Behind a goal and assist from senior assistant captain Evan Janssen, No. 2 Denver beat Colorado College 5-1, sweeping the season series between the two rivals for the third consecutive year. With the win, Denver clinched a home-ice berth in the first round of the NCHC playoffs.
“It’s a good feeling,” said Janssen. “It’s a great way to close out the series for our career. I think our senior class went 14-2 against them, which is a tremendous accomplishment. I think it’s got to be one of the best records against CC for a four-year class.”
“I was happy with the way we played all weekend,” said Denver coach Jim Montgomery. “I think tonight we were a lot earlier at the net front and had a little more I guess vinegar around the net to put pucks home. Alumni are really happy, that’s for sure. Every time we play CC, I get text messages from players from ’58 right through to 2015. It’s always good to beat CC.”
DU got its first good chance on a power play when Dylan Gambrell got the puck all alone in front off a turnover by Alex Leclerc, but got off a weak shot. However, the Pioneers regrouped and scored on the same power play when Liam Finlay got the puck at the right point and sent a pass to Janssen at the post to Leclerc’s left. Janssen sent a pass through the crease to Michael Davies on the back door, and Davies one-timed it past Leclerc at 13:31.
“After our first power play we noticed that was wide open,” said Janssen. “Finlay had moved it down to me and I was able to walk all the way across to the far post to the crease. When we got back to the bench, we said, ‘next power play time it right and you’ll be wide open back door.’ ”
Denver built its lead late in the period when Logan O’Connor went for a wraparound attempt going behind the net and coming out to Leclerc’s right. Leclerc made the save, and the rebound came to Finlay on the left post. Finlay backhanded a shot on net that Leclerc stopped with his right pad, but the rebound came to Tyson McLellan and he batted it into the open net at 18:50.
“I thought we didn’t come out at all with the energy we needed to win the hockey game,” said CC coach Mike Haviland. “They came out and wanted it more than us right from the start. They won every loose puck battle and every one-on-one battle. I don’t think we ever recovered from it.”
Denver made it 3-0 at the end of a shift on which even though the teams were even strength, it looked like DU was on a power play. The Pioneers were able to accomplish a line change while keeping CC pinned in its own end, and made them pay when Gambrell forechecked the puck off a CC player behind the goal line and sent a pass to Janssen out front, who one-timed it glove side at 6:14.
“It was a great play by Dylan,” said Janssen. “He was just hard on that guy and trying to move it up and Dylan was right in the passing lane and broke it up and made a great play moving it out to me for the one-timer.”
Mason Bergh ended Tanner Jaillet’s shutout bid with a power-play goal, getting the puck at the top of the right faceoff circle, cutting toward the slot, and beating Jaillet with a pretty wrist shot top corner stick side at 16:02.
However, with CC pressing and generating its first sustained pressure of the night, NHL first-round draft pick Henrik Borgstrom got the puck in the neutral zone, beating three CC players and racing in alone on Leclerc, finishing with a wrist shot top corner with 46 seconds left in the period.
“What happens is you get that one to go 3-1, we were trying to press, going after them a little there, but it was a bad read by us and the next thing it’s on the wrong guy’s stick on that team and in the back of the net,” said Haviland. “I think again, we need to understand that they are 20-minute periods, and those are huge momentums. We talked about it that we gave up the late one in the first, late one in the second. We had gotten away from that for a while here, and it kind of creeped in this weekend for us. Those goals will really kill you.”
Colin Staub made it once in each period that Denver got a late goal when he got a pass from Emil Romig and from Leclerc’s right got a shot on net that hit Leclerc and popped up in the air and then behind him at 18:28.
The win also vaunted Denver into sole possession of first place in the NCHA, one point ahead of Minnesota Duluth. If Denver wins all its remaining games, the Pioneers will take the Penrose Cup.
“We are talking about that,” said Montgomery of the Penrose Cup. “With six games left, we know we have a lot of work to do, but we think talking about it and understanding how to win championships is going to help us down the line, especially when it comes playoff time.”
Omaha 6, No. 8 Western Michigan 3
In a wild, see-saw game, Omaha took a three-goal lead, let No. 8 Western Michigan tie it, then scored three more to take a win and a split of their weekend series.
The host Mavericks got on the board first on a pretty play. Colin Grannary carried the puck up the left side and cut toward the net, then sent a pass to Riley Alferd cutting toward the far post. Alferd fought off a Western Michigan defender and backhanded a shot past Ben Blacker at 13:55. Alferd made it 2-0 a short while later when Luke Nogard got the puck behind the net and sent a pass to Alferd at the left post, and he lifted it into the open net at 17:30. Fredrik Olofsson made it 3-0 with a power-play goal at 1:10 of the second, picking up a rebound from down low on the left side of the slot and roofing it top corner stick side.
However, Western Michigan rallied to tie it. First, Matheson Iacopelli got the Broncos on the board at 7:01 when he carried the puck down low on the left side and beat Alex Blankenburg with a sharply angled shot five-hole. Corey Schueneman pulled Western to within one at 10:42 when off a draw, his first shot was blocked by an Omaha defender, but he got the puck back and skated to the top of the left faceoff circle and beat Blankenburg with a snap shot top corner glove side. Western tied it at 5:35 of the third with a power-play goal when Aidan Muir got in front of Blankenburg and deflected a Schueneman shot top corner stick side.
Olofsson put Omaha back on top when Steven Spinner got the puck behind the net and threw it out front. Olofsson picked up on his backhand and roofed it top corner stick side at 10:02. Building off that momentum, Luc Snuggerud got a power-play goal at 17:07 to give the Mavericks a two-goal lead when he rifled a shot from the top of the slot top corner glove side, and Justin Parizek added an empty-net goal at 17:39.
St. Cloud State 3, Miami 1
St. Cloud State earned a weekend sweep of Miami at home and moved into fourth place in the NCHC, in possession of a home-ice berth for the first round of the playoffs.
Josh Melnick struck first for the RedHawks at 5:46 with a beautiful shot when he snuck in from the point and beat Jeff Smith from the top of the slot between the two faceoff circles with a snap shot top corner glove side. St. Cloud’s Jimmy Schuldt answered at 7:09 with a power-play goal, beating Ryan Larkin from the top of the left faceoff dot with a quick snap shot top corner glove side.
As time ticked by, it looked like overtime was coming, but Jake Wahlin put St. Cloud up 2-1 at 17:43 when he streaked down the left side of the slot and got a perfect pass from Nick Poehling from the right-side boards and redirected the pass behind Larkin. Jacob Benson added an empty-net goal from the blue line at 19:04 to seal the win.
“We struggled with puck movement, and we’ve been grinding and you could just tell the break comes at a good time for us to recharge and get sharp again,” said St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko. “We got a big power-play goal last night, and we got one tonight. I’m going to say right now that special teams battle won us the hockey game two nights in a row.”