DENVER — Evidently a week off was just what the No. 5 Denver Pioneers needed. Denver fired 48 shots and scored three power-play goals en route to a 5-0 win over No. 15 Omaha at Magness Arena Friday night. Tanner Jaillet made 34 saves in earning his third shutout of the year and seventh of his career. It also marked the first time since the beginning of December that Denver has won two games in a row.
“UNO is very scary; their transition offense, very scary, their ability to make plays, very scary, and we just kept talking about the importance of when they’re about to get possession everybody has to get back above the puck,” said Denver coach Jim Montgomery. “I thought we got better and better at that throughout the game, and that limited how much puck possession they had and really gave us a lot of puck possession time.”
Denver took the lead late in the first period with a goal on a power play, as Jared Lukosevicius got just outside the crease and tipped Ian Mitchell’s shot from the point past Evan Weninger at 18:45.
“We practiced on one-timing pucks and getting pucks through traffic,” said Lukosevicius of the power play. “That’s what we did tonight, and obviously it worked out well. One of our goals tonight was to win net-front battles and win special teams, and I think we did both tonight.”
“Not a team you want to give a power-play opportunity, especially the end of the game,” said Omaha coach Mike Gabinet. “Not a way you want to start off with the game. One of our goals tonight was to stay out of the box, so it’s not good to give them five chances.”
Denver came out flying in the second period and scored early to take the two-goal lead, as Ian Mitchell got a drop pass from Dylan Gambrell at the left point and cut down toward the middle of ice, sliding a wrist shot low stick side past Weninger at 2:42.
“I thought we looked really tired tonight,” said Gabinet. “Our execution was off, our compete level wasn’t as good as theirs, and we looked tired out there.”
Clinging to a two-goal lead has not always been the safest spot for Denver this season. Early in the third period, Denver used its power play to double its lead. Colin Staub looked to have put Denver in front 3-0 when he banged home a rebound from the crease at 4:17, but after a lengthy review, the goal was overruled. In the long run of Denver’s season, that may have been a good thing. Troy Terry, who has been struggling offensively since early December, rifled a snap shot from the right faceoff dot top corner stick side at 4:52 to put Denver up 3-0.
“For Troy Terry to be scoring goals, it’s always a good sign for Denver hockey, but I felt it’s been coming for four games now just the way he’s been working,” said Montgomery. “Right after they scored, 14 was at the net, Luko, and then the puck squirts loose, 19 (Terry) get it, 19 gets stripped, and then their ability to skate back, and then 7 (Gambrell) strips the guy who stripped 19, we maintain possession. That’s Denver hockey; that’s when we can really tire people out and grind them down.”
Right after that, Denver went on the power play again. Henrik Borgström got the puck off a deflection at the right faceoff dot and spied Lukosevicius stationed at the left post and slid a pass to him. Lukosevicius had time to spare to lift the puck into the wide-open net past Weninger, who was sprawled prone on the ice trying to stop it.
“I liked the way they worked,” said Montgomery of the power play. “I thought their attitude was they were looking to attack the net, and we haven’t seen that in a while. It was both units. The second unit probably led us; the first power play they had was like a shooting barrage in UNO’s end.”
Erich Fear then made it 5-0 Denver at 12:37 with a rifle slap shot from the blue line that beat Weninger top corner stick side. It was Fear’s first collegiate goal. Omaha had a late power play to try to spoil the shutout, but the defense and Jaillet clamped down.
“When Tanner’s on his game, it helps on the offense,” said Lukosevicius. “He’s really good at breaking the puck out so we don’t have to play much defense, and us forwards love not playing defense.”