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Denver Pioneers melt down in loss to Dartmouth

Pioneers lose unbeaten streak after leading 3-0 early

NCAA Hockey: Frozen Four-Denver vs Minnesota-Duluth Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 2 Denver Pioneers squandered an early 3-0 lead and had their six-game unbeaten streak snapped at home in a 5-4 loss to Dartmouth at Magness Arena Saturday night. The Big Green rattled off five unanswered goals, including the eventual game-winner in the final minutes of the third period.

The Pioneers (10-4-4, 5-3-2-1 NCHC) carried momentum over from Friday night’s 1-0 win and looked like they would run the Big Green (3-8-1, 2-4-1 ECAC) out of the arena after scoring three unanswered goals in the first period.

Freshman Kohen Olischefski got the monkey off his back with his first NCAA goal on the power play at 9:29. Junior Defenseman Blake Hillman, playing in his 100th career NCAA game, was credited with the primary assist.

Dartmouth continued to shoot itself in the foot with penalties, as DU extended its lead to two on the power play after Shane Sellar was sent off for for hooking. This time it was the Pioneers’ first unit coming through, with Troy Terry finishing off a pretty pass from Henrik Borgström. Both are now tied for the team lead in points with 24.

Olischefski wasn’t content with his career first on the night and it looked like the rout was on as he streaked down the right side and beat Dartmouth goaltender Devin Buffalo with fewer than two minutes to go.

The Pioneers led in shots 15-8 after one period. After making several nice stops the night before to keep Dartmouth close, Buffalo looked more human in the first period Saturday night. Meanwhile, Dartmouth’s anemic offense had no answer for Tanner Jaillet in net.

But the fun was all but over for Denver after the first period, as the script completely flipped. By 4:14 into the second period, Dartmouth had cut the lead to one with a pair of goals just over a minute apart. The Pioneers continued to generate more scoring opportunities but Buffalo found his game once again.

At 16:17, Sellar threw a puck on net from a sharp angle below the red line and somehow snuck the puck through Jaillet.

As Buffalo continued to stand on his head, Dartmouth’s seemingly improbable comeback was complete with Collin Rutherford’s goal put them ahead with just 1:37 to play.

The teams traded goals in the final minute, with Denver freshman Jack Doremus scoring his first career goal following a Big Green empty netter.

The loss is most certainly a bitter one for Denver against a less-talented Dartmouth team. Although DU sits near the top of the NCHC standings and national polls, the team has inexplicably lost leads in games like this one multiple times this season. The Pioneers will have a weekend off to mull over the loss before returning to action against Merrimack Dec. 30.