensive onslaught of their own. The country’s best offense continued humming along outshooting the Mavs 34-22 while scoring once in the first period, twice in the second including a Bobby Brink tally just 20 seconds into the period, and twice in the third to increase their goals per game average to 4.68, nearly a full goal better than the next best team (Northern Michigan – 3.98). Quite frankly, if it wasn’t for Isaiah Saville’s typical performance in Omaha’s crease at Magness Arena, the score could have been so much more lopsided. Denver’s offense, despite the lack of continuity and rhythm of the game, was on fire and generated numerous high-danger chances all night long only to be turned away by Saville’s stalwart effort.

If the Covid pause affected anyone on the team, it certainly didn’t do anything at all to Cameron Wright who scored twice tonight to raise his season total to 12 and tie Carter Savoie for the team lead. Wright now has 18 points on the season which is good enough for just 7th on the roster. Freshman Carter Mazur, just ahead of Wright in sixth, tallied three points to become Denver’s sixth player with at least 20 points this season. Remember those scoring struggles from a year ago? Yeah, neither do I.

Over a weekend that has seen major upsets on both nights – Northern Michigan beat #1 last night and Alaska beat #8 Minnesota tonight – Denver maintained order and their #3 spot in the Pairwise rankings. The weekend isn’t over yet, of course, as Omaha will have revenge on their brains tomorrow night (puck drops at 6 pm). But tonight, after what we endured last year with the uncertainty with hockey and Covid, hockey was played and the vibes were great.


Top photo courtesy of Denver Athletics

2 thoughts on “Pioneers Emerge from Unexpected Covid Bye Week with Victory over Mavericks, Not Huskies”

  1. Pios need to play much smarter on Sunday if they hope to sweep. They took a lot of stupid penalties tonight that could have been more costly.

  2. DU’s skill across three lines is something that Omaha, while speedy, can’t match beyond its first line, so the Mavs’ rely on the PP and Saville to win.

    Almost all of Denver goals last night were close-in shots made possible by the Mavs’ rather lax crease defense around Saville. I expect them to try to adjust that in the second game of the series.

    I expect Denver will need to adjust by not taking careless penalties and giving the Omaha PP so many chances.

    All in all, expect a much closer game tonight…

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