Archive for DU Pioneers

DU Pioneers Sweep Second Ranked North Dakota

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After a barn-burner of a game the night before, the DU Pioneers came into Saturday night’s game looking to do what most people only dream about, sweep North Dakota. It would be impossible to expect the same type of frenetic chaos that engulfed last night’s game from start to finish, but we still saw two of the country’s best programs pushing each other from start to finish.

Period 1

As was the custom in each of the three periods from last night, North Dakota really came out and owned the play early in the game, earning the first six shots on goal. DU found their legs and stunned UND with a goal on only their second shot of the game. Once again it was the Pioneer top line that found possession and cycled very well. Danton Heinen fed Dylan Gambrell in the low slot and he rifled the puck top shelf on the glove side to give DU the early lead.

Just 30 seconds after, however, UND tied the game on a nice shot from Austin Poganski. Jaillet thought he had the angle, but Pognanski found a way to take a bad angle shot and beat Jaillet far side over the glove.

From this point on, the pace of the game slowed down a great deal. Both teams forced the other to work very hard coming through the neutral zone and were both excellent at exiting their zones when the other team was forced to dump the puck in. Last night’s track meet turned into a chess match tonight. Period ended tied at 1.

Period 2

The chess match continued, with Denver getting much better of the game of wits tonight. DU’s possession was greatly improved in what was definitely their best period of the weekend. The Pioneers gave UND no time or space and forced them to earn every inch. The frustration of the Fighting Hawks was definitely apparent, and continued when Jarid Lukosevicius (excellent hockey name) was fed a beautiful pass from Gabe Levin in the slot. He had time to load his shot and pick his spot and went bar down to give DU a lead they would never relinquish.

DU earned several additional opportunities, but UND goaltender Cam Johnson stood tall and didn’t let the Pioneers stretch their lead. DU squandered multiple odd man rush opportunities, including a 3 on 1 where they didn’t get a shot on goal, and a couple of power play opportunities. They were letting UND hang around, something you generally can’t do with one of the best and most talented teams in the country. 2-1 Pioneers after two periods.

Period 3

North Dakota owned this period from start to finish, at least from a possession stand point. The DU Pioneers did an excellent job keeping the vast majority of the shots to the outside. North Dakota had three power play opportunities in the period and put several shots towards the net. The Pioneers, however, did a great job blocking shots and making sure that UND got no second chance opportunities. Those that did get through, Tanner Jaillet stopped with ease.

With just about 4 minutes left in the game, Colorado Avalanche prospect Will Butcher made an amazing pass from between his own face-off circles to spring Trevor Moore on a breakaway at the opposing blue line. Moore froze Johnson and then slipped the puck five-hole to give DU the insurance they were looking for.

An additional penalty, late in the game, allowed North Dakota an opportunity to pull their goaltender for a 6 on 4 advantage. DU’s penalty kill was strong, giving noting easy to North Dakota. As the power play expired, a puck pin-balled off of about 3 players and started to find its way into Jaillet’s net, but Nolan Zajac dove behind his goaltender and cleared the puck away, killing UND’s hopes of a comeback. Dylan Gambrell later added his second goal of the game on an empty net to put the game on ice. 4-1 victory for DU.

Notes and Quotes

DU’s top line of Danton Heinen, Dylan Gambrell and Trevor Moore were outstanding this weekend. They scored eight of DU’s 10 goals from this weekend. “When they are on, they’re unstoppable.” Said coach Jim Montgomery. “That’s one of the best defensive cores (North Dakota) in the league and they weren’t able to stop them.”

Just watching tonight’s game, I truly believed that this was the best defensive effort from the DU Pioneers all season. They blocked shots, were on all UND players and forced them to make quick decisions all night long, helped clear rebounds and got out of the zone well all night long. Asked if he thought it was the team’s best defensive game of the season, Coach Montgomery said,

“Quickly, I’d say yes. I just loved, especially in the third period playing against a team that was pushing at us; our layers, our physicality and our ability to be five guys in the picture and make plays off of that was really good.”

Will Butcher might not have been noticeable much of this weekend, but this time it was in the best possible way. Butcher played some of his best defensive hockey all season over the last two nights and punctuated it with that outstanding pass to Moore in the third period.

“I loved the way he played. I talked to him after the first period, thought he was trying to force too much. I told him to just trust his brains, poise and make the plays when they were there. And those couple passes to Trevor up the middle, that’s what he’s great at.”

DU will face Colorado College next weekend in the Battle for the Gold Pan. In what is a bit of a change in scheduling, DU plays in Colorado Springs on Thursday night and will play outdoors at Coors Field on Saturday. Coach Montgomery knows about the added challenge that comes after a big win against such a fantastic opponent.

“We don’t really have a rink to practice on to help us (for the big ice in the World Arena). I don’t think we really play great there, since I’ve been here. I hope that through the experience we’ve gained and through what we preach and talk about that we’ll able to be ready. It sets up as a trap game.

On the experience the Pioneers will have in the outdoor game and what he’s looking forward to.

“The experience and seeing our players be able to focus and play Denver hockey in a different kind of environment. It’s like the NCAA Tournament, there’s a lot of stuff going on around you and can you focus and hone in? It’s like the Hoosiers movie when they get to Indianapolis and he measures the basketball and the basket. It’s the same with us, it’s still gonna be 200 x 85 feet, there’ll be two nets on there, two blue lines and we just gotta go play hockey.

I loved that answer.

I’ll be very interested to see how the polls reward DU for their huge wins this weekend. Until next week ladies and gentleman!

DU Pioneer Game Recap: Thriller vs. North Dakota

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The DU Pioneers have been trending in the right direction for several weeks now. The games have been improving and the team has been picking up its play after a big stumble in the middle of the year. Tonight, DU got a shot at some retribution against a team than sent them tumbling early in the season, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. What played out was one of, if not the best hockey games I have ever witnessed.

