Pioneers’ Blessed Special Teams Score Three Power-Play Goals to Topple Friars in Homecoming Opener

If there was any lingering bad taste in the #4 Denver Pioneers’ (3-2-0, 0-0-0 NCHC) mouths following a road sweep at the hands of UMass-Amherst last weekend, you certainly couldn’t tell. Thanks to three power-play goals and a strong, 4-for-5 penalty kill effort, the Pioneers downed the #11 Providence College Friars (3-1-0, 1-0-0 Hockey East) 4-1 to open Homecoming Weekend. It was a strong statement for the crimson and gold coming off of last weekend’s performance and put a good feeling into the building ahead of tomorrow night’s 2022 national title banner-raising ceremony.

Providence, the one in Rhode Island, for their part, gave the Pioneers all they could handle, though, especially early on. The Friars outshot the Pios 14-12 in the opening frame and held the lead on the shot board for most of the first half of the game. As well as they were playing, though, DU goaltender Magnus Chrona was even better, stopping an early backhanded try by Parker Ford with a highlight reel pad save. Chrona’s save and the second of the Friars’ two first-period penalties set the stage for freshman Rieger Lorenz to step up and tally his first career goal and give the Pioneers the lead, which they would not relinquish. Jack Devine took a pass from Casey Dornbach, led the rush, and sent a seeing-eye shot toward the slot where Lorenz’ stick was in the perfect position to deflect it home and send the Homecoming student section into a frenzy.

“I think it was an important response for us,” Chrona said. “It was a key factor playing this game on our ice and in our home building and kind of get payback from last weekend against a Hockey East team.

“It was nice to be back in an NHL rink,” Chrona later added. “Even though I’m a European and I’m used to Olympic ice, ever since I came here, I’m kind of used to North American style. It was good, especially for my confidence.”

The Friars, playing head coach Nate Leaman’s trademark hard-nosed style, didn’t go away, though, and nearly tallied the tying goal a few times if it wasn’t for Chrona. As hard as PC was playing, though, the Pioneers’ power play unit was just too much to handle, especially in the second period. Carter King, stepping up on the top power-play unit, hammered a one-timer from Mike Benning past Friar goaltender Philip Svedeback to double the lead. But the Pios weren’t done. After a dangerous checking-from-behind major penalty was issued to Cam McDonald, Massimo Rizzo one-timed another elite pass from Benning past Svedeback from the point to give the Pios the power-play hat trick. They only scored one on the extended man advantage but it was clear that Rizzo’s marker was going to be the dagger.

Providence got one back near the end of the second stanza with a power play goal of their own to add to a wild special teams game. The Pios had found their legs by that point, though, and it was nothing more than a blip on the radar, especially with how well Chrona was playing.

“He was stellar,” Rizzo said of Chrona’s effort tonight. “He made a bunch of big saves for us that kept us in it and he’s a big reason why we won tonight.”

A year ago, playing these same Friars in Rhode Island, the Pioneers took a similar lead into the final frame only to see the 4-1 lead evaporate before losing 6-5. Tonight, Denver was not going to let history repeat itself. They dominated play for most of the fast-moving, nearly whistle-free third period, and Dornbach tallied the game’s only even-strength goal about nine minutes in, burying a perfect feed from Rizzo on the two-on-one. If the game wasn’t over by then, the fourth goal certainly eliminated any hope of a Friar comeback. Shai Buium, to his credit, earned the secondary assist on the goal, his third of a night where he was flying and facilitating play in all three zones.

“It kind of started last year, when we lost the 4-1 lead in Providence, it was kind of a payback,” Chrona said. “It was a nice feeling for us to finally beat them and not let it go in the third period.”

But more than anything, for a young team still learning to play with each other, the third period was a very mature period, preventing PC from even threatening any kind of comeback. DU continued attacking and the Friars couldn’t do much except throw some soft post-whistle punches at the Pioneers.

The 4-1 victory was the perfect bounce-back game and an excellent preview heading into tomorrow night’s festivities when the Pioneers will get to celebrate what the 2021-22 team accomplished and finally turn the page and focus solely on the 2022-23 season.

“I think it’s going to be great for us,” Chrona said of tomorrow night’s ceremony. “It’s going to bring back a lot of good memories. For the new guys and the freshmen, I think it’s going to be a motivator to kind of see what will happen if you accomplish great things…I feel like it’s going to be a great experience.”

As a reminder, the banner-raising ceremony will take place prior to puck drop tomorrow night which is scheduled for 6:00. To be safe, plan to be in your seats by 5:35 at the latest to avoid missing any of the celebration.

David Carle Postgame


Top photo credit: Justin Tafoya/Clarkson Creative Photography via DU Athletics

3 thoughts on “Pioneers’ Blessed Special Teams Score Three Power-Play Goals to Topple Friars in Homecoming Opener”

  1. This was a very good DU win against a very good opponent. The Pios efforts to improve special teams and face-offs from last weekend’s road losses paid big dividends and were the difference-makers tonight.

    Providence is fast, well-coached team that came in with a very strong initial game plan, but I think DU’s ability to roll four lines wore them down at altitude.

    Great to see Lorenz get his first, Dornbach really impresses me with his work ethic, and Buium had perhaps his best game as a Pio.

    Can’t wait to see the banner ceremony – I hear it will be special!

  2. Great W last night! Really happy to see the PP clicking, and Chrona was on task. I thought there were some ticky tack calls on both sides, but oh well.

    Providence is the real deal. They are talented, skate well, and are well coached.

    Can’t wait for the banner raising tonight.

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