OXFORD, Ohio — After dropping their first game of the regular-season to Miami, 5-2, Friday night, the Denver Pioneers rebounded with a solid performance and a 3-2 win over Colgate in the Ice Breaker Invitational consolation game.
“An important game for us, a game that we needed to win, and certainly had a little bit of a tough time generating the kind of momentum we needed early in the game,” said Denver head coach George Gwozdecky.
“I was pleased with the way our power play was able to generate for us today. It was a big weapon for us, especially after last night’s loss. To have it turn around and be effective for us was a good sign.”
The power play was the story of the weekend for Denver — a horror story of Jekyll-and-Hyde proportions. Against Miami Friday, the Pioneers were 1-for-15; in this contest, all three of Denver’s goals came on the man advantage.
Part of the difference, said Gwozdecky, was how the Pioneers moved together on the ice tonight. Denver’s power play Friday, said the coach, was moving at “15 miles per hour” while “Miami was playing at 25.”
“I think team speed is only a function of how well you move the puck. You can have guys that skate like the wind, but they have to work together, has to be some kind of rhythm. I thought at times today, especially in the second period, we hit that rhythm and as a result, we started showing off some of our team speed.”
After a scoreless first period that was highlighted at the end by Pioneer Glenn Fisher’s work between the pipes, Colgate opened the scoring with Tyler Burton’s goal from David McIntyre at 2:29 in the second. McIntire threaded the feet of a Denver defender along the boards and brought the puck into the circle before shuffling a pass across to Burton. The junior put the puck over a sprawled Fisher for the Raiders’ first goal of the weekend.
That lead lasted all of 1:14, as Denver’s Ryan Dingle and Chris Butler combined to make quick work of the advantage afforded by Mike Werner’s penalty for obstruction tripping. Dingle took the face off after the penalty whistle and dropped the puck back to Butler, who circled near the top of the left circle before he fired, beating Colgate’s Mark Dekanich high and clean.
Dingle added a goal of his own just over six minutes later and less than a minute after a Denver marker that was waved off because the net was off its moorings. In both cases, it was Pioneer Rhett Rakhshani in vicinity of the puck but unable to finish because of quirky bounces of the puck.
At 8:59, from the right post, Dingle fed Rhett Rakhshani directly in front of the crease, but the puck wouldn’t settle down enough for Rakhshani to take a solid shot; instead, the puck skipped past Rakhshani’s stick to Adrian Veideman, who chipped it up and into the net for the tally that was disallowed.
At 9:48, Dingle was able to initiate a play beginning at the right post that would count. This time, he backhanded a centering pass for Rakhshani, whose shot was stopped — but not cotrolled — by Dekanich. The puck made its way behind the goaltender and back to Dingle, who popped it across the line for the 2-1 Denver lead.
Dingle said that the waved-off goal was “a down right away,” but that the play provided immediate motivation for the guys on the ice. “The five of us got together and we knew we needed to buckle down at that time with the shift and the team and be able to pop one into the net.”
As for finishing another player’s chances in both his own and the disallowed goal, Dingle said, “Right place, right time.”
The Pioneers made it 3-1 with Patrick Mullens’ long shot from left point 18:52 in the second.
Late in the third, the Raiders interrupted a Denver clearing attempt on the Colgate power play, leading to their second goal and first power-play tally of the season. Burton was credited with his second of the night after the puck went off his glove in front of the net, from Nick St. Pierre’s initial shot. The goal, which was reviewed, made the final score closer than the game actually was.
Gwozdecky was encouraged by what he saw tonight, but he said he sees a team with much work to do.
“Over the course of the last three games we’ve played including the [exhibition] game against Calgary, you’re starting to see short snippets of the kind of team we want to be and type of team we could be. The idea is to obviously lengthen those snippets so that they’re whole periods and then whole games.
“We seemed to struggle with really good offensive chances. Instead of finishing those chances, we don’t make the plays.”
Fisher finished with 24 saves on 26 shots in his first appearance of the season, while Dekanich stopped 28 of 31.
Denver (1-1-0) opens WCHA play next weekend in St. Cloud, while Colgate (0-2-0) plays a pair of nonconference games, visiting Niagara Thursday and hosting Bentley Sunday.