Period 1

The DU Pioneers seemed a little shaky at the start of the game. They were just coming off of a bye week and seemed to be a combination of rusty and also nervous against the second-ranked team in the country. Some early turnovers led to some early chances for North Dakota and, as any coach will tell you, when you give a good team like that too many chances, they’ll make you pay. North Dakota did that just before the six minute mark of the period when DU had a pretty soft clearing attempt that was immediately turned back into their zone. Christian Wolanin, son of former Colorado Avalanche player Craig Wolanin, was the late player on a 4 on 3 rush and he ripped a shot through Tanner Jaillet’s 5-hole to give UND an early lead.

DU would respond, however, and quickly. After being scored on, the Pioneers found their legs and quickly began to realize that they could skate with North Dakota, and you could see their confidence begin to rise. After some excellent forechecking, Nolan Zajac grabbed a loose puck and threw it at the net. The puck was redirected through a ton of traffic by Grant Arnold to level the game a one goal apiece.

Both teams began to exchange counter punches, each looking for the other to make the mistaken. The pace was furious, the hits were hard and the game just kept going. No more goals were scored in the first period, and it was tied 1-1 after one.

Period 2

North Dakota again came out firing and dominated the early play in the period. But DU managed to weather the furious forecheck and heavy hits from the Fighting Hawks. The Pioneers would then strike quickly and unexpectedly right off a seemingly innocent face-off play. Danton Heinen actually lost the draw, but hustled through the UND players and across the goal mouth to win possession of the puck. All eyes were on him and he immediately fed the puck back to a waiting Trevor Moore who tapped the puck into an open net to give DU a 2-1 lead.

Moore would find the puck on his stick in a prime scoring area again, as he led a 2 on 1 break into the zone. This time, however, Moore tried an ill-advised pass that was broken up and immediately sprung North Dakota on a 3 on 1 the other way. Some smooth passing saw Troy Stetch even the game at two goals apiece.

DU was not intimidated, however, and showed their resilience, yet again. Just two minutes later, Trevor Moore immediately atoned for his missed opportunity on his last shift. Heinen and Moore provided a beautiful cycle, playing keep-away with the puck. Adam Plant snuck in on the back side and Moore found him with a dart of a pass through the low slot and across the goal mouth, putting DU back on top by a goal.

Both teams continued to push the pace at each other, trading opportunities and body checks. This was truly the heavyweight battle everybody expected. The period ended with DU holding a 3-2 lead.

Period 3

North Dakota, once again, came out of the period flying and dominated the play. They spent the first minute and a half in DU’s zone, putting on an absolute clinic on cycling. It ended up with the puck on Brock Boeser’s stick, and he tied the game at three.

DU, once again, battled back. It would have been easy to just allow themselves to be overwhelmed by what many consider to be the best team in the country, but they took North Dakota’s best punch and then put them on the mat with theirs. In an outstanding breakout, rush, DU broke out from behind their net and flew through the neutral zone. Danton Heinen and Trevor Moore connected on a perfect give-and-go, setting Heinen up right between the face-off dots. Heinen unloaded a monster of a shot and gave DU the lead again.

DU had found their life and began to dominate play more and more. In a period that appeared as if no penalties would be called, two were suddenly called back to back. DU had a brief power play, and then Nolan Zajac took a penalty, allowing a brief 4 on 4, then a UND power play. Just as UND was going on the power play, Quentin Shore began what he thought would be a great rush, but was nearly crushed by the UND player exiting the penalty box. Danton Heinen out-hustled everybody to the puck and noticed that Shore was inexplicably alone in the slot all by himself. He fed Shore the puck, who went bar-down for a shorthanded goal to give DU a two-goal lead.

This would be short-lived, as UND took advantage of a bad change on the PK from DU on their next shift, and Nick Schmaltz brought UND back to within one goal as the teams traded goals.

DU remained composed, however, and kept North Dakota from evening the game with a combination of outstanding shot-blocking, and big saves from Tanner Jaillet. Eventually the puck would be cleared and Trevor Moore, who easily could have put home the empty net goal himself, moved the puck to Danton Heinen, who slammed the puck home for his second goal, and fifth point of the night.

DU earned a 6-4 win against mighty North Dakota in a thrilling game from start to finish.

Game Thoughts

There are just too many things to say about this game, so I’m going to boil it down to a couple thoughts.

1) Danton Heinen and Trevor Moore played an unbelievable game tonight, put DU on their shoulders and won the game. They were impeccable. It was poetry watching the way these two found each other all night.

2) North Dakota’s CBS line was equally amazing and, if not for some timely saves, might have evened this game late.

3) This could have been the best game that I’ve ever seen. It was fast, hard-hitting, intense, filled with amazing skill, showcased several spectacular goals, had your heart racing until the very end. It had absolutely everything.

4) What are these two teams going to do for an encore tomorrow?!

 

DU Pioneers Series Preview: University of North Dakota

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The DU Pioneers come back to the ice this weekend after a bye week to face NCHC rival, North Dakota. This is a big weekend for the Pioneers as they continue to fight for home ice in the NCHC playoffs and to get themselves the best possible seed they can for the NCAA Tournament in the spring. North Dakota, however, will be an incredibly difficult foe, ranked #2 in the nation and sitting atop the NCHC standings with an impressive 41 points. North Dakota handled DU easily when the Pioneers traveled to North Dakota earlier in the season, and look to repeat that performance this weekend.

