DENVER — Coming off a championship at its own Denver Cup, riding a nine-game unbeaten streak, and playing the WCHA’s last-place team, Denver appeared to be an unlikely upset candidate Friday night.
That, of course, is why they play the games. The Pioneers turned in a subpar performance and were defeated 3-0 by the Huskies at Magness Arena. Tech goaltender Cam Ellsworth sparkled in net and recorded his first shutout of the season with 35 saves, and Jimmy Kerr, Brandon Schwartz and Chris Conner scored goals as the Huskies brought the Pioneers’ streak to an end.
Denver drops to 13-6-1, 8-4-1 WCHA, while Tech improves to 2-16-1, 2-13-0 WCHA. The victory for Tech was its first in its last 16 games against the Pioneers; MTU shut out Denver for the first time since 1979.
“We didn’t give our best effort tonight,” DU head coach George Gwozdecky said. “Michigan Tech did a great job. For the first time this season, we were outplayed, outworked and weren’t especially sharp. We gave Tech too many opportunities and they capitalized on them.”
After a scoreless first period, which featured several odd-man rushes by both teams, Tech lit the lamp when Kerr tapped in a rebound off a shot by John Hartman at 5:10. Tech increased its lead to 2-0 as Schwartz scored on the power play when his shot deflected off the skate of Denver’s Brett Skinner.
Tech iced the game when Conner scored from the left slot from Colin Murphy at 15:31 of the third period. The Pioneers outshot the Huskies, 35-27, but were unable to convert as they suffered their first shutout of the season and their first in Magness Arena in 20 games.
Ellsworth’s best performance of the season earned him his first WCHA win of the year and improved his record to 1-8-0. He also keyed Michigan Tech’s penalty-kill unit by stopping all five Pioneers shots as Denver went 0-of-3 with the man advantage. Tech finished 1-for-2 on the power play.
Pioneer goaltender Glenn Fisher turned in a solid performance with 24 saves.
The Pioneers and Huskies will play game two of the series Saturday night at Magness Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. MT.