HOUGHTON, Mich. — The Denver Pioneers just keep rolling right along.
Adam Berkhoel made 22 saves and the third-ranked Denver Pioneers got goals from three different players as they improved to 8-0-0 with a 3-1 victory over Michigan Tech on Saturday night at MacInnes Arena.
The game was a much closer contest than Denver’s 9-2 blowout win in Friday’s series opener.
“Tonight’s game was more typical of a game in this league,” said Denver coach George Gwozdecky, who notched career win No. 300 on Friday night. “It was really what we had expected coming into the series. I think last night’s game was more of an aberration than anything else.”
After Friday’s lackluster effort, Michigan Tech head coach Mike Sertich shook up the lineup, sitting struggling upperclassmen Tom Kaiman, Tim Laurila, and Chris Durno in favor of freshmen. And his young team responded with a much better effort.
“If it weren’t for a couple of bounces here and there, it would have been a different hockey game,” said Sertich.
After scoring all eight goals against Minnesota last weekend, Tech’s underclassmen showed their potential once again as they accounted for all eight of the team’s points this weekend.
“If some of these guys haven’t gotten the message, they’re blind or deaf,” said Sertich, referring to some of his slumping upperclassmen.
Although Tech failed to accomplish anything for most of its first power-play opportunity, the Huskies grabbed a 1-0 lead at 4:29 on a beautiful deflection by sophomore center Jon Pittis just as time expired on the Denver penalty. Frank Werner crossed the blue line and unleashed a hard slapshot that a streaking Pittis deflected into the top left corner of the net for his fourth goal of the season.
Michigan Tech goaltender Brian Rogers was much more sharp a night after allowing five goals on 15 shots. Rogers robbed Luke Fulghum and Jon Foster on consecutive rushes and then made a point-blank save on Lukas Dora a short time later.
Denver’s Greg Barber finally tied the game at the 12:16 mark when he took a pass from Matt Weber, fought his way up the left side and placed a backhander just inside the far post.
Tech played inspired hockey again in the second period, nearly taking the lead several times. Colin Murphy just missed on a couple of great chances and Paul Cabana fired wide of an open net after a pretty pass from Brad Patterson.
The Pioneers cashed in on a two-man advantage to take a 2-1 lead as an open Foster took a pass from Weber and buried a slapshot from the left face-off dot at 6:35.
“He’s going to be a terrific player at Denver and he’s going to be a big-time player in this league in the near future,” said Gwozdecky of Foster, a freshman who already has four goals. “If you get him loose coming into the offensive zone, he’s very creative. He’s one of our bright stars of the future.”
Denver increased its lead to two goals with an awkward power-play goal 9:57 into the third period. Defenseman Aaron MacKenzie ripped a slapshot from the point that Tech defenseman Greg Amadio attempted to glove. But the shot hit Amadio’s glove and went over the glove of Rogers and into the net.
“It’s a good start,” said Berkhoel of Denver’s best start in school history. “I was able to find the puck tonight. Our defensemen and forwards did a good job of tying people up. I could see everything tonight and I was limited to only a few big saves.”