North Dakota Fighting Hawks

Vancouver Canucks draft pick, Brock Boeser, leads the way for North Dakota. He has tallied 18 goals and 31 points in 26 games this season. His linemate, Drake Caggiula, is second on the team in scoring with 15 goals and 15 assists on the year. DU will have to shut this line down in order to have a chance in the series this weekend.

North Dakota sports and impressive group of special teams, with a 19.1% power play and an 86.1% penalty kill. North Dakota comes into tonights game 8-0-1-1 in their last 10 games, outscoring opponents by a grand total of 33-13. They are loaded from top to bottom and will impose their will on a game if you let them. They have to be considered the favorites this weekend.

DU Pioneers

The Pioneers are in a stretch of some of their best hockey all season with some very positive trends beginning. After long stretches of absences, the big guys are finally showing up on the score board for the Pioneers again. Both Danton Heinen and Trevor Moore have started scoring and it has helped the team to a 6-1-1 stretch in their last eight games, outscoring opponents 25-17.

Evan Cowley has also found his form and confidence after being essentially relegated to backup duty for Tanner Jaillet earlier this year. Both will likely see action this week and both will need to be very sharp.

Keys to the Series

With any series, but especially the big ones, it comes down to a few simple things. Minimize chances, take advantage of your opportunities and get the goaltending you need. DU faces an uphill climb against one of the best teams in the NCHC and the country.

DU Game Recap: Pios Sweep Duluth in Chippy Game 2

Kevin Goff | Burgundy Brigade

Kevin Goff | Burgundy Brigade

The DU Pioneers have been surging of late. They came into Saturday night’s game on a seven game unbeaten streak and looked to put a healthy amount of daylight between themselves and University of Minnesota-Duluth with another win tonight. It would not come easily, though, as UMD brought a whole lot of physicality to challenge the Pioneers. Here is your DU Game Recap.

Period 1

Evan Cowley was in net for the Pioneers again tonight after a fantastic effort in relief of Tanner Jaillet last night. He was tested a few times early, but remained just as sharp as the night before. Both teams seemed to be feeling each other out a bit to see what adjustments had been made early in the game, before really going all out. It was also clear that it was going to be a challenging evening with the officiating as several clear penalties were allowed to go for both teams. DU did end up with the first power play of the game and made it count. Some excellent passing saw Dylan Gambrell make an outstanding shot/pass right off of Danton Heinen’s stick. The puck re-directed perfectly past UMD goaltender Matt McNeely, to give the Pioneers a 1-0 lead.

Later, in a 4-on-4 situation, the Pioneers had a nice rush come up the boards sprung by Will Butcher, who made a great stretch pass to Danton Heinen. Heinen found himself with a 2 on 1, but the defender committed to Heinen early. Heinen put a pass through the legs of the UMD player right onto the stick of Dylan Gambrell, who made an excellent shot to give DU a 2-0 lead.

UMD did push back later in the period, but was unable to beat Cowley who was absolutely locked in. 2-0 DU after one.

Period 2

Things began to get very ugly in the second period as the officiating, or lack thereof, began to rear its ugly head. UMD upped their physical game, but began taking several liberties. DU got away with a few, as well, but when several scrums began to break out in front of each goalie after rather innocent plays, it was clear that the officials had no control over the game. A few power plays for both teams towards the end of the period were not converted, and there was no scoring in the second period.

2-0 DU after two.

Period 3

The officials suddenly found their whistles, and DU found themselves with a two-man advantage for nearly a minute very early in the third period and had the opportunity to ice the game. Both Will Butcher and Danton Heinen rang pucks off the post, and the Pioneers could not find the third goal. DU then began what was their best period of the series and covered all 200 feet of the ice magnificently. Only one breakdown occurred, which led to UMD’s goal. Cowley let a rebound get away and couldn’t get over to stop the shot as a UMD player was standing directly in the crease. The goal would be reviewed and would count.

Very late, after UMD had pulled their goalie for an extra attacker, DU was back on the power play and any remaining control quickly left as multiple UMD players made no bones about hiding their intentions to attempt to hurt DU players. The game ended with DU having a two-man advantage, and then a few UMD players needing referees to escort them through the handshake line at the end of the game. It was a truly gutless, and classless display from UMD.

Despite all the shenanigans, DU emerged with a huge 2-1 victory and a series sweep.

Game Stats

Period 1

Period 2

Period 3

Totals

Notes and Quotes

It would be impossible to talk about this series without talking about how outstanding Evan Cowley had played. These two games are made even better by the fact that he had essentially been relegated to the back-up role when Tanner Jaillet was playing very well. Coach Montgomery had nothing but good things to say about him. “He was spectacular, I mean, that’s the best I’ve seen him play this year. Hopefully he can build on this.”

Over the past few weeks, I have really begun to notice Matt VanVoorhis more and more. He had another fantastic night tonight and, especially after Coach Montgomery singled him out last night for his leadership and vocal activity on the bench last night, really thought he shined again tonight.

“Matt was playing great hockey and then he got that concussion and it took him a while to get back. When he takes away time and space and wins his battles, he is an energy guy for us. And he brings great positivity to us on the bench.”

More great things from the top line, Danton Heinen factored in on both goals tonight and is rolling now. He looks like a different player.

“It’s nice to see these guys break through and start scoring two goals a game like they have recently. We need them to continue that if we’re going to be a team that wants to trend in the right direction.”

It is unfortunate that I have to talk about it, but the officiating in this series, especially tonight, was abysmal. The officials lost control of this game so fast tonight you could tell it was going to get ugly. Coach Montgomery mentioned how proud he was of his team for standing up to UMD, but also not getting involved in the garbage after the whistles. I asked him if he thought the officials let the game get out of hand tonight.

“It’s tough. When emotion comes in. They’re a frustrated team, they’re not scoring goals and they’r enot winning games. They were preseason number 2 in the country and number 1 in the NCHC and it’s tough, when you’re an official, to control that.”

