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In a fast-paced, entertaining, back-and-forth hockey game, the No. 2 Denver Pioneers rallied and held on to defeat the No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, 4-3.
“We knew going into it how good of a team they were, and I think they showed it and I thing we showed how good of a team we can be,” said Denver forward Troy Terry, who had a goal and two assists. “It was really an awesome game to be a part of. I think it was our biggest one yet. I think the speed of it showed how both teams can skate, a very fast-paced game up and down.”
In an interview during the week, Denver coach Jim Montgomery stressed that his team needed to avoid turnovers. It was a neutral zone turnover that led to Minnesota-Duluth’s first goal, as Denver defenseman Blake Hillman had the puck at the red line and tried to make a move around Alex Iafallo, but Iafallo knocked the puck off Hillman’s stick and into the Denver zone. Iafallo raced after it, picked it up at the right side boards, and skated in alone on Tanner Jaillet, holding the puck as he cut to his left and then beating Jaillet top corner stick side at 13:04.
“It was really hard for me to bite my lip when he came back to the bench,” laughed Montgomery about Hillman’s miscue. “I just went up to him and said to him, ‘He’s the first forechecker, and you’re at the red line. Even if you get by him you have four more guys to go through. Let’s put it behind them and let our forwards work.”
Denver’s one bright spot was the penalty kill, which was strong on Duluth’s one chance, but Denver looked out of sorts when it had the man advantage, turning the puck over several times and letting Duluth clear it.
“I liked our effort; I thought we had a good first period,” said Sandelin. “I was concerned about how we would play, and it was nice to get the first goal. I thought they came out and played harder. They’re a team with great sticks and create turnovers. We made a couple of plays that cost us in the second period. Our team kept battling, got one back toward the end of the second.”
Denver started better in the second period, and eventually tied the game up off a defensive zone turnover by Duluth. Nick Wolff got the puck deep in his own zone, but tried to pass through a rushing Tyson McLellan, who got his stick on the puck and deflected it. Colin Staub picked it up and sent a pass to Kevin Conley coming down the slot, and Conley redirected it in at 7:03 of the second.
Duluth regrouped, and sustained pressure in the Denver zone for minutes on end, forcing Montgomery to call timeout at one point, but the Bulldogs couldn’t capitalize, and Denver made them pay with two quick goals to take a 3-1 lead. First, Terry picked the pocket of Iafallo near the red line and raced in, getting a shot on Hunter Miska, who saved it. However, the rebound came out to Logan O’Connor in the slot and Miska lost sight of it, and O’Connor poked it into the open net at 11:27.
“Sometimes that’s hockey,” said Sandelin of Duluth being unable to convert while pinning Denver in its zone. “We made a mistake in the neutral zone, made a soft pass, Terry picked it off, next thing you know it’s going the other way. You can’t make a lot of mistakes against good teams.”
While the goal was still being announced, Michael Davies kept the puck in off an attempted clear at the right point and sent it around the boards, where Dylan Gambrell picked up the puck from behind Miska and redirected a backhand toward Terry cutting toward the net. Terry took a couple of strides and beat Miska five-hole at 11:49.
“If you look at the success we’ve had here, it’s always because of our relentless pursuit of pucks and getting above the right side and continuing to go at people, forcing people to make tough decisions with pressure on top of them,” said Montgomery. “That’s the way they scored and that’s the way we scored. It’s what happens when two elite NCAA teams play each other.”
Duluth never panicked though, and Joey Anderson picked up the puck at the left point, skated down toward the slot, and rifled a shot top corner stick side past Jaillet at 13:41 to pull the Bulldogs back within one.
Denver got the two-goal lead early in the third period when Troy Terry sent a pass to Jarid Lukosevicius in the slot, who one-timed it. The shot was blocked and the puck came back to Terry, who waited for Lukosevicius to move slightly to the right and passed it to him again. The one-timer from Lukosevicius beat Miska at 3:24.
“Again, I always believe that we are going to continue to get better throughout the year, and I think more forwards are feeling better about themselves offensively,” said Montgomery. “We protected pucks well. That’s a hard team to gain offensive opportunities against because of the way they skate, the way they check, and their relentless pursuit of pucks.”
Duluth had a golden chance to get one back when Adam Johnson got the puck on the right post with an open net, but his attempted redirect went wide.
With time winding down, Sandelin called his timeout. Before the Bulldogs could pull their goalie, they got one back at 17:55 of the third when Sammy Spurrell redirected Carson Soucy’s wrist shot five-hole on Jaillet.
At 18:21, with a draw in Denver’s zone, Sandelin pulled Miska. The Bulldogs had several good chances over the last minute but couldn’t convert, and Denver held on.
Colorado College 1, at Miami 1
Alex Leclerc made 35 saves and Luc Gerdes tied the game at 16:24 of the second period as the visiting Tigers battled the RedHawks to a 1-1 draw. Miami remains winless in the NCHC. Miami got the extra point in the shootout, as Anthony Louis scored on his first attempt and Ryan Larkin stopped an attempt by CC’s Mason Bergh.
No. 8 North Dakota 5, No. 18 Western Michigan 1
The Fighting Hawks continue to get their offense going, rolling to a 5-1 win over Western Michigan. Austin Poganski scored twice and chipped in an assist, and Shane Gersich continued his strong play with the first goal, scoring on a two-on-one right after he came out of the penalty box on a feed from Poganski. North Dakota made it 2-0 just a few moments later, while the PA was announcing the first goal, when Colton Poolman took a shot from the blue line through traffic that beat Collin Olson five-hole. Cam Johnson made 24 saves in the win.
No. 20 Omaha 3, at No. 17 St. Cloud State 1
Evan Weninger made 40 saves and the Mavericks got goals from three different players and remained without a loss on the road. Fredrik Olofsson opened the scoring with a rocket from the slot that went over Zach Driscoll’s glove. St. Cloud was relentless in the second period, tying the game and not letting Omaha get a shot on net until 14:11 of the period. Teemu Pulkkinen had a goal and an assist, scoring the game-winner at 15:54 of the second on Omaha’s third shot of the period when he batted a puck out of the air past Driscoll. Weninger helped his cause with an assist on Omaha’s third goal.