DENVER — Behind superb goaltending by junior netminder Wade Dubielewicz, goals by three different forwards and two assists by defenseman Aaron MacKenzie, Denver held off Michigan Tech, 3-1, in a WCHA contest on Friday night at Magness Arena.
With the win Denver extends its winning streak to eight games and improves to 19-2-0 overall, 14-2-0 in league play. The Huskies drop their sixth straight match and fall to 5-14-2 on the season, 1-10-2 in WCHA action. The Pioneers moved into first place in the WCHA standings after No. 1 St. Cloud State suffered a 3-2 upset loss to Minnesota-Duluth earlier in the evening.
Sophomore forward Connor James was credited with the game-winning goal when he tapped in a pass from senior defenseman James Armstrong in the waning minutes of the opening period. Armstrong set the play up when he skated the puck through the offensive zone in front of the net and forced MTU netminder Cam Ellsworth and a Husky defenseman to commit before he dished the puck off to James, who was standing alone in front of the net. James registered his team-leading 13th goal of the season and gave the Pioneers a 2-0 lead going into the first intermission.
An aggressive tone was established early in the game as both defensive units tightened play and clogged the battle at center ice. Denver’s high-powered offense struggled to create scoring chances and was held to just four shots on goal through the first 12 minutes of action. The Pioneers’ special teams rose to the occasion late in the period and broke the scoreless tie with an extra-man goal by junior forward Kevin Doell, his ninth of the season. The goal was set up when MacKenzie wristed a shot on goal from the point towards the net. Ellsworth made the initial save but was unable to contain the puck as it squirted loose towards the left circle to Doell who chipped it into the near side of the net.
Denver’s power play squad celebrated its second goal of the night late in the middle stanza when junior forward Greg Barber picked up a loose puck on the left side of the crease and flipped it over the shoulder of Ellsworth. The goal, Barber’s eighth of the season, extended his point streak to three games and gave the Pioneers a 3-0 lead.
Michigan Tech forward Chris Durno tallied the Huskies lone goal of the evening in the opening minutes of the third period to cut Denver’s lead by one, but was not enough to overcome the Pioneers stifling defense. The goal, which ended Dubielewicz’s career long shutout streak of 146:18, was only the second goal allowed by the Pioneers in the last three home matches. The Huskies continued to pressure late in the game but were held scoreless throughout the remainder of the period.
For the game, Denver was outshot by Michigan Tech 34-32, but was successful twice in four tries with the man-advantage, while holding the Huskies scoreless in four extra-man opportunities. Dubielewicz, with 33 saves on the night, improved to 10-1 on the season and enhanced his already notable statistics by lowering his overall goals against average to 1.55 and raising his saves percentage to .952.
“Michigan Tech really played well tonight,” said Denver head coach George Gwozdecky. “Fortunately for us they failed to finish on some early chances which allowed us to get our game going. Wade (Dubielewicz) was outstanding again for us tonight and the two power-play goals helped us get through some crucial times in the game when our forwards struggled. We will regroup and come out tomorrow night with more intensity.”
The Pioneers and Huskies will conclude this two-game WCHA weekend series Saturday night. The puck is set to drop at 7:05 p.m. Mountain time.