The Pioneers are now very comfortably number three in the NCHC. They are unbeaten in eight games now and could possibly make a run at the NCHC regular season title.

“We’re just going to worry about keep moving in the right direction and if we end up third in our conference, we’ll probably be in the tournament. Then it’s more about setting ourselves up for a good opponent and being at home in the playoffs so you can get as high of an at-large seed as you can.”

As usual, a big thanks to Jim Montgomery for his comments after the game. A huge win for DU who now looks forward to University of Miami (Ohio) for a big road series next week.

DU Game Recap: Pioneers vs. Minnesota-Duluth Gm. 1

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The DU Pioneers game into this weekend with another big opportunity. This time, playing against the UMD Bulldogs, who sit directly behind the Pioneers in the standings, DU had the opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the Bulldogs to help assure themselves of home ice advantage in the NCHC Tournament. The Pios came into this weekend’s series riding a six game unbeaten streak and looked to continue to collect points against a UMD team that had suddenly gone cold. Here is your DU Recap.

Period 1

The first period could not have gotten off to a worse start for the DU Pioneers, who just didn’t look crisp at all. The Bulldogs jumped all over the Pioneers and created the first real opportunities of the game and scored the first goals of the game. First, UMD’s Tony Cameranesi threw a puck at the net after coming up the side boards. Tanner Jaillet made the initial save but the rebound fell flat in the crease and right on the stick of Karson Kuhlman who won the 1-on-1 battle in front and scored an easy goal to get things going for UMD. Not long after, after the teams had taken coincidental roughing penalties, Jaillet let a very bad rebound out off of a harmless 2-on-2 rush. Another open net for the Bulldogs and it was quickly 2-0, prompting DU Head Coach, Jim Montgomery, to give Jaillet the hook in favor of Evan Cowley, who saw his first action since the St. Cloud State series.

Cowley would be tested early and was the beneficiary of a fortunate bounce as the Pios were quickly on the PK. Another fortunate bounce gave UMD another open net and possible 3-0 lead, but the puck went off the post and DU escaped just down two. This would be big as the tide would turn when Grant Arnold just forced himself into the slot and drew all five UMD players to him to knock him off the puck. The puck fell flat for Matt Marcinew and he rifled the puck home immediately to cut the UMD lead in half and awaken the Pioneer bench. Suddenly the Pioneers were all over the Bulldogs in the offensive zone, creating turnovers and scoring chances, including what lead to the game-tying goal. Trevor Moore and Dylan Gambrell fought hard for a loose puck at the front of the net, drawing all the attention of the UMD defenders. Danton Heinen snuck away with the puck right in front and slipped a backhand through the Bulldog goaltender to tie the game and ignite the crowd at Magness Arena.

DU had a couple more chances in the final minute of the period, but the period would end 2-2.

Period 2

The second period started off much more even than the first one did, with both teams playing a bit more cautiously through the neutral zone. Slowly, but surely, UMD began to tilt the ice in their favor with a considerable advantage in possession. DU played solid defense, though, and Evan Cowley played a very solid second period to keep chances at a minimum. In sudden flurried, DU saw an open net, but Grant Arnold shot the puck wide. Moments later, UMD saw another open net of their own, but couldn’t manage to get the puck in. It seemed nobody wanted to score a goal, no matter how open the net, until Danton Heinen added his second of the night. Heinen simply won the 1-on-1 battle to the net, freed up his stick and chipped home a good pass from Tariq Hammond to put DU up 3-2.

The rest of the period was mostly controlled by UMD, though DU did manage a few brief flurries of offense. No more goals were scored as the second period came to an end with DU leading 3-2.

Period 3

The third period continued along very much like the previous two periods, with UMD controlling the puck most of the way, but DU’s defense was very solid. Again, most of the shots that came through were from the outside, and Cowley got a good look at most of them. The ones that were in more “dangerous” areas, Cowley was in excellent position and used his big body to give the shooter nothing to shoot at. DU held UMD at bay and no goals were scored in the third period, as DU cruised to extend their unbeaten streak to seven games and earn three extra points in the NCHC standings.

Notes and Quotes

You can’t start talking about this game without talking about Evan Cowley. He came in in a very difficult spot, already down 2-0 with UMD taking it to DU, who was playing very sloppy hockey at the time. Cowley was nothing short of fantastic for DU, and Coach Montgomery heaped the praise on him. “Evan was huge tonight. He picked our team up and made a couple of great saves right when he came in.”

Cowley made 39 saves in relief of Tanner Jaillet tonight, in his first action since Jaillet really assumed the number 1 role on the team. “I give Evan credit, he’s had an incredible team-first attitude; he’s worked incredibly hard and has really battled in practice; so he was ready because of the effort he gave.” When asked if Cowley had earned a start tomorrow night, Coach Montgomery would not commit. “It’s too early for me to talk, I’m just going to enjoy this win.”

The turning point of the game came when Grant Arnold forced his way into the middle of the ice, which led directly to Matt Marcinew’s 8th goal of the season. The captain, along with Matt VanVoorhis, had made a plea to his team moments before on the bench, according to Coach Montgomery, about needing to play with more emotion and paying a price to make their chances. “I thought Grant would give (us emotion), and he did. It wasn’t a pretty goal, but it found the back of the net and after that I thought we played good hockey.”

Danton Heinen scored 2 goals tonight and looked like the player we have all expected from him, especially after his first goal. “He’s been fighting it a little bit and you could tell after that (first goal) the puck was on his stick like magic.” Heinen’s difference in confidence was apparent to all, as he didn’t start out the game with much fire until he did manage his first goal tonight. “First shift he had he coasted and I told him ‘that’s not the work ethic that’s going to get you out of it,’ and after that he was much better.”

