Denver Pioneers fans held their collective breath during Saturday night’s regular season finale, as star senior goaltender Tanner Jaillet was removed from the contest after a first-period collision with defenseman Michael Davies.
The two came together trying to stop a 2-on-1 chance for Miami and, to add insult to injury, Davies knocked the puck in to his own net inadvertently. Jaillet finished the last 3:15 of the period, before giving way to freshman Dayton Rasmussen after the intermission. Rasmussen made 20 saves in what ended as an official 3-3 tie. Miami scored in sudden death 3-on-3 overtime to earn the an extra NCHC point.
Jaillet has brought nothing but reliability as Denver’s starting goaltender over four years with the team. Starting all but one contest this season, he recorded 17 wins with a .926 save percentage and 1.93 GAA. Those numbers are just slightly inferior to his junior season, in which he won the Mike Richter award as the nation’s top goaltender and helped Denver to a national championship.
Given that Jaillet was allowed to finish the period, it seems likely that his removal from the game was nothing more than precaution. Although it was senior day for Jaillet, the game itself had no postseason ramifications for either team. Even without the collision, it stands to reason that he might have sat some of the weekend after starting every game for the Pioneers since early November.
With the regular season concluding Saturday night, the matchups for next weekend’s NCHC tournament first round were set. As the #2 seed, Denver will host rival Colorado College, who fell back into the 7th spot after a 8-2 blowout loss at the hands of Western Michigan. Because CC, WMU and and Omaha all finished with 31 points, spots 5-7 were decided by tiebreakers.
Last year as the #1 seed, Denver also matched up with CC in the quarterfinals and swept past the Tigers in two games to advance into the semifinals. The series will run Friday-Sunday at Magness Arena. Start times have yet to be announced.