After a fast-paced and penalty-filled weekend, the Pioneer hockey team improved to 4-0-0 overall and 2-0-0 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association after extending its five-goal-per-game streak to four and topping Michigan Tech 5-1 on Friday and 5-2 on Saturday at Magness Arena.
Despite being outshot 28-22 on Friday night, the then-No. 5 Pioneers were able to overcome the Huskies, led by strong performances across the board.
Junior goaltender Sam Brittain made 27 saves against the Huskies, while Denver saw goals from freshman defenseman Dakota Mermis, junior defenseman David Makowski, freshman forward Quentin Shore, sophomore defenseman Joey LaLeggia and junior forward Nick Shore.
Both Quentin Shore and Mermis scored their first career goals Friday night, while three of the five goals for the Pioneers came from the blue line.
“I don’t recall a Michigan Tech team as fast and as tough to play against as the team we played tonight,” said head coach George Gwozdecky. “They caught us out of position a lot in that first period. Sam [Brittain] really kept us in the game in that first period. We made some adjustments, and I thought our positional play was a lot better.”
Keeping suit with the defensemen scoring trend, Makowski fired a slapshot past Michigan Tech goaltender freshman Pheonix Copley at 8:49 in the second period off an assist from senior forward Shawn Ostrow.
The Huskies answered at the 6:21 mark of the second period when sophomore defenseman Justin Fillion scored a power-play goal from the blue line. Freshmen forwards Jujhar Khaira and Malcolm Gould each assisted on Michigan Tech’s lone goal of the evening.
Quentin Shore put the Pioneers past the Huskies by two goals, scoring on a breakaway at the 16:50 mark in the second period. Sophomore and junior forwards Matt Tabrum and Jarrod Mermis, respectively, each tallied an assist on the goal.
LaLeggia struck quickly after coming out of the locker room, scoring a power-play goal just 14 seconds into the third period off assists from Makowski and freshman defenseman Nolan Zajac.
Nick Shore tallied the final goal for the Pioneers at the 4:28 mark in the third period, putting Denver to the final 5-1 score over Michigan Tech Friday night.
The Pioneers concluded Friday night stretching their win streak to three and clinching their first conference win of the season.
Pioneers power through penalties Saturday
On Saturday, the Pioneers continued their momentum from Friday to top the Huskies, though not without numerous penalties across the board. Collectively, the two teams racked up 34 penalty minutes in the fast-paced and physical Saturday contest.
“Overall, I’m pleased with the win, not pleased with our self-discipline,” said Gwozdecky. “We had too many avoidable penalties, and we’ll fix that starting Monday.”
Senior goaltender Adam Murray defended the goal for Denver on Saturday, making 36 saves for the team, while five different Pioneers found the net.
“We’re getting good balance,” said Gwozdecky. “His teammates didn’t make it easy on Adam [Murray] tonight; he earned that win.”
Scoring for Denver were Quentin Shore, Makowski, LaLeggia, Ostrow and sophomore forward Daniel Doremus.
“I was pleased with how we started the game; I think we came out and really dictated the pace early, kind of like they did to us [Friday] night,” said Gwozdecky. “I think there were some avoidable penalties in that second period, and we never really got back into sync after that. Certainly they had their chances, but our penalty kill, including Adam Murray, did a great job and kept us with the lead.”
The scoring opened for the Pioneers by another freshman on Saturday, as Quentin Shore found the net for his second career goal off passes from sophomore defenseman Scott Mayfield and Tabrum at the 12:14 mark in the first period.
Michigan Tech answered Quentin Shore’s goal less than two minutes later when junior forward Dennis Rix chipped in a short-handed goal assisted by Chad Pietila and Carl Nielsen at 13:52 in the first, leveling the score to the only tie of the evening.
Makowski answered at 15:09 in the first with a power-play goal, capitalizing on the opportunity after Khaira was whistled for holding earlier in the period and sent to the box.
Just over two minutes into the second period, LaLeggia rebounded from a questionable diving penalty call at the end of the first period. He netted the lone goal of the period off an assist from Nick Shore after the power-play while the Pioneers still held a five-on-four advantage in the zone.
“Joey is one of our go-to guys, especially on the power-play. We need him out there,” said Gwozdecky. “He is a big part of our offense.”
Ostrow stretched the Pioneer lead to 4-1 at 6:04 in the third after shooting one past Copley. Senior defenseman and captain Paul Phillips and sophomore forward Zac Larazza each tallied assists on the effort.
Three minutes later, Doremus found the net again to give the Pioneers the magic number five goal after being assisted by Ostrow and Makowski. Saturday’s win marks the fourth consecutive contest in which Denver has scored five goals.
It is the first time that feat has been accomplished since the 1987-1988 season, when the team stretched its streak to the first five games.
Rix answered the Pioneers to bring the game to its final score of 5-2 at 10:34 in the third, assisted by sophomore defenseman Jimmy Davis and freshman forward Malcolm Gould.
Despite the extensive penalties served, the Pioneers stay undefeated to begin the season.