Coach Montgomery spoke a lot about needing the team to be faster with decisions and admitted they were taken aback by UMD’s speed early in the game. “Especially after playing Western (Michigan University), it’s like you’re playing ten times faster.” The Pioneers got better about coming out of their own zone throughout the game, but look for this to be a point of emphasis coming into tomorrow night’s game, as well.

Coach Montgomery definitely wants the defensive effort to improve. Though DU was able to keep a large portion of the shots out to the side, Coach was definitely not pleased with the many breakdowns that did occur. “We did (keep shots outside), but we had some big breakdowns. We gave them an easy one 2-on-1 in the middle of the ice and that should never happen. We talked with our defenseman about trying to keep them outside to limit their grade-A scoring chances.”

There was definitely a lot of chippiness between the two teams. “I was surprised by how they went at some of our players after the whistles,” said Coach Montgomery. UMD was definitely frustrated by their inability to put DU away after their quick start and it showed as tempers flared several times throughout the game. It will be interesting to see how this bleeds over to tomorrow night’s game.

DU will finish out the series with UMD tomorrow night at Magness Arena. Puck will drop at 7:06 PM Mountain Time.

DU Pioneers vs. Minnesota-Duluth Series Preview

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The DU Pioneers come into this weekend’s series ranked 3rd in the NCHC and will be taking on the team directly behind them in the standings, University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. Needless to say, the six points up for grabs this weekend will go a long way towards deciding who has home ice in the NCHC tournament at the end of the season. Here is a look at our DU Pioneers series preview.

University of Minnesota-Duluth

The UMD Bulldogs have had a very frustrating season to this point. Picked by many to be the NCHC regular season champions at the start of the season, the Bulldogs have had trouble putting together a consistent season. The Bulldogs come into this weekend’s contest with the Pioneers 2-3-2 in their last seven games and struggling to score goals.  Overall, the Bulldogs are 8-8-5 (5-6-3-1 NCHC), falling very short of their season goals at the start of the year.

DU will have its hands full with UMD goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, who has played 97.6% of the team’s minutes to this point of the season. He comes into the game with an impressive 1.87 GAA and a .923 save percentage. He’s a big body, at 6’3″, 190 lbs. If there is a team that is a mirror image of the Pioneers, it will be UMD. Both teams love to skate and create offense on the rush.

DU Pioneers

The Pioneers have done much better in the past couple of weekends, exorcising a few demons. After skating to two draws against Notre Dame, where they thoroughly dominated play from start to finish, the Pioneers swept University of Nebraska-Omaha on the road, and were 1-0-1 vs Western Michigan at Magness last week. Tanner Jaillet has played fantastic hockey in net for the Pioneers and will need to continue his excellent play vs. UMD.

Perhaps the most important thing for DU, and we have been saying this about them for the past several weeks, is to get their big guys scoring. Last week, Quentin Shore broke through with a two goal performance on Friday night; so hopefully he will be able to continue with his solid play. More importantly, Danton Heinen and Trevor Moore have been unable to score for what seems like months now. Moore’s game has been coming along very well and he was a huge factor in last weekend’s series. Heinen, on the other hand, has been invisible. He is clearly struggling with his confidence and just needs to get back to the basics of his game and shoot the puck. The depth scoring for the Pioneers has been there, but now it’s time for the big boys to start pulling their weight.

Series Prospects

I’m looking forward to watching these two, evenly matched teams skate with each other. To me it will come down to which goaltender plays best, and which team’s top players are able to contribute the most. If Heinen, Moore and others are able to break out of their funks, watch out. See you at Magness!

DU Game Recap: Pioneers Blow Third Period Lead, Fall in OT

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The DU Pioneers came into tonight’s game looking for back-to-back conference sweeps as they hosted Western Michigan University for the second time. The Broncos were looking to make certain that DU didn’t get too far ahead in the standings as the tightly packed NCHC teams jockey for position. Here is your DU Game Recap.

Period 1

The Pioneers and Broncos seemed to both be attempting to keep things quiet in the neutral zone while asserting their style of play. Before too long, however, the Pioneers began to tilt the ice heavily towards the Western Michigan goal. Western Michigan goaltender, Lukas Hafner, looked very sharp early as he was tested more and more throughout the period. DU drew the first penalty of the game, and then quickly saw themselves go to a two-man advantage. DU moved the puck well and put a few pucks on net, but couldn’t take advantage of the two-man situation and it appeared that another dominant period was going to go for naught, but Dylan Gambrell helped change that. Gambrell received a pass in the slot while still on the power play, made the defender commit to a shot, moved around him and put a perfect pass right onto Gabe Levin’s stick. Levin shoveled the puck in the wide open net and gave DU the 1-0 lead just before the end of the first period.

Period 2

The second period started off with Western Michigan asserting themselves physically, early and often. They created several turnover in the offensive zone and tested Tanner Jaillet early. Jaillet appeared to be locked in as he turned away several very good opportunities, finding the puck through traffic and controlling his rebounds very well. DU managed to turn the tide about halfway through the period and started to create some offense of their own. Hafner equalled Jaillet’s efforts in net and neither goalie allowed a goal in the second period.

1-0 DU after two periods.

Period 3

The third period started much like the first did, with DU carrying the play and getting the puck to the net. DU soon found themselves on another power play. The puck was moving pretty well and Matt Marcinew just outworked the WMU power play and banged home a puck that he somehow forced under Bronco goalie Lukas Hafner. The two-goal lead was short-lived, however, as the Broncos immediately got their first goal through traffic. Jalliet never saw it and only managed to react as it was going through him.

