DENVER — The Denver Pioneers might be forgiven for thinking they are stuck in some hockey version of the movie “Groundhog Day.” For the second straight night, the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks beat Denver, 3-2, on an overtime goal by Josh Archibald.
It is the fourth time this season that Denver has lost an overtime game by a 3-2 score. Denver is also 0-6-5 in its last 11 overtime games.
“Same guy scored; that’s how we drew it up,” laughed Mavericks coach Dean Blais. “We played hard and effective in the third period.”
Archibald got the puck after Brian Cooper stole it from Daniel Doremus near the blue line and sent it back toward Archibald in the right faceoff circle. Archibald took a stride toward the net and beat Denver goalie Sam Brittain with a quick shot near side at 2:51 of overtime.
“The guys are down and frustrated,” said Denver coach Jim Montgomery. “Four overtime losses of our five losses this year, all by identical scores. Obviously, we probably have to work on a little bit of conditioning.”
The first period featured a lot of back and forth play, but few good scoring chances. Denver had the best when Ty Loney got a pass while standing alone in the slot, but he couldn’t corral the puck and get a good shot off.
The goalies, particularly Brittain, continue to be walls, and their teams’ respective defenses did a good job of preventing many quality chances throughout almost two periods. However, after over 34 minutes of scoreless hockey, the game suddenly changed, as both squads got their power plays working.
“I thought they outplayed us,” said Montgomery. “I thought their speed was difficult for us to match up against. They did a good job. They played harder and better than we did, and that’s what happens if you are playing a lot of time in your ‘D’-zone and giving up a lot of shots. Thank god Sam Brittain was really good for two periods.”
Denver capitalized twice in a span of 1:33 on two separate power plays, and it was Joey LaLeggia who keyed the offense. First LaLeggia let fly with a wrist shot from the middle of the blue line that Doremus tipped past Mavericks netminder Kirk Thompson.
Denver almost immediately got another power play, and this time, LaLeggia drifted in from the right point unnoticed, and Doremus, standing in the far corner, found him with a quick pass, and LaLeggia one-timed it past Thompson at 16:23.
Just when it seemed Denver had the momentum, the Pioneers lost it, as the Mavericks got a late power play chance and capitalized. Jake Guentzel got the puck over to Brock Montpetit on the far side, and he beat Brittain with a quick wrist shot at 18:19.
“Up two-nothing, we needed something to happen, and obviously Jake Guentzel makes a great play to Montpetit, who puts it away,” said Blais. “Kind of like LaLeggia sneaking in from the point when they got the second goal there.”
The Mavericks tied it early in the third on a goal Brittain probably wants back. Montpetit skated in along the right side, made a move to the outside, and from right against the boards by the hashmarks, sent a quick wrist shot that beat Brittain over his left shoulder at 4:32.
“I think the puck dipped; I don’t think Sam got a bead on it,” said Blais. “He didn’t misplay it; I don’t think he really saw it.”