Denver goalie Tanner Jaillet made a career-high 40 saves, and freshman defenseman Adam Plant broke a 2-2 third period tie with his first career goal to help Denver to a 3-2 victory over St. Cloud State to earn a critical three points in the NCHC standings on the final weekend of the season.
The home side struck first on a power play goal by Jimmy Murray at 17:06 of the first frame. St. Cloud State outshot the Pioneers 22-11 in the second period, but it was Denver that scored both goals that period with tallies by Ty Loney and Gabe Levin.
St. Cloud tied the game early in the third period with their second power play goal of the game, but Plant had an answer at 7:56 of the third period, when he stepped into a slap shot from the left point that beat St. Cloud State goalie Charlie Lindgren high to the blocker side.
St. Cloud State outshot the Pioneers 42-24, but Denver goalie Tanner Jaillet was stellar throughout, making 40 saves in the victory. St. Cloud State goalie Charlie Lindgren stopped 21 of 24 in a losing effort.
The Pioneers had temporarily fallen to fifth place and out of home ice in the NCHC playoffs earlier in the evening after Minnesota Duluth's win, but the victory vaulted them back into a tie for second place with Miami in the league. St. Cloud State had locked up sixth place in the league prior to tonight's result, but more importantly, the loss is a big blow to their NCAA tournament hopes. The Huskies fell to 20th in the Pairwise Rankings with the loss, and two games below the .500 record they would need to even be eligible for the tournament.
The two teams will complete their regular season tomorrow evening in a rematch of tonight's game.
Shots on Goal: SCSU: 8-22-12-42 DU: 5-11-8-24
Even strength shot attempts: SCSU: 13-24-18-55-56.1% DU: 16-21-6-43-43.9%
Prime scoring area attempts: SCSU: 6-13-11-30 DU: 3-9-3-15
What do the numbers tell us?
The fancy numbers confirm what the shot totals tell. St. Cloud State had the edge in possession and in quality scoring opportunities, but Tanner Jaillet was the difference-maker tonight. He was very good in goal and stole a couple goals from St. Cloud State.
-Tanner Jaillet was outstanding for the Pioneers tonight. He was especially good in the early going, making three big saves that stalled some of St. Cloud State's momentum. The Huskies came out of the first period up 1-0, but it easily could have been a 2-0 or 3-0 game which would have really changed the complexion of the game.
-The big news for Denver was that star defenseman and potential Hobey Baker candidate Joey LaLeggia left the game with an injury in the second period. The word from Denver head coach Jim Montgomery is that he tweaked something in his lower body. LaLeggia was able to return,, and was healthy enough to play during a Denver 5-on-3 power play in the third period, but was limited enough that he didn't play in other situations. Even with home ice in the playoffs potentially on the line, the Pioneers have already clinched an NCAA tournament bid, and they'll be very careful with their star player. It's unlikely that he'll play tomorrow.
-They couldn't convert when they needed it late in the game, but otherwise St. Cloud State's power play was effective, going 2-for-4 on the power play for their only two goals of the game. Denver was extremely passive on their penalty kill which made it too easy for St. Cloud State to work the puck around the perimeter and find the looks that they wanted.
-He ended up on the scoresheet with an assist, but Jonny Brodzinski was held without a goal for the seventh straight game, now the longest goal drought of his career. St. Cloud State tried moving him from his normal spot on the power play to the center of the ice to try to get him going. He had four shots on goal tonight, giving him 29 over this seven-game stretch. It's a bad time for St. Cloud State's best player to hit an unlucky patch.
-Once again, I was very impressed with Denver's top line duo of Trevor Moore and Danton Heinen, who are two of the most skilled offensive players in the country, and two players that are rarely talked about. Heinen is still just missing some weight, but he's such a smart offensive player. He's always thinking two moves ahead and knows where the puck is going to be, and where to move it to.
-Coming into this weekend, St. Cloud State likely needed a combined three wins between this weekend and next weekend to keep their hopes of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament alive. This game eliminated their margin for error, and made the road a little tougher. They'll now have to win their playoff series on the road next weekend and win at least one of two games at the NCHC Frozen Face-off to have a .500 or better record and get into the NCAA tournament.
17:06 Jimmy Murray from Niklas Nevalainen and Ben Storm (power play) 1-0 St. Cloud State
St. Cloud State move the puck around the perimeter on a power play with ease, then Nevalainen snuck one through the Denver box to Murray who fired a wrist shot into a wide open net.
9:30 Ty Loney from Matt Marcinew and Will Butcher 1-1 tie
Loney skated the puck into the zone down the left wing, then cut to the middle of the ice and from the top of the circles took a wrist shot that beat Lindgren high to the glove side.
16:15 Gabe Levin from Emil Romig and Nolan Zajac 2-1 Denver
Romig drove the puck wide deep down the left wing and tried to center the puck. Levin drove hard to the near side post and got a stick on the centering pass to tip it past Lindgren for the goal.
1:34 Kalle Kossila from Jonny Brodzinski and Ethan Prow (power play) 2-2 tie
Kossila picked up a loose puck in the slot and fired a spinning shot along the ice that found Jaillet's five hole for the goal.
5:54 Adam Plant from Trevor Moore 3-2 Denver
Moore created a turnover in the St. Cloud State end and raced down the left wing. A St. Cloud defender forced him to curl back at the left hash marks and he dropped a pass off to Adam Plant, who stepped into a slap shot that beat Lindgren high to the far corner for his first career goal.