The old saying that “Revenge is best served cold”, was indeed served on the chilled ice of Magness Arena Saturday night, as the Denver Pioneers avenged a 3-1 Friday loss to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks with an efficient 7-2 Saturday night victory before an enthusiastic home sellout crowd of 6,254 to salvage a non-league split. Seven different DU players scored goals for the Pioneers, who could only manage one goal on Friday night.
While the final 7-2 score may look like a blowout, the game was actually close for 50 of 60 minutes before Denver (17-5-0) broke open a 4-2 game in the third period scoring three straight goals to put the game away over the final 10 minutes.
Denver fell to fifth in the national pairwise with the split, and will certainly lose its number one ranking when next week’s national polls come out, but the home fans left satisfied after Denver’s surgical win on Saturday.
“I liked our competitiveness tonight,” said DU Coach David Carle, after Saturday’s win in contrast to DU’s lackluster play in Friday’s 3-1 loss. “We took advantage of our opportunities tonight…and we grew as a team over the weekend.”
The Pioneers were actually outshot in the Saturday contest by the scrappy Alaskans, 30-24, with UAF outshooting DU in each of the three periods. But the Pioneers were far more lethal on their offensive chances, burying seven goals on just 24 shots, a scoring percentage of about 30% in a sport where good teams normally score on about 10% of their shots.
On Friday night’s 3-1 loss to UAF, DU Captain Justin Lee took a crucial major 5-miunte boarding penalty that ended up being the difference in the game, as UAF scored twice on his major en route to the win, but on Saturday, Lee had atonement on his mind. So just 2:39 into Saturday’s game, Lee took a puck at UAF blue line, skated hard into the crease, shot once and then batted-in his own rebound off the pads of UAF goalie Matt Radonsky to stake the Pioneers to an early 1-0 lead, which got the DU fans into the game. That goal was the tone-setter for Denver, as the Pioneers were able to later build a 3-1 first period lead on later goals, after Alaska’s Payton Matsui had whizzed into the DU zone unmarked to tap in a crossing pass from Anton Rubstov to tie the score at 1-1 at 5:01.
DU answered twice after the Matsui’s first period goal, first with a Massimo Rizzo tally at 6:04 (a crease rebound of a Carter Mazur shot) and Jack Devine, who scored the eventual game-winner by blasting a one-timer from the lower face-off circle into a wide open net on a great cross-crease feed from Carter King at 12:04 of the first for a power-play goal — a rarity from the DU second PP unit.
With no scoring in the second period, the Pioneers would it make it 4-1 Denver just 4:51 into the third on McKade Webster power play tally, his fourth goal of the season.
UAF crept back into the game at 9:51 mark of the third when Matsui beat Denver goalie Magnus Chrona high to the glove side on a slick pass from Brady Risk at 10:07, but then the Pioneers broke the game open by dominating the final 10 minutes by scoring three times unanswered. Jared Wright sunk the dagger in by completing a nifty 2-on-1 on a pass from Tristan Broz at 12:05 to make it 5-2, and the Pioneers were able to add a pair of extra insurance goals with an empty-netter from Mazur at 14:44 to go up 6-2 and a final DU tally by King at 16:59 of the third to make the final 7-2.
Denver third-string goalie Jack Caruso got the opportunity to play four minutes of mop-up duty at the end of the third, and Sean Behrens had two assists for Denver in his return from winning a bronze medal for Team USA in the World Junior Tournament in Canada.
The game also marked the 100th college game for DU goalie Magnus Chrona, who had 28 saves in the contest, including a few great ones in the scoreless second period to keep DU on top.
The Pioneers will face Miami (Ohio) in NCHC league play next weekend at Magness Arena.