All posts by Puck Swami

Longtime University of Denver fan and alumnus.

Puck Swami: DU Hockey In Ball Arena Takes Over Denver

Without hesitation, I can proclaim last Friday night’s DU 2-0 shutout of Colorado College before nearly 18,000 fans, packed to the rafters at Denver’s Ball Arena as one of the most magnificent nights in my 40+ years of following Pioneer hockey.

And I imagine that virtually all of the Pioneer fans who were there would agree that last Friday night was magical. Continue reading Puck Swami: DU Hockey In Ball Arena Takes Over Denver

Denver Hockey Explodes With 6-Goal Second Period, Shutting Out Miami 7-0

The University of Denver Pioneers exploded for six unanswered goals in the second period, with five of those goals in the first eight minutes of that frame, enroute to an easy 7-0 shutout victory over the Miami (Ohio) Red Hawks in the opener of an NCHC series on Jan. 13 at Magness Arena.

Sophomore Carter King led the way for the Pioneers with a three-goal hat trick and Casey Dornbach and Carter Mazur each added a goal and an assist to lead the Denver explosion.  McKade Webster and Aidan Thompson also scored for Denver (18-5-0, 9-2 NCHC) in the blowout win.  DU senior goalie Magnus Chrona stopped all 20 shots in the shutout victory, his second of the season

“It was a great second period,” said DU coach David Carle after the game in what was perhaps the understatement of the season to date. The #4th ranked Pioneers had not erupted in a single period like that since last year’s National Championship game, when the Pios scored five goals in the third period to win the 2022 NCAA title over Minnesota State, 5-1.

“We a little looked like last year,” said Carle, perhaps referring to that 2022 title game. “The [goal] explosion was great and it was a good all-around effort for us.”

The first period was up-and-down hockey with no goals for either team, but DU began to establish puck possession.  The Pioneers came close with a pair of breakaways that were saved by Miami netminder Ludvig Persson.  Some DU fans had the sense that dam would eventually break, as the Pioneers were a step faster than Miami all night and certainly had the more skilled lineup from top to bottom.

Those DU fans didn’t have to wait long for the Pioneer goals in that frenetic second period, as DU scored three straight times in the first 1:48, and the Pioneers never looked back. Mazur set the tone by scoring his 17th goal of the year just 26 seconds into the period, converting a perfect feed from Massimo Rizzo on a 2-on-1 with a slick move around Persson for the Pioneers, a goal that would be the eventual game-winner.  DU kept its foot on the gas, scoring two more goals in rapid succession, with McKade Webster batting-in Rieger Lorenz’ rebound after it hit the post behind Persson on the power play, followed seconds later by Aidan Thompson’s fortunate marker when the puck took a funny bounce off the glass right to Thomspon for a virtually open net goal to send the Pioneers up, 3-0 all before the first two minutes of the period had elapsed.

Smelling blood and with many in the crowd of 5,528 fans on still on their feet, DU drove-in more dagger goals, with Carter King scoring twice in 40 seconds just six minutes into the period to make it 5-0, and chasing Persson to the showers in the process, as Persson’s Miami teammates were now completely flustered and downcast as DU simply romped over the Red Hawks.

Denver kept scoring as Casey Dornbach blasted a wrister at 15:05 of the second past new Miami goalie Logan Neaton, who had replaced Persson.  The period ended with DU up 6-0 and the DU fans standing and roaring in approval as the Pioneers left the ice for the break.

Poetically, King would later complete his DU hat trick on a pretty 2-on-1 conversion on a backhand high over Neaton at 4:15 of the third period, making the final score 7-0 Pios.

“This is time of year where we’re well ingrained into our process as we are all building toward playoff hockey,” said Carle.

With CC’s 4-2 upset win over second place St. Cloud State in Minnesota, DU’s NCHC first-place lead has extended to six points over the Huskies, with DU now with 26 points and SCSU having 20 points in second place.  

DU goes for the series sweep Miami again at 6:00 PM MT Saturday night.

Denver Hockey Efficiently Dumps UAF, 7-2 to Salvage Home Split

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.

