DENVER — The No. 9 University of Denver Pioneers took over sole possession of first place atop the WCHA by sweeping Minnesota State with a 5-1 win Saturday in front of 6,128 fans at Magness Arena. DU (18-10-2, 15-5-2 WCHA) extended its season-best winning streak to seven games with the victory and earned its third consecutive WCHA sweep.
Pioneers freshman right wing Patrick Mullen posted the first two-goal game of his career and was one of six DU players who recorded multiple points in the win. Sophomore goaltender Peter Mannino won his 10th game of the season, stopping 19 Minnesota State (12-16-4, 8-13-3) shots.
Denver, which tallied a season-best five power-play goals in Friday night’s victory against MSU, went 3-for-7 on the man advantage Saturday and has scored a power-play goal in 17 of its 18 wins this season. Minnesota State was held to an 0-for-6 mark on the power play, and goaltender Dan Tormey made 25 saves in taking the loss.
“It was really important that we played with a much different mentality than we did last game,” DU head coach George Gwozdecky said. “I thought we maintained our discipline a lot more tonight, and our power play was able to take advantage of some of the mistakes they made.”
The Pioneers raced to a 2-0 lead in the first period for the third consecutive game and went into the first intermission ahead 3-0. DU controlled play for most of the opening period, building a 10-to-1 shot advantage at one point, and scored on both of its power plays with freshman defenseman Chris Butler posting an assist on each of those goals.
Senior left wing Gabe Gauthier opened the scoring on the power play at 1:39 of the first period, skating in alone from the right circle and wristing a shot above Tormey’s right shoulder for a 1-0 Pioneers lead. Junior defenseman Matt Carle, a candidate for the Hobey Baker Award, notched an assist at 5:59 of the first period on a score by sophomore center Paul Stastny that put DU ahead 2-0.
The Pioneers extended their lead to 3-0 on a power-play goal by sophomore left wing Ryan Dingle at 14:20 of the first period. Dingle’s tally, which came on a give-and-go from Stastny in front of the net, occurred with 30 seconds remaining on a five-minute power play stemming from the first of three MSU game misconduct penalties.
One minute into the second period, Mullen put DU ahead 4-0 with his fourth goal of the year. Minnesota State answered at 3:30 of the period when right wing Austin Sutter collected a Pioneers turnover deep in their own zone and beat Mannino to trim the Mavericks’ deficit to 4-1.
The Pioneers had several other chances to score in the second period, including a two-man advantage for 1:30, but finished the period 0-for-3 on the power play.
DU spent most of the first half of the final period in the Mavericks’ zone thanks to two five-minute power plays that resulted from game misconduct penalties. Mullen tallied his second goal of the game at 6:08 of the third period on the power play after he batted down the puck on the edge of the crease and slide it into the net.
With 32 points, the Pioneers are one point ahead of No. 1 Minnesota for first place in the WCHA. Those two teams will face each other in Minneapolis next weekend for a two-game series with puck drop for both Friday and Saturday’s games scheduled for 6:07 p.m. MST.
Minnesota State, sitting seventh in the WCHA, will host St. Cloud State University next weekend.