Three takeaways from Denver’s 3-1 win over Western Michigan

MINNEAPOLIS — Here are three takeaways from Denver’s 3-1 win over Western Michigan in the third-place game at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

1. Denver is deep, and Saturday it showed a lot of grit. Western Michigan coach Andy Murray used the words “grit” and “tenacity” to describe the effort put forward by the Pioneers on Saturday, and he’s correct in that aspect. Denver, with its top four scorers and starting goaltender watching from the stands, didn’t light up the scoreboard, but it was able to control the pace of the game. Murray used a style of war to describe the ebb and flow game.

“The first World War was fought in trenches, you’d move ahead a couple of feet and then they’d drive you back and you’d move ahead a little bit more,” Murray said. “We needed a little bit more of the trench warfare mentality. We didn’t dig in enough in certain situations.”

2. Despite playing in only his 11th game of the season, senior Evan Cowley was sharp in net. Cowley made 28 saves Saturday afternoon, including 14 in the second period. He outperformed WMU’s Den Blacker, who only had 18 saves in the game, by a mile. The performance did not go unnoticed by teammate Mat VanVoorhis.

“Evan is a great goaltender, (for) a lot of teams in this country he’d probably be the No. 1 starter,” VanVoorhis said. “We’re very fortunate to have the depth that we do on the back end.”

Junior goaltender Tanner Jaillet, who is 24-5-4 this season, was a healthy scratch for Denver on Saturday. Senior Greg Ogard dressed and served as Cowley’s backup.

3. For the second straight game Western Michigan gave up a goal shortly after tying the score. Saturday it was Denver’s Liam Finlay scoring 68 seconds after Western Michigan’s Mike McKee tied it early in the second period. Finlay’s goal held up as the game-winner.

“Western was starting to take over the game there and they had the momentum,” Denver coach Jim Montgomery said after the game. “That transition goal Liam Finlay scored, I mean, he was recruited to be a dynamic offensive player, someone that can take you out of your seats, and I think you saw that every time he was on the ice tonight.”