DULUTH, Minn. — Denver has been blanked three times already in the first half of the 2005-06 season, the most since 1999-2000, and the two-time defending NCAA champion Pioneers came to the DECC on the heels of a shutout loss at home to Alaska-Anchorage.
Although the Pioneers were badly outshot Friday, they got a career-high 39 saves from junior goalie Glenn Fisher to beat Minnesota-Duluth 4-2 before a crowd of 4,895.
Star junior defenseman Matt Carle had a goal and two assists and center Paul Stastny, the son of NHL Hall of Famer Peter Stastny, added three assists in the battle for placement in the top half of the WCHA. UMD led in final shots 41-23.
“We don’t have the high-flying offense like last season so we have a smaller margin for error,” said Carle, whose team was second in Division I offense with 4.1 goals a game in 2004-05. “These guys (UMD) took it to us and Fisher hung in there and stole us a win.”
No. 13 Denver (10-8-3, 6-4-3 WCHA) is 5-1 its past six games and the win momentarily pushed the Pioneers to third place in the league, three points ahead of fifth-place UMD, pending the outcome of fourth-place Colorado College’s game at UAA.
UMD (7-9-3, 5-5-3) led 1-0, yet couldn’t come back from a 3-1 first-period deficit. The Bulldogs were 0-for-6 on power plays, while Denver was 2-of-5.
“The effort was there, but the mistakes we make are catching up with us,” said UMD center Matt McKnight, who had a shorthanded goal. “We moved the puck around well and got it to the net, but we gave up too much on their power play and they made us pay.”
UMD had the best of the game’s opening minutes, taking a 1-0 lead at 4:54. Winger Mason Raymond outfought Denver defenseman Andrew Thomas along the boards at neutral ice while shorthanded. The puck popped free to McKnight, who came straight down the slot to score. McKnight added an assist and has 13 points the past seven games, while Raymond has 12 points in the same span.
The Bulldogs continued to apply pressure, but Denver got going on the power play at 6:57. Consecutive penalties to Michael Gergen and Ryan Swanson gave the Pioneers a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:44 and Carle converted.
“They capitalized on power plays and we didn’t, and their goalie was good,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “(Carle) is the best defenseman in the WCHA. He can control a game.”
Two goals in the last eight minutes of the first period put Denver ahead 3-1. Winger Tom May got a behind-the-net feed to score on a soft shot from the right circle with 7:04 to go and defenseman Chris Butler’s power-play attempt from the left side was with 2:24 remaining.
Despite being outshot 15-11, Denver led by two. UMD junior goalie Josh Johnson was replaced by senior Isaac Reichmuth to start the second period.
Defenseman Jason Garrison’s first collegiate goal got UMD with 3-2 at 3:18 of the second period. The freshman from White Rock, B.C., connected from the slot.
Winger Ryan Helgason, of Woodbury, Minn., had a chance to add to Denver’s lead, but missed a wide-open net with 8:20 left in the period. He made up for it by punching a shot through Reichmuth’s legs from close range with 2:04 to go in the period for a 4-2 advantage.
“We had the momentum, got it back, but couldn’t carry it through our penalty killing. That was the difference,” said Garrison. “We put a lot of shots on their goalie, but sometimes we just threw the puck right at him.”
There was no scoring in the third period. Reichmuth was pulled with 2:25 left for an extra attacker. UMD is 4-2-1 the last seven games and 3-5-1 at home this season.
“(UMD) was relentless in our zone,” said Fisher. “Our team worked hard in the defensive zone and helped me by clearing the pucks.”
Kevin Pates covers college hockey for the Duluth News Tribune.