DENVER — Former Denver Pioneers assistant coach Seth Appert and the RPI Engineers spoiled the #11 Pioneers’ home opener, scoring a 2-1 upset, despite spending large amounts of time in the penalty box and being outshot 39-24. It was the Engineers first ever win against the Pioneers. Before 6,112 fans, RPI improved to 1-0-1 on the season, while the Pioneers fell to 2-3.
“It was an odd feeling to come back and compete against them, but it was a great feeling to come back and see the players I recruited and coached and that I still care about,” said Appert.
The Pioneers came out strong early, outshooting the Engineers 14-5 in the first period. Brock Trotter got the Pioneers on the board at 13:21 of the first period with his second goal of the year on a power play, jumping on a rebound of a shot from the point by Adrian Veideman and shooting it low stick side past a sprawling Jordan Alford.
“I think they put us on our heels early with their speed and puck control,” said Appert. “It made it difficult and we took a lot of penalties. I don’t know if we executed our game plan.”
Despite two more power plays in the first period and another to start the second, the Pioneers were unable to increase their lead, as Alford made several spectacular saves.
“He’s worked real hard to put himself in a position to get ice time,” said Appert. “Tonight he controlled his rebounds very well and made some great saves.”
“Our power play was very ineffective tonight,” said Pioneer head coach George Gwozdecky. “We had some terrific opportunities, but we have certain guys who are squeezing the stick very hard. Their penalty kill pressures real well, and we didn’t adjust. At times we hung onto the puck too long trying to make that last pass into the slot.”
The Pioneers appeared poised to bury the Engineers when, with Christian Jensen in the box for hooking, Reed Kipp was whistled for slashing. However, the Pioneers were unable to generate much pressure.
“They could have broke our back there,” said Appert. “They had momentum at that point, and that was the turning point of the game. I think the key to any good penalty kill is goaltending and Jordan Alford played a huge role. Our defensemen did a really good job pressuring the perimeter and pushing them outside the scoring areas and limiting the amount of good looks they were getting. We forced them to take more perimeter shots on the five-on-three.”
Shortly after killing off the five-on-three, the Engineers capitalized on their own five-on-three. Engineer captain Kirk MacDonald broke down the right side and beat Pioneer goalie Peter Mannino with a wrist shot low at 12:04, his first of the year.
The Pioneers came out strong in the third period, peppering Alford, but were unable to unable to convert on another power play. At 5:10 of the period, Seth Klerer broke the deadlock, taking a nifty pass from Kurt Colling, making a nice move just over the blue line and beating Mannino from the top of the circle with a beautiful wrist shot high on the stick side.
Pioneer senior forward had a golden chance to tie the game late on a shorthanded breakaway, picking up an errant pass by Jensen, but Alford stoned him from in close. “It was bad ice and sometime those kinds of things happen and you just try and be prepared for it,” said Alford.
“They played a very good road game and waited for their opportunities,” said Gwozdecky. “I thought the game was very similar to last Saturday night. They don’t get caught out of position a lot. We had some chances they gave us early; if we take advantage and it’s a different game.”
Appert feels that the Engineers can improve on their win tonight. “Hopefully we are a little more adjusted to their speed. BU was a more physical team, but DU can really fly. Hopefully we can make more offensive plays. I think we weren’t executing our offensive strategy.”