DENVER — Before a large homecoming crowd of 6,183, the No. 11 Denver Pioneers played a tight first two periods against the RPI Engineers before exploding in the third period and getting a 5-1 win, splitting their third straight series.
The Engineers came out strong in the first period, pressuring Pioneer goalie Glenn Fisher often. After Fisher made several big stops, the Pioneers settled down and the game became an up-tempo affair, with both teams using their speed to generate odd man rushes.
“Glenn Fisher was to me our number one star,” said Denver head coach George Gwozdecky. “He made some huge saves. They had us on our heels in the first period.”
Once again, the Pioneers struck first on the power play. Just after Engineer forward Andrew Lord missed a golden chance, ringing a shot of the crossbar, the Pioneers countered, as defensemen Keith Seabrook slid a perfect pass through the crease to center Ryan Dingle, who deflected a backhand high stick side past Engineer goalie Mathias Lange at 7:17. Pioneer captain Adrian Veideman also assisted.
However, despite three more power plays, the Pioneers were unable to build on their lead, as the Engineers aggressive penalty killers continued to push the play to the perimeter, denying the Pioneers any opportunity to move the puck inside.
“We took some penalties in the first, and I thought that was, you know, interesting, but I think as the game went on, we probably deserved more penalties,” said Engineer coach Seth Appert. “We hooked and held a little bit too much, maybe got a little frustrated that we hadn’t had more success offensively because we were playing so well and took some penalties that we probably didn’t need to take. At the same time, again, you give Denver credit for their speed, and when teams have that kind of speed they force you to try to keep up with them.”
The Engineers came close to tying it late in the period, but Fisher robbed Seth Klerer down low, just getting his arm on Klerer’s shot and deflecting it over the net.
The second period featured a lot of back and forth action. Lange made a spectacular save on Brian Gifford, just closing off the five hole on Gifford’s shot from low in front.
The Engineers tied the game on a textbook power play goal at 6:39 of the period. Engineer captain Kirk MacDonald carried the puck over the blue line and froze the Pioneer defense, allowing Jake Luthi to get behind them on the left side. MacDonald passed to Luthi, who quickly passed to Jake Morrissette on the right side, who had a wide open net to shoot at.
As the period wound down, both the Engineers and Pioneers had chances to take the lead. The Engineers missed on a couple of 2-on-1s, including one when Tommy Green’s deflection went just wide.
“Glenn Fisher was outstanding and made some great saves to keep us at one,” said Appert.
The Pioneers capitalized late, as defensemen Andrew Thomas moved in from the left point and took a pass from winger Brock Trotter out of the right corner and beat Lange with a beautiful wrist shot at 19:16 of the period. Freshman Tyler Ruegsegger also assisted.
“Tyler and Brock really created the play and Andy did a great job of jumping into that hole and getting the pass and really hammering it by their goaltender,” said Gwozdecky. “It was a great shot, and at that point it was almost the only kind of shot that would get by that kid. It gave us momentum going into the locker room, gave us a little bit of breathing room, and I think took away a little bit of anxiety from our team because we were struggling.”
Early in the third period, the Engineers had an excellent opportunity to tie it, but Matt Angers-Goulet’s backhand deflection just missed an open net. After that, the Pioneers speed became a factor.
At 3:45 of the period, Ruegsegger scored on a perfect wrist shot, taking a pass from Gifford near the left side boards, breaking in and beating Lange with a laser of a wrist shot high stick side.
“Brock Trotter, Tyler Ruegsegger, Rhett Rakhshani and Brian Gifford have all done a real good job up front for us,” said Gwozdecky. “Cody Brookwell and Keith Seabrook, you can see them improving game to game back on the blue line. That’s really good to see, because the type of team we have right now we need to lean on those guys, they have to handle their responsibility and sometimes it’s a load to handle, but I’m pleased with their performance.”
The Pioneers got a lift from this goal and started to buzz Lange, pinning the Engineers in their zone. The Pioneers outshot the Engineers 11-4 in the third period.
Veideman scored on a power play at 16:11, taking a pass from Seabrook and firing a shot from the point that beat Lange low glove side. Steven Cook added an empty net goal at 18:11 of the period.
“We need to be a little more patient in our mindset,” said Appert. “Some nights you’re not gonna score four goals, even if you’re playing well, and sometimes you just have to be OK with that and stay patient and stay focused through that.”
“Offensively I think we did a much better job of getting traffic to the front of the net,” said Gwozdecky. “I think it was a better effort as a result, and it wore them down; it wore their goaltender down. He had to work hard tonight. It wasn’t easy tonight, Glenn Fisher had to come up really, really big for us and he did.”