The #4 Denver Pioneers tied NCHC rival #11 North Dakota Friday night in Grand Forks, but earned an extra point in the conference standings on Troy Terry’s goal in sudden death 3-on-3 overtime. Terry’s goal ended the night on a positive note after North Dakota scored in the final minutes to erase a DU comeback.
Denver (14-6-5, 8-4-3-2 NCHC) fell in a hole early on an unlucky bounce. Just over one minute into the contest, ND’s (12-8-7, 6-6-3-2) Trevor Olson put the puck on net from a bad angle but still found the back of the net after his shot deflected off of DU defenseman Tariq Hammond into the net.
Just four minutes later, the lead was already 2-0 as the Fighting Hawks capitalized on a hooking penalty against DU freshman Jake Durflinger.
Although DU goaltender Tanner Jaillet had a tough start with some bad luck thrown in, he made several key stops during the remainder of the period as North Dakota dominated puck possession and offensive zone pressure. The period ended 2-0, with ND outshooting the Pioneers 8-4.
After the first intermission, the Pioneers played significantly better defensive hockey, limiting North Dakota to just four shots in the entire period. That pressure led to better chances on ND goaltender Cam Johnson and, seven minutes into the period, Denver’s first goal courtesy of Junior Dylan Gambrell.
DU continued to earn a majority of the scoring chances in the third period, which were limited overall throughout the game. The equalizer came from an unlikely source, as defenseman Rudy Junda scored his second of the year less than three minutes into the final frame.
The game turned again a minute later, as Smith was handed a major penalty and game misconduct for head contact after drilling DU’s Adam Plant with an elbow. Plant suffered a concussion in the teams’ matchup in November, again from a dirty hit into the boards by Smith. The hit set off a scuffle between the teams and Plant did not return.
With a five minute power play, the Pioneers had an opportunity to score as many goals as they could with a man advantage. It looked as if Gambrell had broken the tie during a wild scrum near the ND net, but the goal was reviewed and eventually disallowed on questionable grounds of goaltender interference.
But DU continued to press with its dangerous power play and instead it was Terry who broke the tie with a third unanswered goal.
DU has struggled at times this season to hold on to late leads, especially in conference play, and it happened yet again as Hayden Shaw beat a screened Jaillet with 1:32 left with North Dakota’s extra attacker on the ice to tie the game at three.
Denver had a power play chance during the 5-on-5 overtime period which could have given them a full three-point win, but was unable to convert. At the end of that period, each team earned one NCHC point and the game went down as a tie for NCAA purposes.
In the final minute of the 3-on-3 period, Terry beat Johnson again with a wrist shot to secure an increasingly-important extra point for the Pioneers.
The two points keep Denver in first place in the NCHC, with two more league games played than second-place St. Cloud State. The Huskies were blown out 5-1 Friday night by Minnesota Duluth, who has made a second half push into third place.
DU and North Dakota will conclude their regular season series Saturday, starting at 6:07 PM.