Key penalty kill turns the tide for Denver

The numbers Denver’s special teams produced looked good on the final box score Friday afternoon against Bemidji State, but the impact of the power play and penalty kill units went deeper than the score sheet.

The Pioneers finished the game 2-for-3 on the PP and 4-for-5 on the PK, but two kills in particular changed the game.

Anthony Maiani was called for hooking with 2.5 seconds left in the second period with Chris Nutini already in the box for a holding call 1:26 earlier. So the Pioneers began the third period at a two-man disadvantage for 29 seconds in a tie game against the 15th-ranked BSU power play (20.5 percent) that was already 1-for-3 going into the third. The Beavers won the draw but didn’t create much in the offensive zone.

“If we get a goal early in the third period, it gets our bench going,” said BSU’s Jordan George. “We didn’t score and we were kind of on our heels the rest of the period. It was a huge turning point in the game.”

Denver successfully killed off the Nutini penalty and shut BSU down for the remainder of the Maiani penalty, preventing the Beavers from putting a single shot on goal.

“We did exactly what we wanted to do,” said BSU senior Matt Read. “We won the faceoff and got the puck in the zone, got some shots of and Lowesie [Ian Lowe] hit the side of the net. If that goes in, it’s a completely different game. It deflated our tires.”

After two periods in which BSU seemed to have the advantage in momentum, energy and scoring chances, the momentum had suddenly turned in Denver’s favor.

“The five-on-three to start the third period was an emotional boost for us to get through that,” said Denver coach George Gwozdecky. “We fed off that.”

Added Drew Shore, “Being able to kill that off really gave us a lot of momentum and we were able to roll from there.”

Nick Shore scored just a minute after the Maiani penalty expired to give the Pioneers a 3-2 lead and Denver quickly pulled away. Jarrod Mermis and Luke Salazar added even-strength goals to put the game out of reach.

Earlier in the game, Denver’s power play helped the Pioneers keep pace with a Beavers team that totaled 18 shots on goal in the first period and 10 more in the second. Kyle Ostrow scored 6:15 into the game on the man advantage and Drew Shore added another power-play goal on a long unscreened wrist shot.

Denver’s power play ranks 22nd nationally at (21.7 percent) and the penalty kill is sixth-best at 85.7 percent.