DENVER — In the game of hockey, which matters more, quality or quantity?
That looked to be the question in Saturday night’s game between the Northern Michigan University Wildcats and the University of Denver Pioneers. Would NMU’s quality shots win out, or would the sheer quantity of DU’s barrage propel them to victory? The question was never answered, as the two teams ended up skating to a 2-2 tie.
“I was very pleased with our effort,” said DU coach George Gwozdecky. “Other than a very poor start, I thought the last 50 minutes of the game we were very good, their goaltender was outstanding and there are very few nights like this where I’m going to say that other than a tie, I was so happy with our effort.”
The Wildcats got on the board first just under five minutes into the first period. Tyler Gron let a shot fly from the top of the right circle that beat Pioneers netminder Sam Brittain (11 saves) just over his left leg pad.
About three minutes later, NMU doubled its lead. Justin Florek from the high slot passed the puck to Erik Higby, who was stationed to Brittain’s left. Higby took the pass and chipped it over Brittain’s left shoulder to make it 2-0.
NMU almost went up 3-0 later in the period when a shot from the corner came in front of the net, bounced around the crease and then got kicked in, but it was automatically waived off.
With about five minutes left, Denver’s Luke Salazar had a golden opportunity on a power play to cut NMU’s lead down to one, but he missed the wide open net.
Instead, the Pioneers would have to wait until just after the halfway mark of the second period to finally get on the board. Kyle Ostrow came down on Wildcats goaltender Jared Coreau short-handed with NMU’s CJ Ludwig hot on his heels and was able to deke Coreau (44 saves) and slide the puck in stick-side, being hauled down in the process.
“I thought DU and the referees took the game over,” said NMU coach Walt Kyle. “Totally. They scored one on a bad change, if you watch the video, the guy was off the bench by 50 feet when they scored the goal, everybody knew it in the rink but the officials. We lost our composure there.”
Less than a minute into the third, Salazar again had a chance, this time to tie it up, but was stymied on the doorstep. He gained a penalty shot on the play, but was unable to score on that as well.
DU kept pressuring, however, and it paid off with 9:58 to go in the third. Ostrow won a faceoff back to defenseman David Makowski, whose shot from the point beat Coreau five-hole to tie it up and ultimately send the game into overtime.
“They’re a good team and they’ve got as good a group of defensemen as I’ve seen this year,” said Kyle.
The Pioneers had a couple more good chances in overtime, including a late power play, but couldn’t get the winning tally.
“Some of the chances that we had, their young goaltender was amazing,” said Gwozdecky. “I still have to chuckle because we could have played another 10 minutes and had another 20 shots and may not have been able to get another one by him.”