DENVER — first game as one of three team captains, senior David Makowski notched two goals, his fellow senior Sam Brittain stopped 21 shots, and the No. 17 Denver Pioneers rolled over the Niagara Purple Eagles, 5-1 in front of 5,225 fans at Magness Arena in Denver.
“More than anything, it was a good team win,” said Makowski. “There are NCAA implications with this game, and tomorrow too; nonconference games are big. We just wanted to get off to a good start and kind of get a streak going, and hopefully we have.”
Considering how badly Denver dominated Niagara in the first period, the Purple Eagles had to be happy coming out of the period trailing only 2-1. Denver didn’t let Niagara get a shot on net until almost the 15-minute mark, and in addition to capitalizing on its first two power play chances, barely missed a shot wide with an open net that would have given Denver a 3-0 lead.
With Niagara’s Mike Conderman already in the box, Patrick Divjak was called for interference. Denver had already been dominating the early play, keeping the Purple Eagles pinned in their zone, and quickly capitalized. First, Joey LaLeggia and Nolan Zajac moved the puck back and forth across the blue line, and LaLeggia scored on a one-time blast from the right point at 7:50.
Still on the power play, Makowski made it 2-0 when he got a pass from Matt Marcinew and let fly with a blast from the center-right blue line that beat Jackson Teichroeb low at 9:24.
“It was really impressed by our forwards,” said Denver coach Jim Montgomery. “I thought our forwards took over the game early. I thought we were physical on our forecheck, and I thought we really moved our feet down low. We protected pucks, and on offensive rushes, we got people and pucks to the net, which I thought generated a lot of momentum for us and caused the other team to take penalties.”
Denver continued to pour on the pressure, missing on a few good scoring chances. However, on its second shot of the period, Niagara cut the deficit to one when, off a draw, Stephen Pietrobon got the puck in the slot and beat Brittain with a quick shot at 15:39.
“We looked like a team that maybe traveled, and obviously the penalty trouble we got into early,” said Niagara coach Dave Burkholder. “They had a four power plays in the first period, and they got all the momentum off that. I thought five-on-five, maybe until we gave up the 3-1 goal, it was a pretty good game. I said to them that if that first period is the worst period we have all weekend, we’ll be fine.”
After withstanding a few good chances from Niagara early in the second, Denver broke the game open in a six-minute span. First, Trevor Moore got the puck down into the right faceoff circle and sent a cross-ice pass to Ty Loney, who beat Teichroeb low at 10:25.
“We haven’t had the best second periods, so it was something we had talked about,” said Makowski. “We talked about coming out with that same energy that we had in the first 10 minutes of the first.”
Right after the goal however, Niagara went on a five-on-three power play for a minute, but couldn’t score, and the two-man power play was negated by a too-many-men on the ice call.
After the kill, at 15:25, Grant Arnold sent a shot toward the net that deflected off Quentin Shore and in to give Denver a cushion.
Right after that, Denver went on a power play and almost immediately capitalized. It was Makowski getting his second of the game when he skated along the blue line from the left point and let fly with a snap shot that beat Teichroeb low glove side at 16:13.
Niagara did get another chance to get one back, again getting a five-on-three power play and spending the last 3:31 of the second on the man advantage, but the Purple Eagles never threatened.
“I hope next time we are in a tight game and we have a lead, we will learn from how we didn’t manage the game properly,” said Montgomery of Denver rebounding from two overtime losses in Alaska last weekend after having leads in each game. I like how we kept pushing the pace and kept trying to do the right things above the puck and in the offensive zone.”