DENVER — In front of a crowd of 4,436 at Magness Arena, the No. 10 Denver Pioneers beat arch-rival Colorado College, 5-3, in the first game of a best-of-three WCHA playoff series. Denver goalie Juho Olkinuora made 39 saves, and Scott Mayfield and Daniel Doremus each had two assists.
“You don’t have to look at the record books, schedule, standings, PairWise,” said Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky. “You know when these two teams get together, it’s going to be a battle. We had to play, in order to be able counteract their game and their urgency that they have to play with right now, we had to play a pretty darn good game, and we did that. They gave us all we wanted and more.”
The first 10 minutes featured a lot of up and down skating, with no team generating strong chances. CC got on the board first on an own goal however, when Shawn Ostrow, sliding on his butt in the crease, hit the rebound of an Eamonn McDermott shot with his skate past Olkinuora at 11:07.
After killing off a penalty, Denver attacked with renewed urgency, and it paid off when Larkin Jacobson made a diving tip of a Scott Mayfield shot and knocked it past Joe Howe at 16:17.
“They were pretty opportunistic tonight, to be honest with you,” said Tigers coach Scott Owens. “We made a few mistakes and they seemed to capitalize on it. They had a little bit of puck luck early. Their sticks are good. They’re a good team, and they’re the second-highest scoring team in the country for a reason. They can convert.”
Barely a minute later, Denver took the lead when Quentin Shore wound up for a blast from the left circle that beat Howe top shelf at 17:46.
“It’s a cliche, but believing in ourselves,” said Olkinuora. “We knew they were going to come out strong and we were going to have to battle to get a win from this game. We never lost faith.”
Both teams had good chances early in the second. Olkinuora robbed William Rapuzzi on a point-blank shot in the slot, while Matt Tabrum had a tip try go just wide of the right post on Howe.
With the play tilting toward the Denver offensive zone, Ostrow made up for his mistake while on a power play when he kept his stick on the ice and deflected the rebound of a Chris Knowlton rebound attempt of a Mayfield shot by Howe at 8:46.
CC got one back at 12:07 when Aaron Harstad beat Olkinuora with a rifle from in between the top of the circles. However, late in the period, Tabrum forced a turnover at his own blue line on the right side boards and got the puck up to Daniel Doremus, who passed it over to Zac Larraza in the left faceoff circle. Larraza knocked the puck out of the air with his stick, and his quick shot beat Howe at 16:45.
After a fairly even start to the third, CC pulled to within one when Rylan Schwartz forced Shawn Ostrow to give up the puck in the left faceoff circle and backhanded a pass to Alexander Krushelnyski at the crease, who beat Olkinuora at 7:00. Before CC could get any momentum from that goal though, Denver struck back when Ty Loney got the puck in between the hashmarks of the faceoff circles and backhanded a shot low stick side past Howe at 8:51.
“They came from the perimeter, most of the shots,” said Olkinuora. “From a defensive standpoint, you have to be happy with that. We got as many as more shots today. It was a back and forth type game.”
For the rest of the period, Denver clamped down defensively, and kept CC from mounting any sustained pressure.
“Every time they did score, we responded fairly rapidly and in a positive way,” said Gwozdecky. “We gave ourselves some emotional momentum and took theirs away. Without a doubt, that was a big factor in all three periods.”