Pioneers Sweep RedHawks in Dominant Fashion to Advance to Frozen Faceoff

The #3 and top-seeded Denver Pioneers (27-8-1) are moving on. Thanks to a dominant, if a bit choppy 5-1 victory (that should have been 7-1) over the eighth-seeded Miami University RedHawks (7-27-2), the Pios officially advanced to the NCHC Tournament Semifinals at the Frozen Faceoff in St. Paul, Minnesota next weekend. With the sweep of the RedHawks at Magness Arena, the Pioneers remain the only program in the NCHC to advance to the semifinal round in each and every iteration of the tournament since the conference’s inception in 2013.

“It just shows what this program is all about,” captain Cole Guttman said of being the only program to advance to every NCHC semifinal. “That’s why so many good players come here. It has such a rich history with so much success so it starts with our culture and it’s something that we want to keep building on.”

As dominant a victory as Game Two’s was for the Pioneers, it could have been even more dominant if not for some inept officiating with a number of at-best questionable calls throughout the game. The two most egregious examples, however, came in the first and second periods when potential DU goals were taken off the scoreboard.

The first instance was the result of a strong skating play by freshman skater Carter Mazur who crashed the net on the rush and was pushed into Miami goaltender Ludvig Persson by a RedHawk skater before the puck crossed the goal line. The official behind the net emphatically called it a goal before a long conference among all four officials decided to change the call on the ice and then review. It was a short review but somehow and without explanation from either Mike Sheehan or Sterling Egan, the goal was called back and DU’s 1-0 lead remained just a 1-0 lead.

The second was quite possibly even more egregious as it appeared Denver had scored a shorthanded goal right before the second-period buzzer. Understandably – or at least at the time it was understandable –  they reviewed the goal. To most, the thought was that they had to verify that the puck crossed the goal line before the buzzer sounded and, importantly, the call on the ice was a good goal, somehow unlike the first one. However, after an entirely-too-long review, it was determined that the net was off its moorings prior to the puck crossing the goal line, ergo no goal. Denver’s 3-0 lead would be the score entering the final frame. But upon watching the replay, it’s difficult, if not impossible to find where, exactly, the net becomes unmoored:

Those two calls were, in essence, a perfect microcosm of how the game as a whole was officiated. There was very little consistency, inexplicable calls, questionable missed calls, and even a weird game misconduct penalty called on Kyle Mayhew near the end of the second period for an apparent slewfoot, though again, fans were left without an explanation. It was a choppy game with many whistles and no fewer than five different reviews, three of which were in excess of two minutes. A less skilled and determined team might have let the lack of flow and rhythm spell doom.

“I was really happy with our performance,” Guttman said. “I thought we played better than last night and we knew they were going to come out hard, their season was on the line. We needed everyone for that win.”

Fortunately, the Pioneers took the game out of the refs’ hands by scoring five more goals that did count. Mike Benning got things going in the first period while Massimo Rizzo and captain Cole Guttman kept things going in the second with their own markers. By the third period, the game was well in-hand for the Pios but Carter Mazur roofed one on the power play and Cole Guttman added his second goal, this one a shorthanded marker, in the third to put the game away. Chrona did allow a goal to Derek Daschke with five and a half minutes to go but the game was all but over by that point and it was nothing more than lipstick on Miami’s quarterfinal pig.

“I didn’t want to play them again,” Benning said with a laugh. “We get an extra day for our bodies, regroup, and get looking towards the Frozen Faceoff.”

This result, the sweep, was never in doubt from the moment the puck dropped on Friday. Denver was the better team and it showed for all 120 minutes this weekend. Miami was simply overmatched and despite their best efforts to physically throw DU off of their game and bait the referees into somehow evening things up, the Pioneers outscored the RedHawks 10-3 – which included four power-play goals and just a single goal surrendered on the penalty kill in 16 chances –  and cruised to the sweep.

