MINNEAPOLIS — Dj vu all over again.
The fourth ranked Denver Pioneers barged into Mariucci Arena and shutout the No. 11 Gophers on back-to-back nights by identical 3-0 scores. The feat is 89 years in the making . . . and the third blanking of a Gopher squad in the seasons first four games.
If the evening could get any sweeter for the road team, Pioneers head coach George notched his 500th career win and his 350th at Denver.
“My wife and family have put up with a lot. Dad’s bad moods . . . ” remarked Gwozdecky on the support he has had throughout his 500 wins. He was also very appreciative of the supportive of the University of Denver.
The Gophers had no answers for getting the puck past Marc Cheverie. Cheverie has owned Minnesota since the Gophers tallied five goals on 17 shots against him on November 21, 2008 at Magness Arena, chasing him from the net with 7:56 to play. He now holds a scoreless streak of 180 minutes against the Gophers.
“What a genius decision that was,” quipped Gwozdecky on starting his hot goaltender.
“You can rewrite the story from last night,” remarked Minnesota coach Don Lucia on losing 3-0 in consecutive games to Chevrie and the Pioneers. “Thats three straight shutouts for him.”
Minnesota was equally frustrated trying to stop the Pioneers top line, featuring Rhett Rakhshanni and Tyler Ruegsegger.
Minnesota again found itself trailing 2-0 going into the third.
To make matters worse, Minnesota’s Mike Carman took a five minute major for grasping the face mask when Matt Glassner slashed his goalie as time expired in the middle frame. The teams were to skate four men aside for the first two minutes of the third, before Cade Fairchild’s interference call one minute into the final period.
The Gophers were able to kill Fairchild’s penalty, surviving one minute of 5-on-3 without digging themselves a deeper hole. But it was short lived. Kyle Ostrow netted his second of the game at 4:12 when he went around the defenseman and shot back against the flow past Kent Patterson on the far side.
Minnesota had a chance to get back in the game when Denver was called for two minors at 6:10.
Usually a 5-on-3 allows the offensive team to control the puck in the offensive zone. But the Gophers special teams reached new levels of futility allowing the Pioneers to clear the puck multiple times. Entering the night Minnesota was 0-for-12 for the season; when the series was complete, they stood at 0-for-20 on the so-called man advantage.
It wasn’t that Minnesota wasn’t skating hard or getting chances. Cheverie was in their heads making them over think their shots.
“Marc was getting in their head. . . . You start to get a little too picky, if you over think about your shot too much,” said Gwozdecky.
“Eventually the hockey gods will pay off,” added Tony Lucia.
Rhett Rakhshanni scored the second goal from Denver on the power play at 4:27 of the second on a quick wrist shot from 40 feet that found its way through Pattersons legs.
Although Minnesota outshot Denver in the first period 13-9, the Pioneers controlled play. They got numerous quality scoring chances, yet managed to kill off three penalties.
Tyler Ruegsegger had the first quality scoring chance when he hit the pipe four minutes into the game.
The first goal of the game came on a play where Luke Salazar skated unchallenged off the left boards through the bottom of the faceoff circle and saw Kyle Ostrow positioned at the back door. Ostrow one timed the pass into the empty net. The skating lane seemed to part like the red sea.
“It was a nice play by Salazar. Empty net back door goal,” said Ostrow.
Next weekend Denver plays host to Minnesota State while the Gophers welcome the Seawolves from Alaska Anchorage.