DENVER — Sometimes, it takes a while for teams to warm up and a game to get going.
For the University of Denver, it took two periods, but 20 minutes was enough to beat the University of Minnesota, 3-1, Friday night at Magness Arena.
The Pioneers had the first early chance about a minute in when they had a chance on the doorstep. However, they missed that opportunity and for the next 40 minutes, it was a back-and-forth game with the edge mostly going to the Gophers.
The big guy for us through the first 40 minutes was Marc Cheverie in allowing us to keep the game close so wed have a chance in the third period, said DU coach George Gwozdecky.
Thanks in part to Cheveries efforts, the Pioneers broke through the scoreless tie 55 seconds into the third period on an individual effort by Tyler Ruegsegger. Ruegsegger came streaking down the near side boards, cut in front of the net, made a move on Gopher goaltender Alex Kangas and backhanded it in for the 1-0 lead.
The goal sparked the Pioneers, as they continued to pour on the pressure. Just over halfway through the period, DUs top line struck again to make it 2-0. Ruegsegger dug the puck out of the corner to Rhett Rakhshani behind the Gopher net. Rakhshani tossed it in front to Joe Colborne who shot it on net where it bounced off Kangas and in.
I thought the difference in the game was their ones [top line] beat our ones and we talked about their top line and we had to keep them off the board and [we didnt], said UM coach Don Lucia.
The Gophers picked up the pressure a little bit afterward and Lucia pulled Kangas with about two minutes left in the period. The gamble paid off, when Patrick White scored with 1:34 remaining to make it a one goal game. Cade Fairchild took a shot that went wide, bounced off the back boards up to White who snuck it inside the post past Cheverie (44 saves).
The guys kept coming and they competed right to the very end and we scored a goal with the pulled goalie situation, said Lucia.
The only goal that [they] score[d] on [Cheverie] is a goal where it hits the [boards], changes direction and he doesnt have a chance, said Gwozdecky.
However, just 17 seconds later, DUs top line struck back. Rakhshani picked off a Gopher pass coming back into the zone, made a spin move around the defenseman and let a shot fly past Kangas (28 saves).
Nothing against the Gophers; I thought they played very well, but this wasnt a game of xs and os; this wasnt a game of strategy, said Gwozdecky. It was a game of being able to somehow ratchet up our intensity and our desire to try to do something more effective and it didnt really work until the third period, unfortunately, but start it did.
They havent lost on the first night of a series all season long and I thought we played well tonight, said Lucia. We did a lot of good things.
You just got to keep working and I thought our team did that tonight. We did so many good things tonight; I feel bad for them that they didnt get rewarded with a win.
The two teams face off again Saturday night. Puck drop is at 7:07 p.m. Mountain time.