MINNEAPOLIS — Tenth-ranked Denver skated into Mariucci Arena Friday night and upset No. 2 Minnesota 2-0.
Denver goalie Juho Olkinuora recorded the first shutout against Minnesota since Alaska-Anchorage eliminated the Gophers in the 2011 postseason.
“You have to play good defensive and you have to take advantage of your situations,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. “Both teams were not giving each other a lot in the in zone starting early in the game.”
“When you get outshot 8-2 on your own power play, that kind of sums it up,” added Gophers’ coach Don Lucia.
Trailing St. Cloud State by two points with four games to play, the Gophers had a lot to play for, but did not play with a sense of urgency.
“They got an earful,” Lucia said. “They may not feel better, but I do. I am agitated. I am really disappointed. I do not get on them very often, but you know what, the expectation of playing hard is a given. That is a given. That has to be the foundation.”
The points were very critical for Denver as well, keeping them in the thick of things for home ice in the WCHA playoffs.
The key goal came 18 seconds into the third Denver off of Shawn Ostrow’s skate. There was no clear kicking motion, so the goal stood.
“If you’re going to shot from the perimeter, you have to have people going to the net looking for the rebound,” said Gwozdecky. “As simple as that play was early in the third period, it was just that. [Minnesota goalie Adam] Wilcox did not handle the shot and we got the rebound.”
Ty Loney added an empty-net goal with 15 seconds left to finish off the game.
In the second period, both goaltenders faced quality scoring chances. Olkinuora stopped Mark Alt on a great opportunity late in the period from between the circles, while Wilcox made a key save on a partial break by Chris Knowlton from just inside the circle.
The Gophers managed to break Denver’s stranglehold on the neutral zone and occupied the offensive zone for longer stretches in the second.
“There was not much flow to the game,” Lucia admitted. “It was kind of a boring game.”
Denver outplayed Minnesota, but most of the Pioneers’ shots where from the perimeter. Denver owned the neutral zone and their defensive zone. They clogged up the neutral zone, blocked shots and prevented Minnesota from gaining position in the offensive zone. This included holding the Gophers without a shot on two power plays.
“They weren’t in the same area code,” Lucia said. “That really was for our top two lines. [Lines] three and four had better energy and more effort.”
The Pioneers finished the first with 10-4 shot advantage.