GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Denver University scored two quick goals in the first period and then rode goalie Marc Cheverie to a 2-0 shutout victory over the University of North Dakota.
It was an especially satisfying win, given that no current Pioneers player had ever won before at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
You get more prepared for some games than you do for others, Cheverie said. I probably shouldnt say that, but when you play North Dakota, play Minnesota and play Wisconsin, you get up a little bit more. Youve got to be at your best or youre going to lose.
Sophomore forward Joe Colbornes tally 1:23 into the opening stanza was all the Pioneers needed as Cheverie blanked the Fighting Sioux even-strength, shorthanded, 5-on-4, 5-on-3 and 6-on-4. And when UND finally got the puck past the DU netminder, it didnt count.
Cheverie made 33 saves and held the Sioux 0-9 on the power play to earn his sixth shutout of the season and his second in three games against UND.
Hes been giving us that kind of goaltending all year long and really, for the most part, since he became our number-one guy over a year and a half ago, said Denver coach George Gwozdecky. Tonight, I thought Marc played very well. There were times when the puck bounced right for us in our zone and then it bounced against us in the other zone.
Sioux coach Dave Hakstol started freshman goalie Aaron Dell for just the fourth time this season. The move backfired when Dell gave up two goals on Denvers first five shots. He was replaced by sophomore Brad Eidsness at the start of the second period.
The Pioneers got exactly the type of start they wanted with two goals in the opening 3:18, taking the crowd of 11,728 out of the game early.
Dell made a pad save on Antony Maiani on the doorstop, only to have the rebound go to Colborne in the slot. He lifted a backhander over Dell to put Denver up 1-0 just 1:23 in.
Less than two minutes later, Denver struck again when Tyler Ruegsegger took advantage of a turnover in the UND zone, used a defenseman as a screen and fired a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Dell. The unassisted goal gave the Pioneers a 2-0 cushion they never relinquished, thanks to Cheveries stellar performance.
I got the puck, put it on net and it happened to go in, Ruegesseger said. So it was simple, but sometimes you need those simple goals to be successful.
The second goal was not a good goal, Hakstol said of Dells performance. He wasnt as sharp as he is when hes 100 percent on.
Ruegsegger and Colborne had a big night for us, got us on the board early, and kept the crowd quiet for at least a little while, Gwozdecky said.
Eidsness didnt see much action when replaced Dell to start the second period, as the Sioux outshot the Pioneers 15-2. With three UND power plays in the period, including 1:37 with a two-man advantage, Cheverie came through to keep the Sioux off the scoreboard.
At the 2:33 mark of the third period, UND appeared to make it a one-goal game when freshman forward Carter Rowney fired in a cross-ice pass from defenseman Jake Marto. But the goal was immediately waived off because Sioux forward Corban Knight was called for interfering with a Denver defenseman.
I really didnt see anything, Gwozdecky said. I heard up in the press box after the game that it was a very good call. It was definitely a cross-check for interference on our player.
I saw a great play by us, Hakstol said. There was a little bit of contact out front, but I thought their defenseman was diving out front to break up the passing lane. Thats all I saw. It was a judgment call on the refs part.
Instead of cutting the Pioneers lead in half, getting the home crowd back into the game and gaining momentum with plenty of time remaining, UND had to kill a penalty. Although the Sioux have had more than their share of disallowed goals this season, Hakstol credited the players with not getting frustrated.
You have two choices: If you get frustrated, youre going to beat yourself, he said. We stuck with it. It didnt pay off, but we stuck with it.
Cheverie remained a wall through the third period. UND pulled Eidsness for the extra attacker with 2:21 left in the game. When defenseman Patrick Wiercoich was called for high-sticking with 1:40 left, the Denver goalie rose to the occasion and turned back the 6-on-4 power play.
UND is in a scoring drought, having notched four goals in its last four games. The Sioux power play, earlier one of the nations best, has now gone 2-36.
It is kind of getting frustrating, said senior and assistant captain Chris VandeVelde. We cant grip our sticks. Weve been playing well. We just have to play a complete game. We had four or five bad minutes there in the first where it came back to bite us in the butt.
Tonight, we spotted a real good team two goals, Hakstol said. Thats not a way to start a hockey game against a good team. We werent able to finish on our plays offensively.
Im happy with our energy were playing with, he added. We sure as heck are working hard. We have to keep pushing hard for good things to happen.
Denver improves to 15-6-4 overall and 11-4-4 in the WCHA. UND is now 13-9-5 overall and 8-8-3 in conference play. The puck drops at 7:07 p.m. Saturday at Engelstad Arena for the second game of the series.