DENVER — In a game that they mostly dominated, the WCHA-favorite Denver Pioneers withstood a furious third period rally by the University of Calgary Dinos and held on for a 3-2 win.
Senior captain Rhett Rakhshani had three assists on three power play goals to lead the Pioneers, who fired 40 shots on Dinos’ goaltender Dustin Butler.
“It was just good to get a win,” said Rakhshani. “It was good to get out there and see everyone in game shape. It’s different from summer skates when you get on the ice. We did some things very well and we can learn from some others.”
The Pioneers didn’t take long to get their offense untracked. Jesse Martin tested Butler on the first shift with a slap shot from the top of the right circle. On the next shift, a shot by freshman Chris Knowlton trickled through Butler’s five-hole and went just wide of the left post.
Denver got their first goal on their first power play. Rakhshani, stationed along the left boards, fed a cross-ice pass to senior assistant captain Tyler Ruegsegger coming down from the right point, and Ruegsegger rifled a wrist shot high short side at 6:38.
“You can tell he’s a senior out there,” said Pioneers’ coach George Gwozdecky of Rakhshani. “He’s always been a very gifted offensive player and the confidence of knowing what he can do is certainly pretty apparent at this point.”
On their next power play attempt, the Pioneers made it 2-0 when Kyle Ostrow made a nifty spin move coming out of the right corner and wheeled a snap shot on net that beat Butler five-hole.
“We were moving it well and getting some shots,” said Rakhshani. “When you have five guys like that who have good hockey sense it makes it easy.”
At the other end, Marc Cheverie was rarely tested, but he made a big save when called upon when Dustin Hatlefield got a partial breakaway and backhanded the puck on net from just outside he crease.
The Pioneers’ power play struck again at 4:20 of the second. Rakhshani again made a nifty pass, this time from the left corner, finding Joe Colborne in the slot. Colborne one-timed Rakhshani’s pass low stick side past Butler.
“We had some chances to score even-strength, and the power play was functioning OK,” said Gwozdecky, of a power play unit missing two regulars (Patrick Wiercioch, who was out with the flu, and Anthony Maiani, who sat due to an undisclosed violation of team rules). “You have two key guys out tonight, and when you have those two guys back you’ll probably see a different look. Even without those guys in the lineup, I think we have potential to be pretty explosive offensively.”
The offensive barrage continued for much of the second period, though the score stayed the same thanks to the efforts of Butler, who made several excellent stops.
At the other end of the ice, freshman Adam Murray played his first period for Denver, but only saw three shots.
Denver continued to generate a lot of offense through the first 10 minutes of third, keeping the Dinos pinned in their end.
However, at the 12:42 mark, Eric Frere fired a slap shot from the left point that handcuffed goalie Lars Paulgaard. The shot hit Paulgaard’s left pad, rolled up, spun off his glove and into the back of the net.
Just 52 seconds later, with Jon Cook in the box for a hooking minor, Brett O’Malley rifled a quick wrist shot from the right faceoff dot off a pass from Reid Jorgensen that beat Paulgaard high glove side.
From there, the Pioneers tightened up defensively, and didn’t allow a shot on net when the Dinos pulled Butler.
“It was a good game; I was glad that they didn’t give up and they made it tough on us,” said Gwozdecky. “They tested us in the third and I thought we played pretty well in the third period. There were some things I liked tonight, and some things that in early October we’re going to get better at. Overall, it was a good tuneup for a big weekend coming up for us.”