DULUTH, Minn. — Denvers power play was awful last Saturday in losing to Alaska Anchorage in overtime at Magness Arena.
On Friday, their man advantage was crucial to a huge road win. Denvers power play accounted for all four goals as the league-leading Pioneers beat Minnesota Duluth, 4-3, in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association contest before 4,745 fans at the DECC.
The victory kept No. 7 Denver two points ahead of Wisconsin in first place. The loss dropped UMD into a fifth place tie with Minnesota.
Our power play was not so great [Saturday, going 0-for-9, and allowing a game-tying shorthanded Anchorage goal] and we really tried to focus on that, and to get pucks to the net, said Denver junior center Tyler Ruegsegger. We gave up an early goal [to UMD] and it was so important to get two quick ones like we did. Doing well on power plays just means working hard.
Denver (17-8-3 and 13-6-2 WCHA) was 4-for-7 on power plays in breaking UMDs nine game home unbeaten streak (7-0-2). The Pioneers were making their first visit to the DECC in nearly three years, since October of 2006.
UMD (14-9-6 and 8-8-5) was 5-1 the previous six games and outshot Denver 39-24. But the Bulldogs were 1-for-8 on power plays, a department they rank fourth in Division I. The game featured the leagues top-ranked goaltenders–UMD junior Alex Stalock and Denver freshman Marc Cheverie.
We let Denver take over with their skill and they slowed the game down, said UMD freshman winger Mike Connolly, who had two goals. We need to play a lot more disciplined. Clearly we have to stay out of the penalty box. This is a special teams game.
A wild first period had more than a few turning points. Connolly scored 7:15 into the game, on a power play, for a 1-0 lead. Fifty-five seconds later, with Denver already on a power play, UMDs Andrew Carroll appeared to score shorthanded for a two-goal lead, instead, teammate Cody Danberg was called for roughing.
The Pioneers had a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:37 and scored goals 81 seconds apart for a 2-1 edge. Connollys 11th goal of the season, 46 seconds after that, made it 2-2 through one period.
Denver has some talent and what they did was shoot the puck. They won the special teams part of the game and won the game, said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. Its not like we didnt have power-play
chances, but we have to bury those opportunities.
The Pioneers needed just 15 seconds of the second period to go up 3-2 on a goal by freshman star defenseman Patrick Wiercioch, a 2008 second-round NHL Entry Draft pick by Ottawa. The Bulldogs rallied with a grinding goal at 2:50 of the third period as Danberg put in his own rebound from the crease, for his first goal of the season, on a play that needed a video replay to confirm.
For a shift or two after that we had some energy, but then got stuck back in the penalty box, said Danberg. Five-on-five we were the better team, we played a solid game, but our power play and penalty killing hurt.
Less than five minutes after Danberg tied it, Denver winger Rhett Rakhshani scored the winning goal on a power play rebound at 6:19 of the third period for his 12th goal of the season. The same power-play unit was on for all four Denver goals.
Stalock was pulled for an extra attacker with 1:53 to go and then UMD skated 6-on-4 for the final 77 seconds after a Denver penalty, but the Pioneers held on.