DENVER — Fluke goals, odd bounces and high-percentage shooting were the order of the night as Denver ran its win streak to four games by beating visiting Alaska-Anchorage 8-4 Friday night.
Luke Fulghum tallied his second career hat trick and defenseman Matt Carle had a four-point night for the Pioneers (17-6-1, 12-4-1 WCHA) as Denver outshot the Seawolves 47-27 for the game.
“We really came out and played hard, with a great mindset,” said DU head coach George Gwozdecky. “I think there [was] that sense that we were playing well. The team almost had the feeling that they wouldn’t be denied.”
With five players netting three points or more, Denver used a well-tuned power play to keep UAA at bay through the opening period. But the Seawolves looked to make an impression early on.
With a record of 4-0-0 when scoring first this season, the Seawolves (7-13-3, 5-12-2 WCHA) wanted to get on top early. At the 2:17 mark, they did just that as big center Charlie Kronschnabel headed to the Pioneer net and retrieved an airborne puck that he put past DU goaltender Glenn Fisher to make it 1-0.
Immediately after the goal, the hitting picked up on the part of both teams, who began to apply pressure along the boards to force loose pucks. Anchorage did a great job initially in setting a physical tone — unfortunately for UAA, that eventually led to several penalties for the Seawolves.
The teams were playing four on four after coincidental penalties when the Pioneers struck back on a fortunate bounce. After Denver defenseman Matt Carle’s pass caromed off the boards at center ice, it landed deep in the UAA zone. DU forward Luke Fulghum had a full head of steam as he charged the net and got a stick on the bouncing puck to tip it past Seawolves goalie Nathan Lawson at 4:12 of the first.
“We spent a lot of time on drills during the week working on burying our chances,” Fulghum (13-11-24) said of his team’s scoring prowess. “Sometimes it’s like that.[and] I was fortunate enough to get pucks in the net.”
Prior to Friday’s match, the Pioneers had been 26-153 with the man advantage, an area that has needed improvement at various points this season. But Denver’s special teams were up to the task, scoring two power play goals less than two minutes apart.
Carle scored after receiving a pretty backhand pass from forward Gabe Gauthier at the top of the slot. Carle deked left to right to get Lawson moving and put the shot past the UAA netminder for his 10th goal of the year. Fulghum notched the second of his three goals on the night just 1:47 later, again on the power play to make it 3-1 in favor of the Pioneers.
“We really want to come out on Friday night [games] and establish our game right off the bat,” said Carle. “Guys were getting to the net and we were getting really good traffic. We had a lot of confidence.”
The Seawolves struck back quickly on a tipped pass in front of Fisher that DU defenseman Matt Laatsch couldn’t corral, leaving UAA forward Ales Parez with a clear shot that he put past Fisher. Despite being outshot, UAA forwards were able to generate some chances by screening Fisher at every opportunity.
Through the remainder of the period, Denver was able to use its speed along the boards to spread out the UAA defense, however, and the Pioneers capitalized soon after. Pioneer forward Kevin Ulanski was left all alone in front of Lawson to wrist a top-shelf goal to make it 4-2, Denver.
“We work on overloading sides like that and getting chances with speed,” Fulghum said. “It makes the game much more fun.”
Denver began the second period in the middle of a five-minute power play that resulted from UAA winger Shea Hamilton’s game misconduct for checking DU’s J.D. Corbin from behind.
“I heard the crowd’s reaction to the hit [but] I really couldn’t see it,” said UAA head coach John Hill of Hamilton’s hit. “I have a lot of respect for our officials. If they feel the hit warranted five minutes, I respect that.”
Once again, the Pioneer power play was successful as winger Jon Foster fired a goal past Lawson to put DU up by three. Less than four minutes later, the Pioneers struck on the man advantage once more as Ulanski scored his second of the night to finish off an impressive tic-tac-toe passing play. Bad penalties were the story of the night for the Seawolves as DU was 4 for 6 on the night when up a man.
“I think we took some penalties and [Denver] turned those into power play goals,” Hill said. penalties we took were slashing, and slashing again,” Hill said. “They’re just weak penalties.”
With Lawson pulled in favor of sophomore John Decaro, the Seawolves were able to score again on a nice Merit Waldrop goal to make it 6-3, but they would never get any closer. Denver freshman Geoff Paukovich beat Decaro on a wraparound at 13:48 to close out the second period scoring.
From there, Denver kept the pressure on Alaska Anchorage in the third as the Seawolves tried to get back into the game. The Seawolves would score once more, but not until after Fulghum had potted the hat trick.
The early scoring outburst and the consistent offensive play that followed for the Pioneers was something that DU has been trying to initiate every game, according to Gwozdecky. In some series, scoring early in the game has come at a premium.
“It seems that the first night of the series [this season] I get the sense we’re trying to feel out how the other team’s going to play,” Gwozdecky said. “[But] the team really wanted to come out and play hard and play well. I thought overall tonight was a very good performance by us.”
The Seawolves and Pioneers play their second game Saturday evening. Hill said he hoped his team would cut down on mistakes and stay aggressive yet smart in tomorrow’s tilt.
“There’s a reason why they have the number one offense in the WCHA,” said Hill of the defending national champions. “We have to stay out of the box, and it’s an understatement to say we have to do better in our own defensive zone. We’ll watch the video and go from there.”