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University of Denver Pioneers top Lethbridge in opening exhibition

Next up: hockey that counts

2017 NCAA Div I Men's Ice Hockey Championships Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Denver Pioneers unofficially began their title defense at Magness Arena Sunday evening, defeating the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns 3-1 in an exhibition game.

Denver got contributions from across the lineup and built a 3-0 lead to dispatch the Horns, who fell 4-1 to Colorado College Saturday. Lethbridge will conclude their tour of Colorado with an exhibition against No. 17 Air Force Monday night.

The exhibition match gave us a potential look at how Jim Montgomery might construct the lines and pairings going forward.

The first line, if it is indeed left intact, is sure to be a powerhouse capable of matching any other line in the country. The Finnish pairing of Henrik Borgström and Jaakko Heikkinen could be quite fun to watch as well. Defensively, it looks like freshman Griffin Mendel and Ian Mitchell could factor regularly into the rotation. Mitchell was paired with fellow Chicago Blackhawks draft pick Blake Hillman.

The Pioneers special teams made a showing in the first frame. After freshman defenseman Ian Mitchell was sent away for cross checking, Sophomore Tyson McLellan broke the tie in DU’s favor with a highlight reel shorthanded goal at 4:30.

In the final 20 seconds of DU’s first power play chance later in the frame, Sophomore Liam Finlay scored to bring the score to 2-0, where the first period ended. Lethbridge goalie Garret Hughson was faced 20 first-period shots, while Denver starter Tanner Jaillet turned away all eight shots.

Freshman Dayton Rasmussen took over in net for the Pioneers in the second period. The teams traded goals, with Troy Terry scoring on a forceful drive to the net for DU and Brandon Clowes for Lethbridge.

Rasmussen was sold in net, making 18 saves in a team-high 30 minutes. The Pioneers made a third goalie change midway through the final period, swapping Rasumessen for freshman Devin Cooley. Cooley faced limited action, turning away four shots in 9:42 of ice time.

DU finished 6-for-6 on the penalty kill and finished with a 37-31 advantage in shots. Without reading too much into an exhibition match, it was a solid all-around showing for a team that has sky-high expectations coming into the season.

The game is also the only true warm-up contest the Pioneers will have, as they will take to the road to open the regular season at No. 7 Notre Dame for two-weekend contests Oct. 13-14.