“Special teams in the playoffs is huge,” Benning added. “Everyone knows that. I think right now, we’re just heating up and we’re getting chemistry with one another. I think we’re feeling pretty good going on the power play and scoring goals when we need them and on the penalty kill stopping plays so I think that will be good going into this next weekend.”

Now, with all four NCHC Quarterfinal series ending after just two games (#2 North Dakota swept #7 CC, #3 Western Michigan swept #6 Omaha, and #5 Minnesota Duluth swept #4 St. Cloud State), Denver’s attention turns to a rematch with Minnesota Duluth, one of the only two teams to beat Denver twice this season. Getting Miami in the first round was a nice reward for winning the Penrose Cup and the #1 seed but teams like Denver don’t look forward to beating teams like them in the playoffs. They look forward to playing teams like UMD and North Dakota and other national powerhouses. Now is the time that the country’s best will finally clash with trophies and championships at stake with a little revenge sprinkled in.

“We owe them after last game,” Guttman said of preparing for UMD who was the only team to beat Denver at Magness Arena this season. “We’re excited. We just have to do the same things that we’ve been doing every week and be ready to go.”

As the top seed entering the Frozen Faceoff, Denver will have the luxury of deciding which semifinal they will play in St. Paul next Friday, the afternoon or evening game. We will keep you posted on all updates as the Frozen Faceoff draws closer throughout the week and then we will bring you live coverage from the Xcel Center starting Thursday.

David Carle Postgame


Top photo: Jamie Schwaberow/Clarkson Creative Photography via Denver Athletics

15 thoughts on “Pioneers Sweep RedHawks in Dominant Fashion to Advance to Frozen Faceoff”

  1. Good work, Pios!

    Proud and glad for the Pios to get through a choppy, physical and poorly-officiated playoff series. Denver scored 10 goals that counted this weekend, plus a couple more that should have counted, but didn’t, and the Pios dominated about 75-80% of the time and the opponent, and got the convincing sweeps they deserved on both nights. DU’s effort level was there most of the time…

    Truth be told, Miami is a 2-line team at this point in terms of NCHC-level talent, and when the Redhawks’ bottom-six forwards were on the ice, the Pios had almost automatic possession. Miami’s defense, other than Dashke (who is excellent), is also on the slow side. Persson played really well in the nets for Miami, too. He saw a lot of rubber this weekend.

    DU will now play only very good teams in tournament play – the kinds of teams who can score on power plays. So the Pios will need to be more disciplined and not take bad penalties. The Frozen Face-off will be tight-checking playoff hockey and the Pios will not be able to wear down better opponents with sustained o-zone dominance as they did vs Miami. I would expect the Pios to play UMD (and UND/WMU) even five on five, and win with one more PPG than they give up, assuming Chrona can save 90% and keep opponents at 2 GPG or under.

    Besides team discipline, the other elements that needs to be points of emphasis are the need for strong starts, to avoid chasing the game, and Chrona cannot afford to give up deflating soft goals early in playoff games.

    That said, DU does have the best offense in the country, and that should put a bit of fear into our opponents….

  2. This team matches some of Montgomery’s best teams. Fast, talented and relentless – all three lines. They look like a frozen four team to me. Plus, Chrona looks to be breaking out of his funk.

  3. Another great team performance… Leading to another classic matchup between DU and UMD. Go Pios dump those dogs!

  4. I’m glad this series is over, and I’m glad DU took care of business last night. Obviously Miami came in here with absolutely nothing to lose, and everyone knew they very little chance to win this series. While the Redhawks were clearly dominated and were outscored 10-3 in the series, in a weird way I thought they were mildly successful. With a little help from the officials, the Redhawks turned this weekend into a rough and uneven series with lots of penalties, stoppages, reviews, and physical play. That was the only way they had even a remote chance to win this series, so I suppose I’ll give them some credit for partly executing their strategy. Still, DU is too good and knows how to win these kinds of games and put lesser teams away.

    Speaking of the officials, and I hate to harp on the officials, but Egan and Sheehan were an absolute clown show out there. That was embarrassing. I hope we don’t see those guys again.

