DENVER — For the third time this year, the Denver Pioneers finished a third period tied 2-2 and went to overtime. For the third time this year, they lost, 3-2, on an overtime goal.
Josh Archibald scored at 1:34 of overtime off a two-on-one rush, firing in a shot from the right circle past Denver goalie Sam Brittain, to lead the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks to a 3-2 overtime win over the Denver Pioneers in NCHC action.
“(We were) very much improved from last weekend against Cornell at home,” said Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais. “Denver had a lot of good chances. We were a little bit better on the power play and penalty kill, which we weren’t last week. We were awful and scrambling.”
Neither team looked particularly sharp in the first period. Both struggled to get good scoring chances, and both looked be more physical. Ultimately, the Mavericks scored on one crucial breakdown in the Denver zone when Archibald got the puck behind the goal and got it out to Jake Guentzel alone in the slot, who buried the puck low glove side past Brittain at 5:19 of the first.
Denver looked much sharper in the second period, and wasted no time getting the tying goal on a power play. David Makowski sent a pass to Will Butcher, who had drifted into the left circle from the blue line, and Butcher ripped a snap shot high glove side past goalie Ryan Massa at just 39 seconds of the period.
After weathering a few rushes, the Mavericks retook the lead with a power-play goal of their own after enjoying back-to-back power plays. Ian Brady launched a shot from the left point that Dominic Zombo, who was in the slot, tipped over Brittain’s left shoulder at 5:58.
Denver’s best chance to tie in the second came when Matt Tabrum got a short-handed breakaway, but his wrist shot from the circle went wide. Nebraska-Omaha had a golden chance to take a two-goal lead when Justin Parizek got out of the penalty box and picked up a cleared puck and went in alone on Brittain. He made a move to try to tuck the puck in low, but Brittain got his left pad on it.
In the third, Denver again came close tying it around the midway point of the period. Right off a faceoff after going on a power play, Joey LaLeggia let fly a shot from the right point that hit the left post and rebounded back out, getting stuck in Massa’s pads while a furious scramble went on in the crease.
With about six minutes to go, Massa again made a big save, this time on Daniel Doremus, who had a golden chance in the slot, firing from point-blank range, only to be denied by Massa.
“That was the game-saver,” said Blais. “When he saved that, I figured, no problem, we’ll win this thing if you can make a save like that. That was a game-saver. He was the difference in the game for us.”
Denver kept up the pressure, and was finally rewarded at 15:58 when LaLeggia got the puck at the right point off a faceoff and let fly with a quick wrist shot that beat Massa stick side.
“I loved our battle coming back,” said Denver coach Jim Montgomery. “I thought that we constantly tried to put pressure and play 200-foot hockey. So I was happy with that, but this is the third time we lose in overtime. We just have to be making better position and puck possession. We turn the puck over and give up a two-on-one. We just can’t do that. We have to become smarter.
Blais immediately called a timeout after Denver tied it to regroup his team. The Mavericks did immediately settle down, setting the stage for Archibald’s heroics.
“There’s always a natural tendency to relax there,” said Blais. “I told them, ‘Hey, don’t panic or anything. If we don’t win in regulation, maybe we will in overtime or the shootout. Don’t give up; there’s always a momentum-swing when that happens.’”