DENVER — Looking to end their three game winless skid, the No. 13 Denver Pioneers turned in a strong defensive effort and rode a hat trick from junior Ryan Dingle to a 5-1 victory over the Minnesota State Mavericks. The Pioneers improved to 10-6-2 on the year (6-4-2 in the WCHA), while the Mavericks fell to 3-11-3 (2-8-2 in the WCHA).
The Pioneers looked tentative to start out the game. The Mavericks got sustained pressure in the Pioneers’ end, and Pioneers’ goalie Peter Mannino made several excellent stops, including one on a short-handed 2-on-1. The Mavericks outshot the Pioneers 10-9 in the period, and late in the period it appeared that they would end the first scoreless.
However, at 19:08 of the period, Brock Trotter poked the puck out of the Pioneers’ end and Dingle picked it up and skated over the blue line. Using the defenseman as a screen, Dingle fired a wrist shot high glove side past Mavericks’ goalie Mike Zacharias.
“Obviously Ryan Dingle wasn’t in real tight, but he made a great shot and it gives you a huge lift going into that locker room with that one-goal cushion.,” said Pioneers’ coach George Gwozdecky.
The Mavericks had a chance to tie it in the first minute of the second period, as they had a power-play chance carry over from 19:33 of the first period. The Mavericks moved the puck well, and Trevor Breuss had a beautiful deflection of a slap shot go just wide.
As happens so often in hockey, the Pioneers immediately turned it around. As the penalty ended, Dingle flew down the left side, taking a pass from Rhett Rakhshani and firing a wrist shot from the top of the circle that beat Zacharias high stick side and gave the Pioneers some breathing room.
Despite having several power play chances, the Pioneers were unable to build on their lead, and the power play struggled to keep pressure in the Mavericks zone.
“Obviously we’ll have some ups and downs throughout the season,” said Dingle of the power play. “Everyone’s watching tape and people know what we’re going to do, and that may force us to press a little bit.”
The Mavericks came out strong in the third period. Mannino robbed Jerad Stewart on a point blank attempt in front of the net. Moments later, Jon Kalinski intercepted an errant Pioneer pass near the blue line, skated along the right-side boards and cut in front Mannino for an excellent shot, but Mannino got his pads down.
The Mavericks seemed to grown frustrated at their inability to beat Mannino, and increased their hitting, trying to force turnovers in the Pioneers’ end. However, Nick Canzanello was called for hooking at 6:15, and the Pioneers’ finally got their power play on track.
Trotter and Dingle again combined for the goal. Trotter carried the puck behind the Mavericks’ net, pulling the defenseman with him, and as he circled into the corner slid a pass to Dingle alone in front, who shot into the wide-open net, eliciting a flurry of hats from the crowd in celebration.
“I know Brock’s the type of player that definitely might have had it (a hat trick) in the back of his mind and he has the type of patience the poise to pull something off like that. We work on the power play at least one practice a week and we have so many different options. He was trying to draw their “D” coverage over to him and it paid off.”
Kurtis Kisio finally beat Mannino and got the Mavericks on the board at 9:05 of the period. The play started when the Mavericks chipped the puck out of their zone over the head of Pioneers’ defenseman Ryan Seabrook. Breuss picked the puck up behind Seabrook and carried it into the Pioneers’ end, then sent a perfect cross-ice pass to Kisio streaking down the middle of the ice with an open net to shoot at.
With some life in them, the Mavericks again increased their physical play, but the Pioneers’ didn’t let it affect them.
“It’s hockey, and hockey is chippy, and we’re kind of used to stuff like that,” said Dingle. “It’s going to be a battle no matter what. All the teams in the WCHA are strong and we need to look past that.”
With five minutes left in the game, Mavericks’ defenseman Brian Kilburg was called for a five-minute major and a ten-minute misconduct for hitting from behind, and the Pioneers scored two to put the game out of reach. First, junior Geoff Paukovich, standing alone behind the Mavericks defense, got a perfect pass from freshman Tyler Ruegsegger and slammed it into the net for his first goal of the year. Patrick Mullen got the Pioneer’s final goal at 18:44, taking a cross-ice pass from Mike Handza and beating Zacharias with a one-timer short side.
Gwozdecky felt afterwards that this game was one of the Pioneers’ best efforts all year. “Tonight, I think that was probably our best game as to overall performances of work and intensity and competing hard pretty much every single shift. Our team has every reason to be proud of their efforts.”
Looking ahead, Dingle is excited to play Alaska Anchorage. “We have to build off this momentum, work on getting pucks to the net and work on our power play.”