DENVER — In a game between two Pioneers, Sacred Heart was no match for No. 3 Denver, who advanced to the championship game of the Wells Fargo Denver Cup against Dartmouth with a 5-0 victory. With the shutout, senior goaltender Peter Mannino tied Gerry Powers for the all-time Denver record for shutouts at 13.
“Peter was Peter,” said Denver coach George Gwozdecky. “He was strong, he was in control, he made one sensational save in the third period. He deserves all those accolades from the shutout record. It’s a significant record. It talks to longevity, to consistency, and to effort.”
Denver started strong, using their quickness to generate chances and keep Sacred Heart pinned in their defensive zone. On the first shift of the game, Denver’s leading scorer, Brock Trotter, set up linemate Tyler Bozak with a pass to the slot, but Bozak couldn’t control the puck as he tried to break in on net.
Sacred Heart did get a couple of good chances on Mannino, including a laser from the high slot by Alexandre Parent that Mannino stopped with his right pad.
“I thought our start was very good,” said Sacred Heart coach Shaun Hannah. “I thought if we could have scored a goal during that stretch it would have been good for us, and to give up the two late was tough.”
With all the pretty plays Denver was making in the first, it was an ugly goal that got them on the board when John Ryder took a floating wrist shot from the left point that beat a partially screened Stefan Drew inside the left post at 14:57 of the period.
Denver built on their lead on a classic blue collar goal by senior Tom May. May, down on the right post, redirected a Chris Butler shot on net. Drew made the initial save, but May scooped up the rebound and lifted it inside the top corner far side at 17:30.
“I think any time you’re in a situation like this where you’re playing in a tournament and you’re playing a team that is not a traditional rival, a team that is perhaps regarded as an underdog, there is tendency for it to be a trap game,” said Gwozdecky. “You have a tendency maybe to take the team for granted. Sacred Heart is second in their league; they’ve done a good job this year. I knew that the game was going to start off sloppy for us and probably for them because of the layoff, but I was pleased with the effort our guys gave.”
Denver didn’t take long to build on their lead in the second period. Patrick Mullen, moved to forward for the game from his normal defense position due to the absence of Tyler Ruegsegger and Rhett Rakhshani, both playing for the US Junior team, made a beautiful play as he was hauled down from behind, passing to Trotter along the left side boards. Trotter broke in and fired the puck past Drew’s outstretched glove at 57 seconds of the period.
“At practice all week, I’ve been playing forward,” said Mullen. “I’ve learned a lot from playing ‘D,’ but it felt good to be back in there making plays. I got tripped up there, but I was trying to get the pass to him.”
“We were hoping to get some momentum coming into the second and to give up a goal early in the second gives Denver more momentum than they had,” sad Hannah.
Denver continued to generate pressure, keeping Sacred Heart pinned in their own zone for long stretches. Kyle Ostrow hit the right post from the top of the circle, and Mullen hit the left post on a blast from the point.
Mullen’s hard work was rewarded on a pretty tic-tac-toe play shortly after that. Trotter collected the puck at the top of the right circle and passed it to Brandon Vossberg down low on the left post. Vossberg turned and passed it back to Mullen at the bottom of the left circle, and Mullen fired it home 14:37.
“Brock gave ‘Voss’ a pass, and Vossberg noticed me coming into the slot there, and I knew he was going to give it to me,” said Mullen. “I just kind of ripped it on net.”
Captain Andrew Thomas added a power play goal at 19:20 of the period on a blast from the left point that skipped past Drew on the far post. Trotter collected another assist on the play.
Sacred Heart did generate some sustained pressure in the third period, particularly on a power play at the midway point, but every time they got close, Mannino made the big save. Further, players like Jesse Martin and Dustin Jackson blocked several shots to help preserve the shutout.
“Sacred Heart came hard all game,” said Mannino. “In the third period, they were shooting a lot. The team kept making it easy, blocking shots, clearing rebounds. You go down the list of guys making big plays to preserve the shutout,it was a team effort. That shows character. When you’re tired, blocking shots, doing the little things like that, is key.”