On a very listless night for the home Bulldogs, Jarid Lukosevicius' first period power play goal was all the offense Denver would need in a 3-0 conference road victory over Minnesota Duluth at the Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Lukosevicius opened the scoring at 5:10 of the first period on the power play when his pass across the crease deflected off a UMD defender's skate and into the goal. Lukosevicius would extend that lead, again on the power play, late in the second period, followed quickly by a goal from Grant Arnold to finish off the scoring.
The Bulldogs showed little threat to score after giving up the first goal. Though they fired 27 shots towards Denver goalie Evan Cowley, most came from the perimeter for easy stops. His counterpart, Kasimir Kaskisuo stopped 26 of 29 shots in the loss.
Denver stays undefeated in NCHC conference play with the win and improves their overall record to 6-3-0. Minnesota Duluth drops to 0-3-0 in conference play and 3-5-2 on the season. The two teams meet again tomorrow evening in the series finale between the two at 7:07pm
Notes and Thoughts:
-The first five minutes were the high point of this game for Minnesota Duluth. They came out with an aggressive forecheck that had Denver pinned in their own zone for a long stretch. But an unnecessary penalty from Charlie Sampair 200-feet from his own net put the Bulldogs on the penalty kill, and Denver capitalized with a lucky bounce off Andy Welinski's skate and into the net. That goal took the air out of the building, and seemed to take the air out of the Bulldogs. They never looked like they were in the game after that.
-Despite the win, Denver wasn't all that much more impressive. They got the early power play goal, but let UMD hang around in the game for almost two periods before getting the second goal that put this game away. The Pioneers looked a slightly more talented version of Miami this year. Their top five guys are extremely good, but once you get past the top three forwards and top two defensemen, there isn't a whole lot in the lineup that really scares you on a consistent basis.
-There were two interesting--or at least what passed for interesting tonight--boarding calls in the first period. On the first, UMD's Charlie Sampair tracked a Denver D into the corner and gave him a hard hit from behind. After a long deliberation, the officials decided on a two-minute penalty. The hit was definitely from behind, but the defenseman was at least close enough to the boards that he wasn't going in head first and it wasn't a particularly dangerous hit. On the second, Denver's Dylan Gambrell had what looked like a textbook five-and-game for checking from behind, but was only given a five-minute major for boarding and was allowed to stay in the game. It seemed like the decision to go lenient on UMD leaked over into the second call.
-I was once again impressed with Denver sophomore Danton Heinen--no shocker. I'll have more on him later next week.
-Tonight's performance by UMD was bad enough that it may be worth it to throw it out altogether as an outlier. But if I were to try to diagnose why UMD has had such a disappointing start to this season, I would start with the struggles of junior forward Dom Toninato. Toninato has 4-0-4 in 10 games so far this year, and is a -8. When UMD was at their best last season, Toninato gave the Bulldogs a legitimate top line center. Tonight, he was just a guy out there. Like the rest of UMD's line-up, Toninato just wasn't using his size to get into the tough areas of the ice and make plays. There's decent depth to the UMD line-up, but without a legitimate top line, they're going to be a team that struggles to score goals. He's far from the only problem--especially tonight when you'd be hard-pressed to find a Bulldog that played well--but that's at least one thing that stands out to me.
Shots on goal UMD: 10-10-7-27 DU: 11-10-8-29
Even strength shot attempts UMD: 14-13- 16 -43-53.1% DU: 19-12-7-38-46.9%
Prime scoring area chances UMD: 4-3-4-11 DU: 4-7-5-16
What do the numbers tell us?
Duluth's shot and possession numbers don't tell the story of how poorly they played. Those numbers felt surprisingly high, and it becomes clear why when you look at the prime scoring area attempts. The Bulldogs were generating very little in the high-leverage areas of the ice, and as a result, had very few good scoring chances. Denver wasn't spectacular at 5-on-5, but took advantage of a couple power play opportunities and that was enough with UMD doing so little on the offensive side of the ice.
5:10 Jarid Lukosevicius from Troy Terry and Trevor Moore (power play) 1-0 Denver
Lukosevicius had the puck on the left goal line. He tried to make a cross-crease pass to Danton Heinen, but the puck deflected off Andy Welinski's skate and into the net.
17:20 Jarid Lukosevicius from Troy Terry and Danton Heinen (power play) 2-0 Denver
Terry fed the puck to Lukosevicius in the high slot. His wrist shot made it through some traffic and beat Kaskisuo for the goal.
18:00 Grant Arnold from Colin Staub 3-0 Denver
Shortly after the second goal, Arnold skated down the right wing and fired a high wrist shot from the right face-off dot that beat Kaskisuo high to the short side.