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Western Michigan completes weekend sweep of Denver Pioneers

Denver falls flat to start NCHC play

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

Badly needing a win to avoid an 0-2 start in NCHC play, the University of Denver Pioneers couldn’t afford another letdown Saturday night. But for the second straight game, the Pioneers watched a lead slip through their fingers at the hands of Western Michigan. The Broncos ran DU out of town by scoring five unanswered goals in the third period to win decisively 7-4.

In a game much like Friday’s stunning 6-5 loss, Denver (4-2-2, 0-2 WCHA) built up an early lead thanks to a fast start from its pair of Finnish forwards, Henrik Borgström and Jaakko Heikkinen. After Jarid Lukosevicius’s first goal of the season put Denver up 4-2 with 7:48 seconds to play in the game, the same story played itself out again.

In a span of 43 seconds, the Broncos (5-3-1, 2-0) rattled off three goals to take a one-goal lead, just as they did with goals less than 20 seconds apart in the final minutes Friday. Being stunned once again, the Broncos had DU on the mat and poured it on with two more goals, including one on the power play. DU has now surrendered a goal on the power play in seven of eight games to start the season.

Denver was badly outshot on the night, 35-19. To start the season, the Pioneers frequently dominated with puck possession and shot advantages to outlast teams in the final period. But WMU gave them a taste of their own medicine all weekend, outshooting DU both nights and dominating the third period by an 8-2 margin.

Tanner Jaillet did not have his best night, making 29 saves on 34 shots (.850 save percentage).

DU head coach Jim Montgomery has some tweaks to make as his team heads into a difficult stretch. The Pioneers will surely drop from #1 in the rankings, but they’ll get an unusual chance to play underdog when they face St. Cloud State, the team likely to replace them, next weekend. The 7-0 Huskies put it on Minnesota Duluth 5-0 Saturday night, so the Pioneers undoubtedly will need better showing defensively and from their goaltenders.