Meeting for the first time since last year’s national championship game, Denver needed only one goal to defeat Minnesota Duluth 1-0 in the opening game of their two-game set at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
After a very even, scoreless first period, the Pioneers caught a bit of a lucky break early in the second period when a puck bounced to the front of the net from behind the net, and Logan O’Connor was able to sand wedge the puck softly over the shoulder of Minnesota Duluth goalie Hunter Shepard.
Once in the lead, the number one-ranked Pioneers began to assert a bit of dominance, cycling the puck in Minnesota Duluth’s zone, though they were unable to capitalize on numerous quality chances.
After hitting the post in each of the first two periods, Minnesota Duluth had one of their best scoring chances of the night early in the third period, when Karson Kuhlman stickhandled the puck between his legs to break free out of the corner and work his way to the front of the Denver goal crease, but he shoveled the attempt just wide of the goal. The Bulldogs would apply some nominal pressure late, but struggled to solve a stout Denver defense and generate quality scoring chances.
Denver goalie Tanner Jaillet had a relatively easy 28-save shutout, while Hunter Shepard took the loss despite stopping 25 of 26 shots.
The two teams meet again tomorrow evening to conclude their weekend series.
Notes and Thoughts
-Denver escaped with a road win on a rare night that big names Henrik Borgstrom and Troy Terry didn’t factor on the scoresheet. It wasn’t their strongest game, but they’re so talented that they were still dangerous.
It was Denver’s less-heralded guys that made the difference tonight though. Even though his goal was a bit lucky, I thought Logan O’Connor earned it with a lot of really nice hustle plays throughout the night(including taking a shot off the foot late in the game on a nice block). Liam Finlay hasn’t taken off as a scorer like I thought he might this year, but he was electric again. He makes them a much deeper team.
-For the Bulldogs, there just wasn’t much offensive spark. The most dangerous player was Karson Kuhlman, who drew an early PP with his tremendous open ice speed, and created a few more chances by out-working people. But beyond that, nobody was super-effective. Credit some of that to the fact that Denver has maybe the best blue line group in the country.
-On the first shift of the second period, Denver’s Ryan Barrow was checked over the boards and into the photo box that sits between the benches. When Barrow climbed back onto the ice, he had a microphone cord wrapped around his leg. There’s always something new at the rink.
-Bit of a scary moment late in the second period when Denver’s Adam Plant took a hard(and seemingly clean) hit from Minnesota Duluth’s Nick Wolff. Plant was wobbly going back to the bench, and moments later, he was helped off the ice by teammates at the end of the period and didn’t seem to be all there. Shockingly, Plant returned and played in the third period.
Shots on goal: UMD: 8-8-12-28 DU: 9-6-11-26
Shot attempts: UMD: 17-12-20-49 DU: 16-16-24-56
Prime scoring area attempts: UMD: 7-5-8-20 DU: 6-8-11-25
What do the numbers tell us?
It was a very even first period, but Denver started to get slightly more and better chances in the last two periods. I’m a little surprised the numbers weren’t more in Denver’s favor for the final two periods. They had a lot of possession and dangerous situations in the UMD zone, but weren’t really capitalizing on them.
2:51 Logan O’Connor from Dylan Gambrell 1-0 Denver
Off a scramble in front of the UMD net, O’Connor was able to get a whack at the puck and his shot chipped up in the air and over the shoulder of Shepard for the goal.