College men's hockey: No. 2 Denver edges No. 1 Bulldogs to take over lead in NCHC
DENVER -- For the first time in 2016-17, the Minnesota Duluth men's hockey team is looking up at someone else in the NCHC standings.Second-ranked Denver took over first place in the NCHC on Friday night by winning the opening round of the No. 1 v...
DENVER - For the first time in 2016-17, the Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team is looking up at someone else in the NCHC standings.
Second-ranked Denver took over first place in the NCHC on Friday night by winning the opening round of the No. 1 vs. No. 2 battle, beating the top-ranked Bulldogs 4-3 at Magness Arena.
The Pioneers’ victory gives them a two-point lead over the second-place Bulldogs going into Saturday's 8:05 p.m. rematch between the teams in the Mile High City. It will be the last regular-season meeting between what has been the NCHC’s two best teams for the first half of the season.
The Pioneers bring a 15-game unbeaten streak (12-0-3) into the game and are unbeaten in their last seven games against UMD (6-0-1) dating to a 2014 first-round NCHC playoff sweep.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, dropped their first road game of the season after starting the year 4-0-2 and 4-0 in conference play away from Amsoil Arena.
“It was a decent game; it was an exciting finish,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. “I thought we had a good first period. We got the lead and then I thought turnovers cost us. You can’t make too many mistakes against good teams and they capitalized. Our guys kept battling.”
After an uncharacteristically poor first period for the Pioneers - who have held opponents to just eight goals in the opening 20 minutes - the hosts got a couple lucky bounces in the second period en route to scoring three goals to take the lead.
Denver tied the game at 1-1 seven minutes into the second after freshman fourth-line center Tyson McLellan got a piece of a pass by Bulldogs freshman defenseman Nick Wolff. In a stroke of bad luck - but head’s-up play by Denver - Wolff’s pass was tipped right to the stick of sophomore wing Colin Staub, who then fed freshman wing Kevin Conley for an easy goal on the doorstep of UMD freshman netminder Hunter Miska.
Denver first-line sophomore center Troy Terry then put the Pioneers ahead by two setting up a goal and scoring a goal in a span of 22 seconds.
Terry fired a shot off the chest of Miska and thanks to some favorable - or unfavorable if you’re the visitors - bounces, sophomore wing Logan O’Connor was able to fire an easy shot from the side of the UMD crease into the net for a 2-1 Denver lead.
Terry then took a behind-the-net backhanded pass from sophomore wing Dylan Gambrell, moved the puck from his forehand to backhand and slipped the puck through Miska’s five-hole to make it 3-1.
In the third, Terry tallied his second assist of the night by setting up sophomore wing Jarid Lukosevicius twice, with Lukosevicius’ second chance finding the back of the net to make it 4-2.
“I really thought we had energy throughout,” UMD freshman wing Joey Anderson said. “We just made a couple mistakes out there that could come from the time off. A couple mistakes cost us (Friday). I thought the energy was great the whole night. We never gave up. We stuck with it, even though the result wasn’t what we wanted. The effort was there.”
The Bulldogs appeared to be primed for a third-period comeback Friday - they entered the weekend plus-nine in the third through 14 games - after Anderson trimmed the lead to 3-2 by firing a shot top shelf from the top of the faceoff circle. It was Anderson’s 16th point of the season, with 15 coming at even strength.
Fourth-line junior center Sammy Spurrell tried to restart the rally with 2:05 remaining in regulation by scoring his first goal of the season and first since missing most of last year due to injury.
With the net empty, the Bulldogs held the puck in the Denver zone for the final 90 seconds of regulation, but couldn’t get the equalizer past Pioneers junior goalie Tanner Jaillet, who finished with 32 saves to Miska’s 27.
“Tanner has been great for us,” Denver coach Jim Montgomery said of Jaillet, who came into the weekend with the best goals-against average and save percentage in the NCHC. “He really knows how to manage a game. His hockey IQ for a goaltender is high-end. But with that we talked about there would be momentum swings. … You go on a run for five minutes, they come right back at you.”
The Bulldogs entered the weekend coming off back-to-back weeks off, but if UMD had any rust from their 19-day layoff still lingering, senior wing Alex Iafallo shook the last of it off 13 minutes into the contest via a great individual effort to give UMD a 1-0 lead.
Iafallo set up his unassisted score and 10th goal of the season by stealing the puck at center ice from Denver sophomore defenseman Blake Hillman. Then while moving from his right to the left across the top of the Pioneers’ crease, Iafallo deked Jaillet and rung the puck up on the top shelf.
The goal was Iafallo’s 20th point of the season and it extended his career-high point streak to nine games. He’s had eight goals and eight assists in that span.
“I thought our team started well and from there on, I thought we played all right,” Iafallo said. “We were off for 19 days. That’s pretty hard in a full season, having the two weeks off. No excuses, though. I feel like just the second period we had a couple lapses. We just have to build on that and make sure we’re ready to come play (Saturday).”
Minnesota Duluth 1-1-1-3
First period - 1. UMD, Alex Iafallo 10, 13:04. Penalties - Blake Hillman, DU (hooking), 8:41; Dan Molenaar, UMD (cross checking), 15:20; Neal Pionk, UMD (holding), 19:01.
Second period - 2. DU, Kevin Conley 1 (Kevin Staub, Tyson McLellan), 7:03; 3. DU, Logan O’Connor 2 (Troy Terry), 4. DU, Terry 9 Dylan Gambrell, Michael Davies), 11:49; 5. UMD, Joey Anderson, 13:41. Penalties - Kyle Osterberg, UMD (goaltender interference), 14:58; Evan Janssen, DU (goaltender interference), 16:23.
Third period - 6. DU, Jarid Lukosevicius 6 (Terry), 3:24; 7. UMD, Sammy Spurrell 1 (Carson Soucy, Brenden Kotyk), 17:55. Penalties - None.
Shots on goal - UMD 14-10-11-35; DU 11-12-8-31. Goalies - Hunter Miska, UMD (31 shots-27 saves); Tanner Jaillet, DU (35-32). Power plays - UMD 0-of-2; DU 0-of-3. Referees - Nick Krebsbach, Joe Sullivan. Linesmen - Seth Mukai, Gary Pedigo. Att. - 5,870.