    2 more games against tough NCHC competition before the national tournament begins. The next few weeks are going to be fun.

  5. It’s actually super easy to tell where the goal came off the moorings for that goal at the end of the period. At 29 seconds of the video you (In the DU tweet) you can see Persson bump the net, you can see it move, and even see the glove side post lift up. Then when Persson goes down to his stomach a few frames later you can see the mooring pylon out and on it’s side if you look under the space between Persson and the ice while he’s up in the air if you look under his stomach.

  6. Anderson !!! Why did you have bring up that guy, My blood pressure just went up 20 points

  7. Good game summaries this year, Nick. Hope to get six more, with the sixth being a happy occasion. I hope our goaltending has found its groove. There are no worries about our ability to score goals, but Guttman, Stapley and Brink will have to ramp it up even more, in case our younger guys fade down the stretch.

  8. Every generation of Pio fans has seen some poor quality officials come through Denver. NHL fans complain about their well-paid refs, too. It’s part of the game. College officiating doesn’t pay that well, so we get what we get….

    The key is to score enough goals so that poor officiating (or a good opponent) are no barrier…

  9. Some Letsgodu tweets indicate that DU stands an excellent chance of getting the 1 seed in Loveland. Anyone know the probability that North Dakota will get sent to Loveland, too? On one hand it would be nice to meet them early–if we’re good enough to get to the Frozen Four, then a North Dakota free Frozen Four would be nice. On the other hand, that would automatically make the Loveland bracket a tough task for DU, putting in the other top team from the toughest conference. Also, it’s sad to say, but I don’t know if a ton of DU fans would make the trip to Loveland, maybe 1500? And ND would have a lot of fans. (I have no idea why this regional is in Loveland, instead of Denver.) Anyway, just wondering what people think. Should we hope that North Dakota gets a 1 seed in another regional? If ND is a 2 seed, is it certain they would be put in Loveland?

  10. Actually, Gambucci was a very good ref, but since his playing career was at CC, DU fans felt EVERY call against the Pioneers to be a bad call.

  11. Loveland sells out the Eagles minor league team all the time. If they have adequate marketing then I guarantee they will get a strong turnout of locals with a familiar name in DU.

  12. Historically, the committee tries to balance bracket integrity first, then ensure solid regional attendance and then protecting the top (#1) seeds, in that general order. Having UND and DU in the same regional would be seen as a tough assignment for whomever is the top seed in Loveland. It would surely make Loveland the ‘bracket of death’.

    I’m guessing here, but a 5K plus sellout seems unlikely in Loveland. I’m thinking along the lines of 4Kish is the probable final attendance ballpark depending on which schools are selected, with maybe 2,000 DU fans (including some curious Northern Colorado folks), and 2,000 fans total cheering for the other three participating schools. If North Dakota is in the regional, too, a sellout becomes a better possibility, but given the short turnaround travel notice on who is playing, lingering Covid fears, the hour long driving distance from Denver and the high costs of the regional tickets, it’s hard to know how many they will sell.

    As of today (March 14), the arena looks about half sold for both days (maybe 2,500 ticket sold for each day).

    As for why DU (and the NCAA) picked Loveland to host, follow the money. First, DU can’t host an NCAA hockey regional at home at Magness unless there were no other western city bids submitted to the NCAA. I am sure DU also looked at all of the local (5K+ seating) arenas to host – Ball Arena (Avs), the Denver Coliseum, 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, etc as well as Budweiser Center in Loveland. DU and the prospective arenas likely had to take into account three major factors – the area’s interest in hosting college hockey, arena availability on these late March 2022 dates and the associated rental and staffing costs/fees of each arena, in order to put in a competitive bid to the NCAA.

    My guess is Loveland came in far cheaper than the other rinks that DU was likely evaluating – Loveland only a 5,000 seat barn with a likely lower cost structure than those arenas in or closer to Denver, thus likely making more profit for the NCAA.

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