St. Paul, MN – It wasn’t the Huskies night in the Championship game of the Frozen Faceoff on Saturday. The #2 seeded Denver Pioneers played nearly flawless hockey, got a few lucky bounces and an exemplary effort in goal by Tanner Jaillet to capture the tournament title by a 4-1 score. The Pioneers jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead including a goal with just 5.3 ticks left in the period and never looked back in the championship win. The unsung line of Finlay, Olischefski and Barrow combined for a 5 point night and Tanner Jaillet stopped 28/29 shots on goal to knock off #1 ranked SCSU.
Olischefski gave the Pioneers an early lead at 4:24 on a good effort by the first-year forward. Olischefski carried the puck into the left zone and got off an initial shot from the top of the circle that was stopped by Hrenak but failed to control the rebound. He then connected on the rebound and appeared to deflect it off Jack Poehling and under Hrenak for a 1-0 Denver lead. The Pioneers extended the lead to 2-0 on a goal by Jake Durflinger, his 5th of the season with just 5.3 seconds remaining in the session. SCSU’s Blake Lizotte had an opportunity at the DU goalmouth but was cross-checked in front of the DU goal and while prone on the ice the Pioneers raced down ice on an out-manned Huskies defense. Logan O’Connor took an initial shot from the left circle, stopped by Hrenak’s left pad but a strong rebound was one-timed by Durflinger and he beat an out of position Hrenak clean for a 2-0 lead and unfortunate late period goal on the Huskies. The Pioneers outshot SCSU 11-10 in an otherwise fairly even period despite the 2-0 deficit. SCSU was 0/2 on the man-advantage and Denver was 0/1.
The Pioneers struck again early in period two with another goal by the Olischefski line at 2:06. A quick breakout initiated by Liam Finlay put the puck on Ryan Barrow’s stick and he sped from mid-ice into the SCSU zone and beat Hrenak with a well-placed backhand top shelf blocker side. Hrenak was relieved of duty with 17:54 remaining in the period and replaced by junior Jeff Smith. Coach Motzko commented “He had been going strong and they were kind of flukie goals so we figured let’s get David out of there and put Jeff Smith in there” . With a 3-0 lead the Pioneers then had the opportunity to tighten up further defensively and simply play mistake free hockey and rely further on Jaillet to protect the back side. That was evidenced by the low number of shots in period two with Denver holding a 7-5 advantage. SCSU had an additional man-advantage in the period but again failed to convert on their third opportunity of the game.
The Huskies, possibly a little frustrated with their inability to get any momentum going took three penalties in the first 12:30 of the period to pretty much stunt any offensive push for the first half of the period. Finally at 15:54, one of the Huskies most consistent offensive players as of late – Ryan Poehling gave SCSU a brief glimpse of hope with his 14th goal of the season. The play actually was made possible by a nice drive to the net by Kevin Fitzgerald who placed a shot on Jaillet’s pads with the rebound being buried by Poehling who was following the play. However, the thought of a comeback was quickly snuffed out by the Pioneers Dylan Gambrell who scored 1:12 later to again up the lead by three goals. Gambrell unloaded a wicked shot off one knee from the top of the right circle that deflected off Smith’s stick for the 4-1 final. SCSU did outshoot Denver 14-9 in the final period but were unable to solve Jaillet who was outstanding the entire game.
For the game, SCSU outshot the Pioneers 29-27 but simply couldn’t overcome the 3-0 lead in this game. DU’s Jaillet stopped 28 of 29 shots on goal to improve his season record to 21-8-7. Hrenak, who was making his 10th straight start, had a tough night controlling rebounds turning aside just 10 of 13 shots on goal before being relieved by Jeff Smith early in period two. Jeff Smith put forth a quality performance in relief stopping 13 of 14 DU shots on goal.
The loss was still not enough to drop the Huskies out of the #1 Pairwise position placing them as the number one seed for the NCAA tournament in Sioux Falls, SD to face #16 seed Air Force on Friday, March 23.
Stars of the Game: 31 Olischefski (DU) #2 Ryan Barrow (DU) #3 Jaillet (DU)