The #3 Denver Pioneers (22-7-1, 15-5-0-1 NCHC, 44 pts) fell to the #6 Western Michigan Broncos (20-8-1, 12-7-1-1-0-1 NCHC, 37 pts) 6-4 in Kalamazoo on Saturday night to clinch the road split. DU’s penalty-killing effort fell flat, giving up three goals on eight chances, all in the first and second periods, en route to spotting the Broncos a 5-1 lead. Magnus Chrona gave up all five goals on just 20 shots before being replaced by Matt Davis, who did not allow a goal on 13 WMU shots. Almost immediately, though, the Pioneers responded, scoring two quick goals before the second period ended and an early one in the third to pull back to within one at 5-4. Unfortunately, the tying goal just would not find twine behind WMU goaltender Brandon Bussi and the Broncos added an empty-netter for good measure with just over a minute left to seal it.
Some questionable officiating throughout the game on some ticky tacky calls and some obvious missed calls by both Dan Dreger and Brian Hankes certainly did not help DU’s effort tonight, especially in terms of trying to keep the PK off the ice but in the end, as they say, puck don’t lie.
The Pioneers had not won a game in Kalamazoo since January 2017 so just earning a split at Lawson, regardless of how game two went, is a positive feat for this team in itself. Though the two aspects that have ailed the Pios at times this year, inconsistent defense and goaltending and bad penalty-killing, prevented the Pioneers from earning a huge road sweep and continuing to control their own destiny in the race for the Penrose Cup. As of the publication of this article, North Dakota has a 3-1 lead over Minnesota Duluth going into the third period and, should they hold on, they will take a one-point lead over Denver in the NCHC standings with two weeks and four games left.