Twenty-two Turnovers Kill Pioneer Hoopsters in 91-74 rout at Western Illinois

It was a dreary Saturday afternoon in the cornfields as the Denver Men’s Basketball team turned the ball over a season-high 22 times, helping Western Illinois to a chippy 91-74 rout over the Pioneers in Macomb, Illinois.

The loss pushed Denver to losses in seven of its last eight games against D-I foes, with the Pios falling to 10-8 on the season and 1-4 in Summit League play.

“We need to be lot better,” said an exasperated DU coach Jeff Wulbrun after the game on radio. “We’re not giving the effort level we need to be successful…We’re giving up too many points on defense — we’re averaging 80 points [given up to opponents] a game in league play. That’s not acceptable and that really comes down to effort…We’re not playing up to our capabilities, and we’re playing with a lack of discipline. We [the coaching staff] have never had this happen at any of the places we’ve been [before Denver], and we’re going to find five guys who can play the right way.  We’re going to impact some changes by the time we get back to Denver.”

DU again started slow and sloppy,  racking-up 12 first-half turnovers, and Western led 37-25 at the half.  While the Pioneers never led the game after the first minute of the contest, the Pioneers did make a second-half run behind the hot shooting of of Tommy Bruner, and were able cut the Western lead to just five points at 62-57 with 7:32 left in the second half.  However,  the Leathernecks responded with a 10-0 run of their own after that that took only a couple of minutes, and the WIU rout was on as the Leathernecks coasted on to the 17-point win.

Western’s Trent Massner had a game-high 29 points, edging-out teammate Alec Rosner’s 28-point performance to lead the Leathernecks.  Massner also showed a lack of sportsmanship when he needlessly dunked on the Pioneers with a few seconds remaining in the rout (with Western already up by 15 points) something Denver will probably remember for the next time these teams meet later this February in Denver.

For Denver, Tommy Bruner and Tuoko Tainamo each had 19 points, and Tyree Corbett chipped-in with 16 points for the Pioneers to lead the offense. The Pioneers shot well from three point range, knocking down five of 11 long range attempts and lost the game with a 37-31 rebounding advantage, collecting 11 offensive boards in the game.

DU’s Tevin Smith (from Danville, Ill.) had his best game since his injury with 10 points. He and fellow Illinoian Justin Mullins (Oak Park, Ill. — 6 points) both enjoyed the Illinois-based fan support from family and friends making the drive to Macomb, making some noise for the Pioneers on an otherwise pretty terrible afternoon at Western Hall.

DU returns home to face North Dakota State on Jan 12 at 7pm at Hamilton Gymnasium.

DU Hockey Alumnus Faces Family Cancer Battle

Photo of the Rakhshani family. Credit: Grizzlys Wolfsburg

Rhett Rakhshani, a DU 2010 all-American hockey player who played most of his pro hockey in Europe, is now facing a huge battle. His young wife Sharlene, 31, was recently diagnosed with aggressive stage four cancer. The Rakhshani family has decided to return to California (his home state) to begin Shar’s treatments, forcing Rakhshani, 34, to pause his hockey career.  The family has three young girls – Stella age six, Scarlett age four, and Georgia, age two.   Continue reading DU Hockey Alumnus Faces Family Cancer Battle

Pios Salvage Split with Omaha in a Weird 6-3 Saturday Victory

They don’t call it the NCHC meat-grinder for nothing.

The top-ranked Denver Pioneers were still smarting after getting pasted on home ice 3-0 by the University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks on Friday night. Accordingly, the Pioneers were determined to answer back hard on Saturday night, which they did with an emphatic, explosive but ultimately difficult 6-3 victory to salvage the NCHC split before 5,200+ happy DU fans and many of the players’ parents, in town for DU’s annual Hockey Parents’ Weekend.  

Continue reading Pios Salvage Split with Omaha in a Weird 6-3 Saturday Victory

Remembering Peter “Maxy” McNab

The Denver hockey community has been hit hard by the news that former University of Denver Pioneer, National Hockey League All-Star center, and Colorado Avalanche hockey broadcaster Peter McNab died of cancer last week at the age of 70.

“Heartbroken” was the term used by current DU coach David Carle to describe what McNab’s death means to the Denver Pioneer family. Continue reading Remembering Peter “Maxy” McNab