ST. CLOUD, Minn. — While a snowstorm may have led to a season low attendance of 5,531 Friday night at the National Hockey Center as St. Cloud State hosted No. 6-ranked and defending NCAA champion Denver, it didn’t stop DU’s No. 1-ranked offense from creating a blizzard of its own in a 5-2 stomping of the Huskies.
That outcome wasn’t too much of a surprise considering that coming into the game Denver had only lost one of its last 11 games, while the Huskies had only won one of their past nine.
What was a surprise was the manner in which they did it. The Huskies actually outshot the Pioneers 31-14.
“Five goals on 14 shots, that’s just unfortunate,” said SCSU head coach Craig Dahl. “We had a lot of chances to score so there’s not much to say about their effort. I thought we played real hard. If we made any type of defensive mistake at all the puck went in.”
After a low-scoring series with Michigan Tech, it didn’t take long for the Pioneers’ offense to redeem itself.
Nearly five minutes into the game, Denver sophomore defenseman Matt Carle made a nice spin move past SCSU freshman Andrew Gordon to take advantage of Ryan Dingle’s screen and slip a wrist shot past SCSU sophomore goalie Tim Boron’s right shoulder. It was a flashy move that set the tone for things to come.
“I made that move and luckily (Gordon) bit on it and I had a lot more time to make a good play and luckily Dingle was standing there and it went in,” Carle said.
Carle leads the Denver defenseman with 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists), and with the addition of junior Brett Skinner’s 21 points (two goals, 19 assists), Denver has the second-highest scoring defensive duo in the nation, a fact that backs up Gwozdecky’s claim of not being too surprised by Carle’s highlight film-worthy move.
“I watch him and Skinner do that in practice,” said Gwozdecky. “It really doesn’t surprise me what those guys do in a game because we see it all the time in practice. They’re extremely gifted and they understand when those type of plays can be executed and when they can’t. They’re really disciplined in their games. We rely on them a lot and they get a lot of ice time.”
Two minutes later DU senior Jussi Halme streaked between the circles and stuck a low wrist shot between Boron’s legs for his second goal of the season, assisted by fellow senior Jeff Drummond.
The Huskies’ power play finally clicked on its third opportunity of the first period when senior defenseman Matt Gens and junior forward Brock Hooton rotated the puck to the right circle, where sophomore defenseman Justin Fletcher put a bullet of a one-timer under DU sophomore goalie Glenn Fisher’s glove to cut the Pioneer lead to 2-1.
Fisher showed glimpses of brilliance in the second period when he stifled Husky seniors Dave Iannazzo and Peter Szabo on Husky scoring opportunities. First, Iannazzo found a rebound between the circles, but Fisher, who was initially out of position, spoiled Iannazzo’s gift with a golden glove.
Moments later Fisher put a wall up to stop a series of Szabo stuff-in attempts at the crease. Fisher finished with 30 saves.
Montgomery, who replaced Boron in the first period due to dizziness, didn’t find any relief against Denver’s relentless offense, which clicked again at the 12:06 mark. Carle and sophomore forward Ryan Helgason worked a 2-on-1 odd-man rush around Szabo. Carle slid a pass to Helgason at the right post, and he went five-hole on Montgomery to give Denver a 3-1 lead.
Less than a minute later Denver attacked with another breakaway, but this time Drummond found a wide open Gabe Gauthier who left both Chris Anderson and Mike Doyle in his dust and slipped a shot around Montgomery stick-side to stretch the Pioneers lead to three goals.
At the 2:42 mark of the third period DU freshman forward Paul Stastny added to the Pioneers’ offensive barrage when he found a sliver of a crease inside the left post far-side on Montgomery.
Doyle tipped in a shot from Fletcher with less than a minute left in the game, to no avail as SCSU fell to 9-14-2 (5-11 WCHA) and Denver moved up to 15-6-1 (9-4-1 WCHA).
There were eight different Pioneers on the point sheet — two who scored goals, Helgason and Halme, hadn’t scored more than two all season.
“If you look at our top seven scorers they’re separated by only three points,” Gwozdecky said. “We’re one of the top offensive scoring teams in the country and when you have balance like that it’s really difficult for other teams to zero in on one specific guy. We’re very fortunate to get production from a lot of different guys this year. It’s one of our hidden secrets if you will.”
With all due respect to Gwozdecky, it’s not much of a secret anymore.