DENVER — More often than not this season, the University of Denver Pioneers have had to come from behind in games.
That wasn’t the case Friday night, however, as the Pioneers scored early and often in a 5-1 victory over the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.
“I think the difference in the game for us was we were opportunistic,” said Pioneer coach George Gwozdecky. “We scored some goals early and when they got their first one, they put all sorts of pressure on us and we made some horrible, really bad plays. Marc Cheverie was great in the second period in that segment and then we got the fourth one.”
The Pioneers started off the scoring early into the game when Tyler Bozak carried the puck around the back of the Bulldog net and slid a pass across the crease to Luke Salazar waiting on the back door who jammed it stick-side past UMD goaltender Alex Stalock 1:17 in.
“We’ve been challenged to try and score first in games and we haven’t done a good job of that,” said Gwozdecky. “To be able to generate some offense and score the first goal was very important for us to try and build off of it.”
Denver almost scored on the exact same play about seven minutes later, but Josh Meyers slid to block the pass from even getting across the crease.
However, Salazar scored his and the team’s second goal of the game with 4:05 remaining in the opening frame. Stalock misplayed a Jesse Martin shot and Salazar knocked in the rebound past a sprawled Stalock.
Then, about two minutes later with 27 seconds remaining on a Jay Cascalenda penalty, Salazar gained his third point of the night when he dished the puck to Kyle Ostrow who passed it across the bottom of the slot to Rhett Rakhshani who one-timed it stick-side on Stalock to put the Pioneers up 3-0.
The Bulldogs cut the lead to two 7:29 into the second period on a soft goal by Michael Gergen. Pioneer netminder Marc Cheverie thought he caught Gergen’s shot from the top of the left circle, but the puck ended up bouncing out of his arms and into the net to make it a 3-1 game.
Denver didn’t let it stop them, however, as they retook the three-goal lead with 7:17 remaining in the middle frame when Martin grabbed an Anthony Maiani tip of a John Ryder shot and stuffed it stick-side on Stalock.
“Up until it was 3-1, I thought we were doing some good things,” said Bulldog coach Scott Sandelin.
“After the first period, I didn’t think it was a 3-0 game, but after the fourth goal, we kind of let down.”
Stalock was beat stick-side for the fifth time in the game about 1:45 later when Bozak fired a Patrick Mullen pass past him for both a power-play goal and a 5-1 Pioneer lead.
Despite the fact that not many of the Pioneer goals were really Stalock’s fault, Sandelin replaced him for the first time this season in between periods with freshman Brady Hjelle.
“We wanted to see if our team would play better in front of him,” said Sandelin.
Sandelin’s idea worked as there was no more scoring to be had, despite each team exchanging a few chances.
“When all is said and done, when you get beat 5-1, there’s not a whole lot to like about a game,” said Sandelin.
Gwozdecky had a slightly different take, saying the game was closer than the score indicated.
“It’s one of those games where I thought the game was pretty even other than the scoreboard,” he said.
“I thought they were right in the game and gave us problems. Marc Cheverie was the difference in our end.
“The 5-1 score I don’t think really is a good indication of how the game went.”
The teams face off again Saturday night at 7:07 p.m. MDT.