Behind a 41-save effort from sophomore goalie Marc Cheverie and two goals from sophomore Kyle Ostrow, the No. 2 Denver Pioneers scored a tough 3-1 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes in front of 6,041 fans at Magness Arena in Denver.
DU started strong from the first set, using their speed to buzz Buckeyes’ goaltender Dustin Carlson. On the first shift, Tyler Ruegsegger tried to stuff the puck past Carlson in the crease and got leveled by a Buckeyes’ defender.
Joe Colborne appeared to get his first collegiate goal off a beautiful rush from Tyler Bozak, but after a review, the referees ruled that Colborne was in the crease and interfered with Carlson.
“We’re happy to get the win,” said Pioneers’ coach George Gwozdecky. “It’s frustrating to see how many chances in the first period we blew by the net, but I have to say it’s nice to have good goaltending, and Marc’s given us that.”
The disallowed goal seemed to take some zip out of the Pioneers, and Buckeyes started to tilt the action into the Pioneers’ zone.
“We didn’t react well to that,” said Ostrow. “We thought it was a goal, and I guess when a goal gets taken away like that they get a little more momentum. I think we battled back though. They’re a good team and they battled hard.”
The Buckeyes had several good chances, but Cheverie stood tall when needed. The Buckeyes best chance came when Cheverie was out of position after making a save, but the rebound was knocked clear before the Buckeyes could pounce on it.
“Obviously having that goal called back early was important,” said Buckeyes’ coach John Markell. “We were doing the little things right to keep ourselves in the game, but their transition game was fantastic and quite honestly that’s what caught us in the second period. I thought we worked quite hard the whole game, and it was a good road period.”
“They were spectacular, but he doesn’t make them look like he’s overextending himself,” said Gwozdecky. “He’s very efficient, he’s playing with great confidence, and that’s what you need. His body language and the way he’s playing really gives confidence to the guys on the ice and the guys on the bench.”
“I thought our decision-making with the puck was very poor,” said Gwozdecky. “At times, forced pucks into areas that had no chance of getting through.”
Denver came out with more zip in the second. Ruegsegger just missed a wrist show top shelf stick side off a beautiful pass from Patrick Mullen.
Even shorthanded, the Pioneers’ transition game seemed to tire the Buckeyes. Mullen just missed a one-timer wide left off a beautiful cross-crease pass from Colborne.
The Pioneers finally got on the board while on a five-on-three power play. Standing behind the net, Luke Salazar stepped out to his right and spied Anthony Maiani coming down from the left point. As Maiani reached the left circle, Salazar slid him a pass and Maiani one-timed it top shelf stick side at 10:48.
Moments later, while on the second part of the power play, Bozak almost got a goal from the top of the crease on a great pass from Rhett Rakhshani, but Carlson made an excellent save.
The Pioneers’ transition game victimized the Buckeyes again late in the second. From the right-side boards near the blue line, Mullen tried to feed a pass to Ostrow, but the pass got ahead of Ostrow to Brian Gifford on the far right side, setting up a two-on-one for Gifford and Ostrow. Gifford raced down the left side and fed a perfect pass to Ostrow near the left side crease, and Ostrow beat Carlson top shelf glove side at 16:36.
“We had a little regroup in neutral zone there, ‘D’ to ‘D’, and Mullen tried to make me that pass,” said Ostrow. “It hit Gifford on the far side and he had a lot of speed going to the net and made a nice pass.”
From there, Denver started to clamp down a little defensively, cutting down on the shots they were giving up to the Buckeyes.
“I think just getting pucks out of the zone and controlling the play gives you an easier transition to offense and better defense,” said Mullen.
Ohio State finally broke Cheverie’s shutout bid at 6:00 of the third on their own five-on-three power-play goal, a beautiful tic-tac-toe setup.
Standing near the goal line on the right side boards, Corey Elkins took a pass from Shane Sims on the right point and fed Matt Bartkowski at the left point, and Bartkowski rifled a wrist shot past Cheverie.
However, Ostrow got the two-goal lead back at 8:17 on a singular effort. Ostrow raced down the left side boards and cut hard to the net, looking for a pass through the crease to linemate Jesse Martin. The Buckeyes’ defense took away that option, and Ostrow instead shifted the puck to his backhand as he hit the crease and shoved it on net. Carlson made the initial save, but a made scramble ensued, and the puck ended up in the back of the net.
“I just got out of the penalty box and Anthony (Maiani) chipped it out and gave me a nice pass,” said Ostrow. “I came down two-on-one with Martin and was looking for him the whole time, and I went to the net and stuffed it in. It seemed like the D-man came in and tried to stop and maybe hit the puck in the net. It was a little lucky, and we needed that goal.”
“I haven’t seen the goal, and they didn’t review it, so I don’t know how it happened, but obviously it was a momentum-buster for us,” said Markell.
The Buckeyes still put pressure on Denver, and a late power play opportunity, and with a minute left Markell pulled Carlson, but Cheverie made two strong saves and the Pioneers’ defensemen blocked several shots to preserve the win.
“You can talk transition all you want, but if you don’t have the skill set to pull it off, it doesn’t happen,” said Gwozdecky. “You have to have speed, good puck management, on-ice vision, and the ability to be able to anticipate offense before you actually get it. That split-second, especially with a team that can skate well like ours, makes a whole world of difference.
“Our ability to be able to generate enough goals to give (Cheverie) the cushion so he knows he doesn’t have to pitch the shutout every night is important. I think this team has the ability to give Marc the lead or at least enough goals where it doesn’t put a burden on his shoulders.”