DENVER — When the University of Denver Pioneers and University of Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves play, fans are usually in for a treat.
Friday’s game at Magness Arena was certainly that, with momentum changes seemingly every minute. The Pioneers had just a little bit more edge and that ended up being the difference maker, as they squeaked past the Seawolves, 3-2.
“I thought we played great, I thought we set the stage to win it late. We just didn’t make plays, they did and part of that was all the penalties,” said Seawolf head coach Dave Shyiak, referring to the 23 minutes in penalties the team had compared to DU’s 10.
“I thought Anchorage played smart, they played hard, they played well, they played well together,” said his DU counterpart, George Gwozdecky. “They had a couple chances they just missed on finishing around our net. Adam Murray was terrific.”
The Pioneers set the tone of the game and came out flying, scoring just nine seconds into the opening frame. Anthony Maiani dug the puck out of the right corner and dished it in front to Kyle Ostrow who tapped it in past UAA goaltender Rob Gunderson for the third fastest goal in DU history.
DU almost had a second about five minutes later when Jason Zucker and Luke Salazar tried to connect on a two-on-none, but Gunderson did the splits and made a terrific save. Two minutes later, UAA’s Sean Wiles had a breakaway of his own, but was stopped by DU’s Adam Murray (21 saves).
However, halfway through the period, the Seawolves took advantage of a DU miscue to come down 3-on-1 on Murray. With a tic-tac-toe play, Mitch Bruijsten took passes from Nick Haddad and Matt Bailey and tossed the puck past Murray to tie up the game 1-1.
Despite the momentum gained from the goal, the Seawolves lost their leading scorer with five seconds remaining in the period when Tommy Grant was called for five minute major checking from behind penalty, which comes with an automatic game misconduct penalty.
However, UAA was able to kill off all 4:55 of power play time DU had to start the second, allowing DU only three shots on goal the entire time.
Things swung back in Denver’s way 9:11 into the third when UAA’s Andrew Pickering blocked a shot with his ear. Pickering went down and had to be taken off the ice on a backboard.
33 seconds later, Ostrow and Maiani connected once again, this time on a give-and-go to make it 2-1 Pioneers. Ostrow passed the puck out of the corner to Maiani on Gunderson’s right who sent it right back to Ostrow who tapped into a wide-open net past Gunderson (22 saves).
“Kyle and Anthony were terrific tonight,” said Gwozdecky. “They shut down Drew Shore and Jason Zucker and Luke Salazar. It’s nice to be able to see Kyle and Anthony team up.”
The Seawolves refused to quit, though, and knotted the game at two 2:21 into the third period. Brett Cameron took a shot from the top of the right circle that Matt Bailey tipped past Murray.
There’s a reason the Pioneers are the fourth ranked team in the country though, and the play on DU’s game-winning goal 9:22 into the third proved it.
Nick Shore came into the zone, walked around one Seawolf defenseman and drew a second one in, leaving an uncontested Beau Bennett to dish to, who did his part by finishing the play and wristing the puck high over Gunderson’s right shoulder.
“I thought he was great; I don’t think he had a whole lot of chances on their goals,” said Shyiak. “They’ve got guys that can make plays and if you give them easy looks at the net, they’re going to capitalize.”
Shyiak pulled Gunderson with 1:27 left to play, but the Seawolves were unable to crack Murray for a third time.
“I thought we made the game a lot more difficult than we wanted to and as a result, it was a scramble right to the very end,” said Gwozdecky.
The two teams face each other again tomorrow night. The game starts at 7:07 p.m. MT.