Despite the Miami RedHawks’ (4-3-1, 0-2-0 NCHC) best efforts to earn an NCHC-opening split, the #3 Denver Pioneers (6-2-0, 2-0-0 NCHC) came through and once again showed why they have their sights set on winning a record 10th national title and the RedHawks are an improving but still bottom-half NCHC team. On Friday night, the Pioneers skated to a dominant 4-0 victory, goaltender Magnus Chrona’s first shutout of the season and 10th of his career and though they didn’t hold a lead until just over seven minutes left in the game on Saturday, a three-goal third-period rally gave the Pios the 4-2 victory and first road sweep of the year.
Denver (5-2-0, 1-0-0) traveled to Oxford, Ohio, and peppered the Miami Redhawks with 69 shots, 38 on goal, and Carter Mazur earned a natural hat trick in a dominant 4-0 shutout Friday night.
Denver went up in the first period, 1-0, on a goal by Carter Mazur at 6:25. Denver controlled possession and play in the period. Mazur scored a power-play goal at 2:53 of the second period as Denver continued to dominate the Redhawks. At 16:05 of the third period, Mazur sealed the Redhawk’s fate with his third goal to make it a natural hat trick, 3-0, Denver. Tristan Broz scored his first goal as a Pioneer and capped a dominant Denver performance at 18:17 of the final period to put an exclamation mark on Denver’s first conference win of the season. Magnus Chrona earned the shutout. An over-matched Miami side spent 21 minutes – a theme for the weekend – in the penalty box to 6 for the Pioneers.
Even with the scoring depth that the Pios have shown at times this year, sometimes, one line just shines more than the others – it happened plenty last year. In game one and the weekend overall, Carter Mazur was the star, as he most certainly will be many more times over the course of the year. He and his linemates – Casey Dornbach and Massimo Rizzo – combined for all 9 points on the first three goals.
But the best part of the whole thing? Mazur’s family was in attendance this weekend:
— Denver Hockey (@DU_Hockey) October 28, 2022
It was a weekend of milestones for the Pios too. Not only did Broz score his first as a Pioneer and Chrona notched his 10th career shutout, but Dornbach tallied his 100th career point dating back to his time at Harvard, Mazur recorded his first career hat trick, and captain Justin Lee skated in his 100th career game on Saturday.
— The NCHC (@TheNCHC) October 29, 2022
The Miami RedHawks (4-3-1, 0-2-0 NCHC) did not trail until there was just 7:11 left in the game and yet, they still lost. But that’s what can happen when you’re playing the reigning national champions who have their eyes squarely fixed on winning another. Carter Mazur scored his second of two goals and his fifth on the weekend with 7:11 left to give the #3 Denver Pioneers (6-2-0, 2-0-0 NCHC) their first lead of the game and one they would not relinquish as Massimo Rizzo added an empty-net goal to seal the 4-2 victory. It was Denver’s eighth-straight victory over the RedHawks and their fourth-straight overall as they open NCHC play with a critical six points and sit atop the extremely early conference standings.
The RedHawks gave the Pioneers fits, especially on the power play throughout the first two periods of the game, preventing DU from sustaining much zone time and forcing the Pioneers to 0/5 on the PP before Mazur’s game-winning goal on their sixth chance with the man-advantage. By the third period, though, the Pioneers had worn down the RedHawks with their speed and puck pressure and eventually won the war of attrition in Miami’s zone. The third period was an excellent showcase of the sheer difference between a rebuilding Miami team and a national title-contending Denver team. The Pioneers did what they had to do to grind out a victory against an upset-minded RedHawks, something that they’re certainly going to have to do plenty more times throughout the rest of the season.
Rizzo scores an ENG to ice this one and the Pios will break out the brooms in Oxford. Big six points to open the NCHC portion of the schedule.
Credit where credit's due, Miami is much-improved. Gave Denver all they could handle for much of this game. I doubt they finish 8th.
— LetsGoDU (@LetsGoDU) October 29, 2022
Miami gave Denver a much more sincere run for their money on Saturday afternoon/evening. The night before, in a lot of ways, the Pioneers skated circles around the RedHawks, as they’ve done so many times over the past five or six years. But in game two, Miami was opportunistic and goaltender Ludvig Persson nearly stole a game from the reigning national champs, stopping 38 of the 41 shots he faced. But in the end, just like in game one and much to the chagrin of Miami’s announcers who all but accused the officials of outright bias, the RedHawks couldn’t stay out of the penalty box. Though DU’s PP struggled this weekend – they scored just twice in 11 chances – if you give an offense like Denver’s enough chances, they’re going to eventually score with the man advantage. Over the course of a four-minute stretch in the third period, Miami committed three penalties, and Mazur finally connected with a PPG to give the Pios lead about a minute into the third one.
Mazur also scored Saturday’s tying goal on a wicked wrister and tallied five goals in the two-game series, all but guaranteeing himself the NCHC Forward of the Week nod. Aside from Mazur, the top line owned this weekend, tallying seven of the eight goals this weekend – Dornbach and Rizzo opened and closed Saturday’s scoring, respectively – and 16 total points over the course of the weekend. When there are so many newcomers and brand-new line combinations, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that it’s taking some time for the other three lines to get their offensive footing and figure out how to play with each other. In the meantime, however, if the top line can keep producing at this incredible (and realistically unsustainable) pace, that will certainly go a long way to buying the time necessary for the scoring depth to start showing up on a more consistent basis. DU just has too much talent up and down the lineup – even with all of the departures – for this to remain a one-line team for too much longer.
Defensively, though, there are some bigger issues that Miami exposed and took advantage of on Saturday. The most egregious example came on the game’s first goal – Sean Behrens and Kyle Mayhew each misplayed the puck off the faceoff and it sprung PJ Fletcher and Matthew Barbolini on a two-on-one odd-mand rush and led to an easy goal. There were plenty of other examples where Chrona stepped up and bailed out his teammates but against better teams like #2 St. Cloud State which just so happens to be coming to Magness Arena next weekend, it’s going to be much more difficult to make errors like that and expect to win consistently. But hey, at the end of the day, as long as you’re winning, it doesn’t much matter how you get there and the Pios have six victories in their first eight games, all of which are going to pay major dividends in the Pairwise in five months.
— The NCHC (@TheNCHC) October 30, 2022
Top photo credit: Brian Mack via Miami Athletics