DENVER — The University of Denver Pioneers somehow keep finding ways to win.
Saturday night, it took a tactical adjustment on the breakout, but the Pioneers topped the visiting Bemidji State University Beavers, 4-2, for the series sweep and DU’s fourth straight victory.
“We made one tactical adjustment that I think really had an effect in the game … in our attack coming out of our own zone and it really created a lot of good chances for us,” said Denver head coach George Gwozdecky. “They struggled with that adjustment and they were a little bit loose in their coverage.”
“We had a lead and couldn’t hang on to that lead,” said his Bemidji counterpart, Tom Serratore. “they started stretching their forwards and … we found it very difficult.”
Like last night, the teams faced off in a quiet building. Unlike last night, however, the teams got the offense going quicker. The Pioneers had the first real chance of the game four and a half minutes in (as opposed to 12 minutes in last night) when Jason Zucker deked around BSU goaltender Mathieu Dugas. However, as he was getting the puck to his backhand to try and get off the shot, he was tripped in the process.
However, Denver took advantage of the ensuing power play, scoring the first goal of the game 4:59 in, when David Makowski wristed a shot from the point that beat Dugas five-hole.
The Beavers, however, would come out of the period on top thanks to two late goals. With just over two minutes left and with Dugas pulled for an extra attacker on a delayed penalty call, Sam Rendle let a shot fly from the high slot that beat Pioneer goaltender Sam Brittain (20 saves).
Thanks to the rule changes that mean that mean a penalty is not waived off if a team scores on the delayed call, the Beavers got the resulting power play and made it count, taking a 2-1 lead with 1:24 left in the frame. Emil Billberg from the left corner passed the puck to Ian Lowe on Brittain’s right who one-timed it over Brittain’s right shoulder just under the crossbar and in the net.
“We really had a tough first period, but the last three, four minutes were pretty good to us and that obviously put us in the locker room ahead 2-1,” said Serratore.
The two teams battled through a quiet middle frame, combining for 11 total shots. One of those shots broke through for the Pioneers, though, as Denver tied it up with 1:23 left in the middle period when Nick Shore knocked in a rebound off a Paul Phillips shot high past Dugas (19 saves).
“You never want to give up a goal in the last two minutes of a period and we did that and that obviously set us back a bit right there,” said Serratore. “We have them an air hose and the momentum actually shifted right there; you don’t want to do that to the home team.”
Denver broke the tie about halfway through the third period on a nifty play started by Nick Shore. Shore got the puck behind the net, worked it in front, spun around and fired it on net. Dugas made the initial save, but Anthony Maiani was on the doorstep to poke the rebound five-hole.
Serratore pulled Dugas to try and get the equalizer with 1:20 left, but Zucker, with a clear from the hashmarks to the left of Brittain, scored the Pioneers’ second empty net goal in as many nights to seal the victory with 43.2 seconds remaining.
“The good thing is, we’re winning these tough battles and finding ways to win and finding different ways to get it done and relying on different people,” said Gwozdecky. “Obviously that’s very positive.”
What you may have missed: Early in the third period, the referees had to help DU’s Nick Shore and BSU’s Emil Billberg out as their helmets somehow got connected to each other.