DU kept the pedal down, though, drew a few more penalties, but couldn’t capitalize. With about two minutes left, Western Michigan began to press more and more as DU clung to a one goal lead. With the extra attacker, DU found themselves chasing the puck which left the Broncos wide open in the low slot. A shot hit a man going through and beat Jaillet to tie the game with 20 seconds left.

Overtime

Nothing really for either team, aside from a breakaway for WMU that was stopped by Jaillet, in the 5 on 5 portion of the overtime. In the 3 on 3, it didn’t seem like much was happening for either team until a puck was just through at the net from the face-off circle. Tanner Jaillet was very slow reacting to it and did not seal his pads in time, allowing an incredibly soft goal to slip through to give the Broncos the extra point in the 3 on 3 OT.

Stats:

Period 1:

Period 2:

Period 3:

Overtime:

Totals:

Notes and Quotes

DU scores two power play goals tonight, but couldn’t manage to get anything at even strength tonight, despite the huge shot totals. “That shot total is a little bit misleading.” said Coach Montgomery. Despite the totals, Coach Montgomery thought DU took far too many shots from the outside and didn’t work hard enough to get to the front of the net, and definitely passed up too many high quality shots for passes. “We’re not hard enough inside the dots as a team right now.”

DU couldn’t hold onto a two-goal, third period lead and, for the second night in a row, allowed a goal in the last minute with the extra attacker. “Anytime you’re up 2-0 with nine minutes left, you’ve gotta close out the game,” said Jim Montgomery, DU Pioneer Head Coach. “Our best players have to be better…we recruited players to score goals and you keep getting 48, 50 shots a night you’ve got to start putting some of those in.”

Coach Montgomery switched up his top line in the third period, putting Trevor Moore with Quentin Shore. His explanation as to why that happened: “I thought that Moore was the one that was working. Tried giving energy to one line and that Terry might set up Moore like he had set up Janssen a couple times. It didn’t translate.”

Another weekend played, another weekend of games with no goals from Danton Heinen and Trevor Moore, two of DU’s best players. “There’s some guys that have a history of scoring goals in our lineup and they’re not confident right now. You can tell they’re looking to pass, they’ve got to have more of a killer instinct and attack the net mentality right now….Players looking to establish roles or increase their minutes, scoring 5 on 5 goals is the best way to get it.”

Talking about how to get these scorers back on track. “Keep showing them video and letting them understand that when they’re not scoring they can’t stop working. You’re getting your opportunities but you have to attack the net more, because if they stop working, that’s when slumps start and we have to make sure that no slumps start here.”

DU will host University of Minnesota-Duluth next week at Magness Arena in another huge weekend that will have a major impact on the NCHC standings. Game 1 will be Friday night at 7:36 PM Mountain Time. Game 2 will be Saturday night at 7:06 Mountain Time.

Game Recap: DU Pioneers vs. WMU Broncos

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The DU Pioneers got a much needed shot in the arm with a road sweep last week against UN-Omaha. With those victories, the Pioneers climbed back to fourth in the NCHC as they welcomed Western Michigan University to Magness Arena with a chance to climb even higher in the standings. Here’s your DU Pioneers Game Recap.

Period 1

Right out of the gate, the Pioneers took the action straight at the Broncos, and it didn’t take long for DU to strike first blood. Colin Staub drove wide entering the zone and tried to throw the puck at the net. It was blocked but it came back to him and he put it in front where Emil Romig had the whole net to shoot at and put DU up 1-0. Western Michigan weathered the rest of the storm and evened the game on their first real opportunity of the game. A 2 on 1 was stopped initially by Tanner Jaillet, but he couldn’t control the rebound and the defense couldn’t get back to clear the puck in time and Griffen Molino tied the game.

Western Michigan then seized control of the game and made it very hard for DU to get any sustained pressure and got some offensive zone time of their own. DU played solid defense in front of Jaillet and didn’t let much dangerous happen. DU appeared to have an opportunity to jump to a quick transition, but had a player hauled down as he tried to exit the zone, earning DU the first power play of the game. WMU has a very bad road PK, and DU took advantage with some slick passing. Nolan Zajac made a great feed through the Bronco PK and hit Troy Terry right on the stick. He unloaded quickly, top shelf, and put DU back on top, 2-1. The period would end 2-1.

Period 2

The second period was a much different period, but DU got the action going their way early again. Matt VanVoorhis did an excellent job possessing the puck and forcing WMU to respect his skating ability. Suddenly the puck was put on Quentin Shore’s stick between the face-off circles. He picked his spot and made no mistake, giving DU a two-goal lead.

It would be short-lived as DU captain, Grant Arnold, took a penalty in the offensive zone. DU had trouble clearing the puck down low and paid the price, as WMU captain Sheldon Dries unloaded quickly and pulled the Broncos back to within one.

From here on out the period was very measured, as neither team wanted to make a mistake. DU forced the first mistake as Quentin Shore broke into the zone and executed a fantastic give-and-go with Troy Terry. Shore then picked the other corner and caught WMU goaltender, Lukas Hafner, leaning a bit. After another beautiful sniper’s shot, DU had regained a two-goal lead.

The period would end 4-2, with the Pioneers looking to close out their third straight win.

Period 3

The third period continued with many of the ebbs and flows, going from tight checking to completely wide open. DU was, again, the better team early, but WMU started to turn the tide as the period went on. DU got one PP in the period and did nothing with it, but WMU got several chances on the power play. Late, they pulled their goalie for a 6 on 4 advantage and some good passing paid off as Dries notched his second goal of the evening, cutting the Pioneer lead to one goal.

That was as close as things would get, however, as Matt Marcinew tallied and empty net goal and iced the game for DU, giving the Pioneers their third straight win, 5-3.

