DENVER — After a relatively slow start, the No. 11 Denver Pioneers finally got their offense going to up their unbeaten streak to seven games, beating the Robert Morris Colonials 6-2. The Pioneers improved to 9-4-1 on the year, while the Colonials fell to 4-7 going into tomorrow’s matchup against former CHA foe Air Force.
The Pioneers looked tentative at first, having difficulty moving the puck. Through the first six minutes, the Colonials outshot the Pioneers, and the game looked to turn into a replay of Friday night’s tight defensive contest against Air Force.
Pioneers’ netminder Glenn Fisher, getting a rare back-to-back start, was strong early, allowing his teammates to get their legs. “Today I felt good,” said Fisher. “I was really seeing the puck and I felt I recovered on my rebounds well.
Senior Ryan Helgason got the Pioneers on the board at 12:46 of the period. Geoff Paukovich made a pretty behind-the-back pass as he spun across the blue line to Helgason moving down the middle. Helgason’s backhand was stopped by goalie Christian Boucher, but he followed up and poked the rebound over the goal line.
Bolstered by the goal, the Pioneers played with more confidence. Late in the period, freshman Tyler Ruegsegger scored to make it 2-0 with a brilliant effort. As he skated up the center of the ice, he took a pass from Patrick Mullen and moved towards the right side of the blue line. As Colonials’ defenseman Rob Cowan moved in to take the body, Ruegsegger slipped the puck through his legs and stepped around him with speed, then used Colonials’ defenseman Andrew Bonello as a screen, shooting the puck past the outside of Bonello’s left skate through the five-hole.
“Tyler works so hard,” said Pioneers’ coach George Gwozdecky. “He just never gives up on plays; he’s one of these guys who just works and gives effort and second effort. He’s been a little bit snakebit; I think he’s been pressing a little bit for whatever reason over the last 3-4 games, so it’s really good to see him break out and score an important goal for us.”
In the second period, the Pioneers continued to blitz the slower Colonials. Senior Adrian Veideman made it 3-0 with a power play goal at 9:15 of the period, firing a slap shot from the point low stick side past Boucher.
Fisher saw little action for large stretches of the period. “You just have to stay in the game mentally and when they come down you have to make the big stops when you have to and I felt like I did that tonight.”
The Colonials got some life briefly when Tom Biondich took the puck and poked it past Fisher low glove side. Energized by the goal, the Colonials started to get some pressure in their offensive zone.
However, Biondich was whistled for boarding at 17:01, and the Pioneers capitalized. As they have all season, Brock Trotter and Ryan Dingle connected in what was almost a perfect replay of their goal against Air Force, as Trotter, camped low along the left side, slid a pass through the crease to Dingle streaking down the right side, who lifted it past Boucher.
“We’ve been working on plays,” said Trotter. “He (Dingle) knows how to get open and score goals, so I’m going to try to find him every time; if I put it near his stick he’s probably going to score. It felt like a video replay of last night.”
“So many times the power play starts off with the faceoff in the offensive zone,” said Gwozdecky. “You can do yourself a world of good by gaining possession right off the faceoff. Last night and earlier on tonight I thought we would fall asleep, try to let the center win the draw, and all of sudden the puck goes down the ice and we’ve got to work for 30 seconds to get the puck right back where we started. As the game developed, I thought our power play did a much better job of getting possession right off the back and reserving our energy for creating plays and making good decisions.”
Trotter made it 5-1 at 1:54 of the third, receiving a pass behind the net from Mullen, coming out the left side and beating Boucher.
“We were cycling it pretty good and we got their ‘D’ running around a bit,” said Trotter. “The guy took me and I kind of bounced it off the back of the net, kind of got open and took it to the front and the goalie didn’t really know where I was and I decided to slide it five-hole.”
Just when it threatened to turn into a laugher, the Colonials responded. Bryan Mills made it 5-2 at 4:06, beating Fisher high stick side after dropping down the slot to pick up a pass from Jason Towsley.
The rest of the game featured a lot of run and gun hockey. Ruegsegger almost made it 6-2, but Trotter’s pass skipped over his stick while he had a wide open net to shoot at. Shortly thereafter, Bonello’s laser of a slap shot hit the crossbar. Despite the chances, the Colonials were unable to close the gap. Chris Butler got the final Pioneers’ goal at 19:17 of the third, taking a pass from Trotter and firing a shot that beat Boucher high glove side.
Gwozdecky was particularly happy with the play of Trotter. “Coming off what was probably a mediocre game last night, I thought he played a real strong game; he played with great intensity, played smart and used his creativity at the right times.”
The Pioneers have no time to celebrate; after the game, it was clear that they are all focused on next weekend’s series against archrival Colorado College.
“We’re going to have a lot of confidence going to CC,” said Trotter. “We’ll take the two wins and just get ready for them during the week.”