DENVER — Goalies should occasionally get in on the action too.
Behind a breakout offensive performance, the No. 4 Denver Pioneers crushed the Minnesota State Mavericks 7-0. It was the first time the Pioneers swept a WCHA opponent at home since February, 2006. In earning his 11th career shutout, Pioneers’ netminder Peter Mannino chipped in two assists.
“All the credit to Tyler (Ruegsegger),” laughed Mannino. “The second assist, I just kind of set it there and things happened from there. It’s a good feeling; the goalie doesn’t usually get points and feel that, so its pretty special. We had a good pre-game skate and just came back at it.”
In Friday night’s game, the Pioneers had trouble connecting on passes and couldn’t break it out of the zone. Saturday, perhaps determined not to let the game get too close, they came out flying. After one early chance where Mavericks’ winger Kael Mouillierat had an open net from the slot but shot wide left, the Pioneers rocked the Mavericks with a trio of highlight-reel goals.
“We executed offensively perfectly,” said Pioneers’ coach George Gwozdecky. “There’s no question that the first five or six minutes Peter Mannino was the hero for us. We gave up, or they created, either one, some great chances, and Peter held them off the scoreboard.”
Dustin Jackson got the Pioneers on the board at 5:09 with a nifty move, spinning out from the boards towards the middle of the left circle and firing a shot along the ice that beat Mavericks’ goaltender Dan Tormey stick side for Jackson’s first collegiate goal.
Fans barely had time to celebrate before Patrick Mullen made it 2-0, taking a pass from Ruegsegger at center ice and skating down the left boards. Mullen faked a shot low stick side, then cut back across the crease and knocked it in at 5:38.
The Pioneers took a series of penalties late in the period, but the Mavericks were unable to capitalize. Instead, Brock Trotter skated the puck out of the Pioneers’ end and made a sharp cut towards the middle at center ice, nicely avoiding a check, and rifling a pass to Ruegsegger skating through center ice. Ruegsegger came down one-on-one on Kurt Davis, stickhandled past him and fired a shot that beat Tormey five-hole at 13:06.
“Actually, that was (Brandon) Vossbergs guy; I jumped out there and wasn’t supposed to,” laughed Ruegsegger sheepishly. “I saw Trotter coming across, and he got hit and stuck with the puck and made a great play. He put it on my tape and fortunately the ‘D’ bit on the move.”
“He wasn’t supposed to be on the ice,” said Gwozdecky. “I had called for Vossberg and (Tom) May, and they’re changing and I’m yelling for Brandon, and he says, ‘Coach, Tyler just jumped.’ There goes Tyler and he goes in and scores. I said, well, it’s a great play, but you weren’t supposed to be on the ice. Nice goal, but don’t do it again. That was obviously a critical play at that time of the game.”
When the Mavericks did get pressure on their power play, Mannino proved nettlesome again, scooping up pucks and controlling his rebounds well. Jon Kalinski had a chance from right in front, but Mannino didn’t panic and kept his pads on the ice, knocking Kalinsk’s shot aside.
In the second period, the Pioneers continued to pour it on. Ruegsegger got his second of the night on a spectacular play, taking a pass from Chris Butler, skating down the left side boards, and stickhandling around Brian Kilburg and finishing by sliding the puck inside the right post.
“It definitely felt better than last night, for whatever reason,” said Ruegsegger. “I call it grace, amazing grace, but whatever it was, it was good. I had a little bit more jump in my skates tonight, and the team played great.”
Jesse Martin made it 5-0 on a laser of a shot from the left side circle that beat Tormey high glove side at 12:59. Less than two minutes later, Trotter made it 6-0. With Mannino pulled on a delayed penalty, Chris Nutini at the point spied Trotter low in the left circle and rifled a pass to him. Trotter fired it past Tormey at 14:25.
“I think they were on a delayed penalty,” said Trotter. “We had them kind of running around and he had the puck, faked the shot and put it right on my tape. It was pretty much a gift, a great play by him. I thought our line played well together. We were feeding off each other, making some chances and creating things down low.”
The Mavericks had several good chances, but Mannino came up with the stops time and time again. Zach Harrison had an open shooting lane from the middle of the left circle and fired a shot low, but Mannino closed his five-hole quickly. The Mavericks best chance came midway through the period when Rylan Galiardi cut across the slot at speed and fired a shot that rang off the crossbar.
The period got quite chippy. It started early, when Davis got a five-minute major and game disqualification for kneeing Mullen 11 seconds into the period. The teams kept the refs busy, including an after-the-whistle scrum that put three players into the box for roughing.
The Pioneers didn’t let up at all in the third, generating 13 shots to just four for the Mavericks, playing for the shutout for Mannino and determined to prevent the Mavericks from clawing their way into the game.
“We won all three periods,” said Gwozdecky. “Our effort was very good in that third period. I was very pleased by that. We showed discipline, and the thing that I was so pleased about was how hard they worked for each other.”
Tyler Bozak got the only goal at 14:42 of the period when he took a pass from Trotter and skated down through the crease, cutting wide. Bozak appeared to be out of position as he stopped near the far right corner, but he shot it towards the net and the puck rolled up Tormey’s leg and into the net.
“Tonight, our puck skill and work effort was much smarter,” said Ruegsegger.