DENVER — One doesn’t often expect overtime in a preseason exhibition game, but Magness Arena fans almost saw it Saturday night as the University of Denver Pioneers squeaked out a 5-4 victory over the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
Freshman defenseman Patrick Wiercioch tapped in a Patrick Mullen rebound into a virtually open net behind Alberta netminder Aaron Sorochan with 1.8 seconds remaining in the game to seal the victory for the Pioneers.
“I thought we did some good things, I thought we did some bad things; [the] first game’s always good for freshmen to get out that deer-in-the-headlights feeling,” said assistant captain Tyler Ruegsegger, who had two goals in the contest.
The Pioneers didn’t get their first shot of the game until their first power play opportunity, but they made it count. Patrick Mullen one-timed a cross-ice pass from Jesse Martin five-hole on Alberta goaltender Aaron Sorochan 5:15 into the first period.
31 seconds later, Tyler Bozak jammed home his own rebound while on the power play to put Denver up 2-0.
“There were times tonight when I thought we really controlled the play and you could see some things developing,” said Denver coach George Gwozdecky. “But, that’s why we play this [exhibition] game; to be able to get these guys through that first experience of being on the ice at this level.”
The score remained that way until the 14 minute mark of the middle frame when the Bears’ Jesse Gimblett slid the puck past Pioneers’ netminder Lars Paulgaard, who replaced starter Marc Cheverie at the 7:27 mark of the second period.
Cheverie saved all 14 shots he faced while Paulgaard stopped 9 of 11 Alberta shots.
“It didn’t look like it was [Cheverie's] first or second game of his career as a Pioneer,” said Gwozdecky. “On the other hand, you could see a guy, poor old Lars, who hasn’t played in almost two years. You could see the difference in the two.”
A little over a minute later, DU regained its two goal lead when Ruegsegger connected on a passing play with Rhett Rakhshani and roofed the puck past Sorochan.
The Bears cut the Pioneers’ lead back to one with a little over a minute to play in the second when Lee Zalasky tipped in a Shaden Moore slap shot from the point.
Denver went up 4-2 just over 13 minutes into the third period on a power play on Ruegsegger’s second goal of the game. However, the Bears kept fighting, and Ben Kilgour cut the lead back down to one. Derek Price tied it up on a contested shot with just 19.3 seconds remaining. However, Wiercioch was able to prevent the contest from going into the extra frame.
“[Alberta is] one of the best known teams in Canada and they’re always in the thick of things at the end of the year,” said Gwozdecky, giving praise to last year’s Canada West Universities Athletic Association champions.
NOTES: Dustin Jackson, Jon Cook, J.P. Testwuide and Cody Brookwell did not play for violating team rules; all three except Brookwell will be eligible to play in the Pioneers’ next game against Notre Dame on Oct. 11. Brookwell’s suspension will last for the next three games.