College men's hockey: Denver ousts UMD from NCHC tournament

DENVER -- All week long, the college hockey community called Minnesota Duluth's first-round NCHC series at Denver the oddest matchup. How odd was it that the Bulldogs -- ranked third in the PairWise and in a position to be a top seed in the NCAA ...

DENVER - All week long, the college hockey community called Minnesota Duluth’s first-round NCHC series at Denver the oddest matchup.

How odd was it that the Bulldogs - ranked third in the PairWise and in a position to be a top seed in the NCAA tournament - must go on the road as the No. 5 seed in the NCHC playoffs to face the fourth-place Pioneers, who were teetering on the edge of either a No. 2 or 3 seed for the NCAA tournament?

Not so odd anymore, is it?

Denver showed there was nothing odd about its conference standing and finished off a sweep of UMD with a 4-0 victory in Game 2 of a best-of-three NCHC first-round playoff series Saturday at Magness Arena.

The Pioneers (22-12-3) became the only team to sweep the Bulldogs in a weekend series this season and third squad to shut out UMD in 2014-15. They’ll now return to Target Center in Minneapolis on Friday and Saturday with hopes of winning the NCHC Frozen Faceoff for a second straight year.


They’ll be joined by No. 6 St. Cloud State, No. 1 North Dakota and the winner of tonight’s Game 3 between No. 7 Western Michigan and No. 2 Miami.

“It was a tough weekend,” UMD senior captain Adam Krause said. “I think the biggest tragedy is if we don’t learn from it. You take that feeling you have in the locker room - especially for us seniors - you get close to that being the end of it, it really hits you and it’s hard.

“Man I hope that’s not the last game, because that would be really tough.”

The Bulldogs (20-15-3), who have now been swept in the first round of the conference playoffs in three straight seasons, must sit and await their PairWise fate. UMD most likely is in the NCAA tournament, however, it will won’t be as a No. 1 anymore. The Bulldogs currently sit sixth in the PairWise after Saturday’s loss, meaning they are on track to be a No. 2 or 3 seed. Denver is in position to be a No. 1 at third overall.

The NCAA tournament field will be announced a week from today. The last time UMD was in the NCAA tournament - 2012 - was the last time the Bulldogs won a playoff game. UMD beat Maine that year in the semifinals of the Northeast Regional and has lost seven consecutive NCAA, WCHA and NCHC playoff games since.

“Hopefully we have an opportunity to get back and play and regroup,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “Like I told our guys, if we get another chance, we just have to worry about that game and prepare the right way.”

UMD was hoping for a boost in Game 2 with the return of Krause, who was suspended for the tight 4-3 Game 1 loss on Friday. Instead, the Bulldogs went backward.

Denver took a 1-0 lead with 22 seconds remaining in the first period via a shot by sophomore wing Trevor Moore that was fired from the side of the net. UMD freshman netminder Kasimir Kaskisuo was in position to make the easy save, but sophomore defenseman Willie Raskob stepped in front of his goalie’s glove, catching a piece of the puck. Kaskisuo lost track of the shot and as the puck fluttered behind him and he kicked it across the goal line.


The Pioneers went ahead 2-0 seven and a half minutes into the second period with both teams down a skater. Denver freshman wing Danton Heinen, who scored the game-tying goal Friday, undressed Bulldogs junior defenseman Andy Welinski on the play before firing a shot past the stick side of Kaskisuo.

The Pioneers’ fourth line put the Bulldogs down 3-0 in the second when senior wing Larkin Jacobson made a backward pass from behind the UMD net to senior center Matt Tabrum, who one-timed a shot for his second goal of the season.

Senior defenseman Joey LaLeggia added an empty-net goal for Denver with less than three minutes to play.

“I thought the first 10 minutes we came out with some jump and good energy, but I thought they got better and got the late goal,” Sandelin said. “I thought clearly they were the better team the last two periods. We looked a little spent actually.

“We made a couple mistakes again that they capitalized on, which gave them a two- and three-goal lead.  We could never get back in it.”

Unlike Saturday where the Pioneers led comfortably from the middle of the second period on, Denver led for just the final 4:36 on Friday. The Bulldogs went into the third period with a 2-1 lead, but Denver scored three goals in the third to the Bulldogs’ one, with senior wing Ty Loney scoring two of his three goals in the final 20 minutes.

Going back to the game-tying goal scored by Heinen at 6:46 of the third on Friday, the Pioneers posted six unanswered goals to complete the sweep.

“Give them a lot a lot of credit. They were good tonight,” UMD senior Justin Crandall said. “I thought we had a great first 10 minutes, and then from there, I don’t know. We just didn’t have it tonight. They had a good game.”



Minnesota Duluth.... 0-0-0-0

Denver.................... 1-2-1-4

First period - 1. DU, Trevor Moore 20, 19:38. Penalties - Dominic Toninato, UMD (cross checking), 17:26.

Second period - 2. DU, Danton Heinen 16 (Will Butcher, Gabe Levin), 7:36; 3. DU, Matt Tabrum 2 (Larkin Jacobson, Grant Arnold), 12:38. Penalties - Nolan Zajac, DU (interference), 0:56; Derik Johnson, UMD (roughing), 6:40; Emil Romig, DU (roughing), 6:40; Carson Soucy, UMD (roughing), 9:33; Tabrum, DU (tripping), 19:47.

Third period - 4. DU, Joey LaLeggia, 17:37 (en). Penalties - Bench minor, UMD (too many men on the ice), 1:02; Larkin Jacobson, DU (roughing), 5:01; Austin Farley, UMD (roughing), 5:01; Charlie Sampair, UMD (major for interference and a game misconduct), 13:32; Nolan Zajac, DU (slashing) at 16:51.

Shots on goal - UMD 10-11-15-36; DU 13-10-9-32. Goalies - Kasimir Kaskisuo (31 shots-28 saves); Evan Cowley, DU (36-36). Power plays - UMD 0-of-3; DU 0-of-4. Referees - Joe Sullivan, Timm Walsh. Linesmen - Scott Staudte, Bob Keltie. Att. -- 3,943.

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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