St. Cloud, MN – The margin between wins and losses has been ever so slight lately for the Huskies. Three of their last six games have been decided in overtime and with an extra goal here and another save there their standing in the NCHC could be quite different. On Saturday, A two-goal rally by Denver in the second period was all it took for the Pioneers to capture a split of the weekend series with a 3-1 win at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
The Huskies had their motor going at the start of Saturday’s rematch and seemed to be half a step quicker than the top-ranked Pioneers. As a result, they hit the scoreboard first on a nice goal by first-year forward, Jake Wahlin (Papa) for his fifth goal of the season. Ryan Papa did a nice job stripping the puck from DU defender Michael Davies along the back wall and fed Wahlin who stick handled through a defender from behind the net and stuffed the puck under Tanner Jaillet for a 1-0 SCSU lead. In a well-played period by both teams with some key saves on both ends of the rink by Jeff Smith and Tanner Jaillet the Huskies were outshot 16 to 10 in period one.
Trailing by a goal, the Pioneers took more control of the contest in period two and rallied for two goals in the first nine minutes of the second period to take a 2-1 lead. The Pioneers tied the game at 6:18 on a goal by Dylan Gambrell (Janssen | Marcinew) with his 6th goal of the season. Marcinew tossed the puck to the back wall where Evan Janssen captured the puck and backhanded it to the front of the goal where Gambrell tipped it over Smith for a 1-1 tie. Next, at 8:39, Jarid Lukosevicius added an unassisted goal to give the Pioneers their first lead of the contest. Jimmy Schuldt gained control of the puck behind the net and attempted to clear the puck but it bounced in front of Smith and Lukosevicius was there to slap it past Smith for a 2-1 lead. SCSU outshot the Pioneers in period two 13 to 11.
The Huskies were burned on their only penalty of the game early in period three. Ben Storm was whistled for tripping at 2:52 and the Pioneers converted their only man-advantage opportunity of the game at 4:52. Liam Finlay fed Adam Plant at the blue line who steered the puck to Michael Davies who wristed a shot past Smith from the top of the left circle for a 3-1 lead and enough of a margin to hold on for the win. Despite outshooting Denver 15 to 11 and putting some added heat on Tanner Jaillet with the goaltender pulled the Huskies were unable to get anything past him the balance of the period in the 3-1 final.
The teams each traded 38 shots on goal for the game with Denver’s Jaillet stopping 37 of 38 shots on goal for his 14th win of the season and the Huskies Smith stopping 35 of 38 in a losing cause. SCSU was 0/2 on the man-advantage and Denver scored on their only opportunity.
The loss dropped the Huskies overall record to under .500 once again at 11-12-1 and their conference record to 6-9-1. Denver improves to 16-6-4 overall and 8-3-3 in the NCHC. The Huskies return to non-conference action in the North Star Cup next weekend with an opening game vs Bemidji State University.
Stars of the Game: Lukosevicius (DU) Jaillet (DU) Wahlin (SCSU)