Game Stats:

Period 1

Period 2

Period 3

Totals

Notes and Quotes

This was a very exciting game between two pretty evenly matched teams. DU had a lot of great opportunities to ice the game, but Western Michigan didn’t let DU run away with it. They kept fighting back and made it a game the whole way. “I thought we played really well tonight and they stayed right with us,” said DU Head Coach, Jim Montgomery. “We’re going to have to be better tomorrow night if we want to get the sweep….We played to our strengths and they played to theirs and that’s why it was such an even game.”

The ebbs and flows of this game were very interesting to watch as it seemed to go from tight-checking to wide open at the drop of a hat. “We would like to have better puck decisions when we have possession in the offensive zone. But being a little wide open and going back and forth with them favors us with the mobility of our defensemen.”

Tanner Jaillet has really elevated his game since being established as the number one goalie for DU. He didn’t have to be great, but when his team needed him to make saves late, he was there to do it. “I just like the way he was very calm in the crease. Even when rebounds were laying there, he wasn’t panicking, he let the puck come to him and that’s the sign of a goalie that’s very confident.”

Quentin Shore was a force tonight and finally showed up on the scoreboard in a big way. “I think (Shore’s) line has been our best 5 on 5 line for the last few weeks now. I think there’s some chemistry between (Terry and Shore).”

Will Butcher was noticeably absent from this game. He was solid defensively but didn’t do much offensively and was falling a lot on the ice. Luckily DU didn’t need much of a presence from him tonight.

“I think guys are feeling good about themselves. We know we have to get on a run. When you’re 7-7-4 and you want to make the tournament as an automatic bid, you’re gonna have to string some wins together. Hopefully tomorrow night we can come with the same energy we had and be a little more prolific, especially our top line, offensively and we can separate us from the rest of the pack in the NCHC.

Matt VanVoorhis probably had the most underrated game of all the Pioneers tonight. He was very creative and dangerous whenever he was on the ice. Quentin Shore’s first goal was all set up because of VanVoorhis’s ability to possess the puck and freeze WMU’s defense. Easily his best game of the season.

Trevor Moore is so close to finding the net again it’s crazy, when he does, watch out. Danton Heinen was pretty invisible offensively again tonight. He was one of the biggest culprits of being too cute with the puck in the offensive zone tonight. He’s got to just start shooting the puck again, or he’s never going to get out of this rut.

DU plays again tomorrow night with the puck dropping at 7:06 mountain time.

DU Pioneers Game Preview: January 15

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The DU Pioneers got off the schnide last weekend with a road sweep  at upstart University of Nebraska, Omaha last week. Tanner Jaillet played fantastic all weekend, shutting out UNO in five of the six periods played and helping DU earn six much needed points in the NCHC standings. DU now hosts the Western Michigan Broncos in another critical NCHC series. DU sits fourth in the conference with 16 points, just 2 behind Minnesota-Duluth, and 4 above Western Michigan who sits at sixth in the conference. Every point counts right now, as the Pioneers are doing everything in their power to try and secure home ice for the NCHC Tournament.

Western Michigan

The Broncos have had an up and down season, at one point having lost eight games in a row, never tallying more than two goals in a game during that streak. As it stands now, Western Michigan has won three of their last five games and are coming off an equally strange weekend vs. Notre Dame.

In game one, the Broncos lost to the Irish 7-1, but skated to a 3-3 tie the following night (with a 3-on-3 overtime victory that doesn’t count in the standings). Part of WMU’s struggles have been on special teams, where they sport an abysmal penalty kill of 72.8% (60th out of 60 NCAA teams), which includes a 67.4% PK on the road.

This is a team that also struggles to score goals. Their leading scorer is Freshman Griffen Molino with 16 points (6 goals, 10 assists).

The big thing that Western Michigan has going for them is that they are a big team, and the Pioneers have struggled this season playing against teams that have a size advantage (see Boston University, Boston College, St. Cloud State and North Dakota). That being said, there isn’t too much to suggest that Western Michigan has the horses necessary to keep up with the Pioneers.

Pioneers

DU has to be feeling fantastic after this last road trip, giving UNO their first losses ever in their new arena and finally putting pucks in the net. Danton Heinen finally got a puck to go in during the second game of the weekend series, which is a great sign for DU. Heinen, who had 16 goals and 45 points for DU in 40 games last year, has been incredibly snake-bitten and his confidence has looked shaky for months now. Hopefully notching a goal will allow him to relax a bit more and open those flood gates; and if Heinen starts lighting the lamp with some consistency, the rest of the NCHC had better watch out.

Otherwise, the Pioneers are being led by some familiar faces. Will Butcher had another fantastic weekend last week, notching two more goals and earning NCHC Defenseman of the Week Honors at the same time. Butcher continues to play at a very high level and has been the Pioneers most consistent player all season.

Freshman Dylan Gambrell had another excellent weekend, as well. He is really fitting in with Heinen and Trevor Moore very well. This line has become very formidable and seems to be dangerous whenever they are on the ice.

If there is a downside here it’s that we’re still waiting to see guys like Quentin Shore, Gabe Levin and Trevor Moore contributing on the scoreboard consistently. Levin did tally at UNO, but it was only his fourth goal of the season and DU desperately needs to see some more depth scoring so the pressure isn’t on the top guys so much every single night to win the game or have DU do nothing.

With the team playing much better and getting the puck in the net, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the puck start going in for a lot of different Pioneers this weekend, so long as they keep the work ethic at the same level it has been the past few weekends.

With Tanner Jailler looking incredibly solid every single time out, and the Pioneers seemingly hitting their stride, I don’t think that the DU Pioneers should have a hard time with Western Michigan this weekend. But that’s why they play the game.

