DENVER — It wasn’t the first time that Pioneers clashed with Fighting Sioux — in the wild west or in the equally wild WCHA. But the Denver Pioneers may have wished it was the last, as the invading North Dakota Sioux swept their weekend series by a combined score of 14-4.
“It’s tough to sweep on the road anywhere in the WCHA,” said North Dakota assistant coach Dave Hakstol. “Denver’s a real good hockey team. They’re a proud hockey team and tonight was a real battle.”
The Sioux won Saturday night, 6-2, on the strength of a tenacious defense that killed nine penalties while blocking 21 shots. When the defense wasn’t deflecting the puck, freshman goaltender Jordan Parise was there to backstop his team with 25 saves.
No save was more crucial than the one Parise made with 12 seconds remaining in the first period. With North Dakota leading, 1-0, a defenseman covered the puck in the crease, leading to a penalty shot for the Pioneers. As Connor James skated in for the shot, Parise came out and calmly denied his backhand attempt.
“That’s the biggest thing with goaltenders — you need a big save at the right time,” said Hakstol. “Jordie gave us a few of those tonight.”
On the offensive end, younger brother Zach Parise assisted on both the first goal and the eventual game-winner. Junior center Colby Genoway pitched in two goals and an assist, while Parise’s linemate, Brandon Bochenski, had one goal and a helper.
Bochenski had the first tally of the contest at 9:48 into the first as the Sioux capitalized on a 5-on-3 power play.
At 7:05 of the second frame, Denver made good on a power play of its own to knot the score at 1. After a series of pinpoint passes from James and Adrian Veideman, Jon Foster buried the puck five-hole.
Just 5:14 later, North Dakota pulled ahead for good as freshman Drew Stafford penetrated the zone, faked a shot and wristed the puck past Glenn Fisher in the Denver net. Genoway and Mike Prpich registered assists on the play.
Throughout the period, North Dakota continued to create turnovers on defense.
“[Defense] is an awfully big part of the game and right now we’ve got guys, not only up front but certainly back on the blueline, doing a good job of helping our goaltenders,” said Hakstol.
Play opened up in the third as the Sioux scored again just 25 seconds in, with Parise and Bochenski working the puck out of the corner to Brady Murray, who was wide open in front of the net.
At 8:32, Denver captain Ryan Caldwell brought the Pioneers within one when he scored on a shot from the point. Gabe Gauthier had the assist.
It was as close as Denver would come. The Sioux poured on three insurance goals to seal the game and the series. Genoway scored with an assist from Chris Porter at 10:40. Porter had a goal of his own at 14:17 with an assist from David Lundbohm. Genoway then finished the night with his second tally at 16:57 off of assists from Prpich and Stafford.
There were several dozen North Dakota fans amongst the 4,916 spectators, cheering vigorously for the victorious Sioux.
“It’s fun,” said Hakstol. “It seems like everywhere we go, there’s an awful lot of green and white up in the stands.”
The North Dakota faithful will next watch its team in a home exhibition game on Dec. 5 against the U.S. National Under-18 Team. Denver will hope to rebound in two nonconference matchups with Findlay and Air Force over Thanksgiving weekend.