The #3 Denver Pioneers edged one point closer to #1 St. Cloud State in the NCHC standings Friday night, thanks to a goal by Logan O’Connor in 3-on-3 overtime after the teams played to an official 1-1 tie.
The Pioneers (17-7-7, 11-5-5-4 NCHC) now sit just four points back of the Huskies (20-6-5, 14-4-3-1) with only Saturday’s rematch and each team’s final regular season series next weekend remaining. With a regulation win Saturday, SCSU would increase their lead to seven points and clinch the Penrose Cup as the league’s regular season champion.
The game itself was much more tightly contested than DU’s easy wins against St. Cloud State at Magness Arena in November. Shots on goal were 26-20 in Denver’s favor, but no more than a handful were great scoring chances. Both teams were held scoreless on the power play, with DU getting one chance and SCSU three.
The contest remained scoreless through the first thirty minutes of gameplay. DU had a few prime scoring chances shut down by SCSU freshman goalie David Hrenak in the second period. Finally, the Huskies cracked the scoreboard at 14:26 on a goal by Blake Lizotte, who crashed the net and collected a pass through a cluster of DU defenders.
Goal by #27 Blake Lizotte pic.twitter.com/4JGRtLVQUb— SCSU Men's Hockey (@SCSUHUSKIES_MH) February 24, 2018
The second period ended with the score still 1-0 and SCSU leading narrowly in shots, 17-16.
Fortunately for DU, their best period of hockey was yet to come. The Pioneers found a sense of urgency and channeled it into tight puck pressure that the Huskies struggled to manage. It looked like Hrenak might bail out a floundering attack which managed no shots on goal in the third period, until he was finally beat by Adam Plant with 3:27 left in the game
Plant teed up a one-timer from Troy Terry, who made his return to the team after a stellar showing at the Winter Olympics with Team USA. Terry was thought to be a game-time decision for the series, but DU coach Jim Montgomery decided to give him the nod, a decision that paid off with the equalizing goal. With the assist, Terry also became the 98th member of DU’s 100-point club in his 105th career game.
The game went to a 5-on-5 overtime after 60 minutes, where each team managed a few shots on net. Denver goalie Tanner Jaillet, in his school-record 125th career game, kept a very solid SCSU scoring offense off the board throughout the third period and overtime.
The game went down as an official tie after the first five minute overtime, but DU was able to snag the key extra point on a soft goal by O’Connor in the final minute of 3-on-3 overtime. O’Connor swatted at an airborne rebound and snuck the puck past Hrenak with 34 seconds left to play.
Saturday’s contest is a 6:05 MT start and will be broadcast on 104.3.