Game Recap: DU Pioneers vs. Notre Dame, Gm 2

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The DU Pioneers dominated every aspect of game one of their series with Notre Dame, but couldn’t pull out a win. They didn’t lose either so, not a terrible thing. They looked to keep the pedal down and push Notre Dame out of Magness Arena on Saturday night and break their winless streak.

Period 1

Notre Dame clearly made some adjustments from game one. Where the Pioneers had been skating through the neutral zone virtually unchallenged the night before, the Irish were working hard to take away their time and space and create some chances on transition. This worked to perfection when Notre Dame got a turnover at the red line and Thomas DiPauli came down the right wing and sniped Tanner Jaillet right over the blocker side in the smallest window possible. It sounded like there may have been a partial deflection on the shot, but it certainly didn’t stop the speed of the shot.

DU managed to rebound and get a few chances of their own, but Cal Petersen was, once again, on top of everything that the Pioneers threw at him. The period was probably the most evenly played period of the series, and Notre Dame took a 1-0 lead to the locker room.

Period 2

DU got back to everything they did well in the first game in the second period and completely dominated the action, yet again. The Irish also began to show some seriously sluggish legs that resulted in a lot of penalties against and standing and watching as DU began to free-wheel. It wasn’t until DU’s third power play that they manage to finally get through Petersen. A shot was simply thrown at the net from a bad angle and Dylan Gambrell knocked the puck out of mid-air from in front of the net to tie the game.

The Pioneers continued to get everything on net and were stonewalled at every step by Cal Petersen. Once again, Notre Dame failed to get past 10 shots through two periods and, yet again, DU didn’t have the lead after two, but this time it was tied at 1 going to intermission.

Period 3

The Irish certainly were tired as DU continued to control the play from the start of the period. DU caught a break when they were about to take a penalty and, for some reason during the delay, the referee blew the play dead just as Notre Dame thought they scored the go-ahead goal. DU killed the ensuing power play, had one of their own delayed penalties stopped for seemingly no reason, and then found a way to break through. Trevor Moore and Dylan Gambrell worked an excellent give-and-go as they entered the Irish zone, and Gambrell rifled a shot off of Petersen’s pad and into the net, giving DU the lead.

Gambrell would take a late penalty, however, and put DU on a penalty kill with 1:45 left in the game, giving the Irish 2 extra attackers as Petersen was pulled for a 6 on 4 advantage. The Irish would tie on a controversial play as they entered the zone on an un-called offside play. Jaillet made an initial stop, but couldn’t react fast enough as the Irish put home the tying goal and forced over time.

OT

Both teams saw power play time in the extra period, and DU, again, controlled most of the action, but neither team was able to score through five minutes of 5 on 5 play and five minutes of 3 on 3 play (which is slightly deceiving as the penalty situations made the overtime almost entirely 4 on 4). DU “won” in a shootout, though the standings will only show them with a tie.

A disappointing end to a weekend series that they thoroughly dominated from start to finish.

Game Stats

Period 1:

Period 2:

Period 3:

OT:

Totals:

Chances: 22-12 Pios
SAG: 88-50 Pios
SOG: 49-26 Pios

Notes & Quotes

The Pioneers were absolutely dominant this series, outshooting the Irish by a total of 105-54, if you include all the overtime (which the NCHC doesn’t do…it’s complicated). Sadly, even with this domination, they just couldn’t find a consistent solution for Cal Petersen. “He was unbelievable.” Said DU Head Coach, Jim Montgomery. “He just made fantastic save after fantastic save.” Petersen gave up only three goals the whole series and now is unbeaten in his last six games. “I think at some point you just hope the puck will go in… He was just seeing the puck as big as a ballon.”

The big story in this series will easily be Cal Petersen, but Tanner Jaillet had an excellent weekend, as well. “Tanner was excellent,” said Coach Montgomery. Jaillet definitely has established himself as DU’s top goalie.

While DU did notch a power play goal tonight, the power play did let the Pioneers down again as they had several opportunities tonight. Asked of his assessment of the team’s special teams, Coach Montgomery said, “Not good enough. Our power play, especially, puck movement, execution and just your top end players have gotta make more plays than they did tonight. It’s your best players that are out there and sometimes it’s a game of inches and you’ve gotta take the goalies eyes away and you’ve gotta crash the net, like that goal we did score on the power play. It isn’t one of the ones you draw up.”

DU’s top line (Danton Heinen-Dylan Gambrell-Trevor Moore) were outstanding in this series. This line score every goal for the Pioneers this weekend; Moore tallied in game one and Gambrell had both goals for the Pioneers in game two. “I think all three of them have elevated their games. Everybody has seen (Heinen) and (Moore) do it before, but it’s nice to see (Gambrell) do it.”

“You gotta keep playing the same way, you can’t just change what you’re doing,” said Coach Montgomery about his message to the team despite the two ties. “We dominated, so it’s great, but we’ve gotta work on those two things; scoring 5-on-5 and scoring on the power play.”

There was a ton of fantastic things to say about the DU Pioneers this weekend but, in reality, this series was about the performance of Cal Petersen. That was truly one of the most spectacular outings of goaltending that I have ever witnessed personally. I said it in last night’s recap, these weren’t just positional saves, Petersen used every single inch of himself and his equipment multiple times and just made mind-blowing save after mind-blowing save. With how completely DU dominated both of these games, it just doesn’t make sense to look back and see that a grand total of three goals were scored. It was an incredibly special performance to watch and he deserves every accolade he receives from this weekend’s series.

The DU Pioneers will now go back on the road and within the NCHC next week as the travel to play University of Nebrask-Omaha. Crucial points in the standings will be up for grabs as DU desperately tries to put themselves back in a decent position for the upcoming NCHC tournament at the end of the year.