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College Hockey:
Top-Ranked Pioneers Cruise Past Beavers

— Senior David Neale, junior Matt Weber, sophomore phenom Connor James and freshman Kevin Ulanski combined for 12 points, each with a goal and two assists, to propel No. 1 Denver to a convincing 6-2 victory over Bemidji State on Friday night at Magness Arena.

Denver earned its season-best 10th consecutive win and improves to 23-2 overall this season, while Bemidji State snapped a two-game unbeaten streak and falls to 7-11-3 on the year.

Denver’s offense erupted in the second period when senior Chris Paradise broke the scoreless tie. Paradise’s ninth goal of the season was set up by James, who fought off three BSU defenders and fed Paradise in front of the net.

The Pioneers took advantage of a five-minute power play midway through the frame with an extra-man goal by junior Aaron MacKenzie. The defenseman picked up a long rebound near the left circle and fired a low shot on net that beat Bemidji State netminder Grady Hunt through the five-hole to register his fourth goal of the year and extend Denver’s lead to 2-0.

Weber tallied his fifth goal of the season just over five minutes later give to the Pioneers a comfortable 3-0 lead, but the Beavers battled back in the waning seconds of the second stanza and were rewarded with their first goal of the game to cut the deficit to 3-1 going into the second recess.

Three minutes into the third period Weber connected with Neale for the Pioneers’ fourth goal of the game. Weber picked up the loose puck in the slot and fed Neale standing alone on the left side of the crease, who redirected the puck over Hunt’s shoulder. Denver’s fourth line continued to deliver in the third period with its third goal of the night. Weber pilfered the puck from a BSU defenseman and fed Ulanski in front of the goal with a highlight pass through the legs.

Ulanski finished the play to record his third marker on the year and give Denver a 5-1 advantage midway through the final frame.

James completed the showcase performance with a goal of his own late in the game that put the contest out of reach for Bemidji State. The sophomore forward breezed by a defender and tempted Hunt to come out of the crease before sending a backhanded wrist shot into the upper ledge of the goal. Bemidji State added a goal with one minute, 32 seconds remaining to provide the final score of 6-2.

Denver’s special-teams unit was dominant, killing all four BSU power-play tries and scoring once in four man-advantage attempts. The Pioneers have survived 26 consecutive opponent power plays and have scored at least one extra-man goal in each of their last three games.

“This was a good nonconference win for us,” said Denver head coach George Gwozdecky. “Bemidji had a very smart game plan in the first period, but as the game wore on they had trouble defending our speed. I thought we did a great job moving the puck up the ice and were able to create scoring chances in the second and third periods.”

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