Denver, CO – For the fans, a rebuilding process can be difficult. Inconsistent play, failed comebacks and frustrating losses are all part of the deal. The Huskies third league road trip of the season is a case in point. Four consecutive goals in the first 13:20 of period two was too much to overcome for the Huskies despite a valiant effort in a 5-3 loss at Magness Arena in front of an announced crowd of close to 6,000. The “Gold” line of Will Hammer, Jake Wahlin and Kyler Kupka deviated from their job description and were on the ice for all three Husky goals in an impressive outing. Nevertheless, in a big boy league like the NCHC moral victories mean nothing as the Huskies fell into the cellar of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference standings. The pressure continues as they return home to face defending national champions UMD at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center next weekend.
The weekend finale started much like the Friday night game with Denver outshooting the Huskies 10-3 and feeling confident enough to overhandle the puck and play keep away from the Huskies who seemed to be a step slow and chasing. The Huskies had a genuine opportunity six minutes into period one with Jack Ahcan streaking in from the post but dishing it off rather than taking a point-blank shot. Meanwhile, the Pioneers who had the ice slanted in their favor hit three posts in the period but couldn’t beat SCSU starter Jaxon Castor on any of their ten shots. The Huskies withstood period one – an accomplishment in itself, but put themselves at a disadvantage with an interference call to Nick Perbix with 54 seconds remaining in the period.
Period two was a windfall for the Pioneers as they scored four consecutive goals to make the weekend finale appear to be a rout. But, it was the Huskies Kyler Kupka, inserted for the first time since November 15th that nearly gave SCSU a lead with a point blank shot three minutes into the period requiring a big save by Magnus Chrona.
Denver’s assault started at 4:57 with a goal by Brett Edwards. Pressure by the Pioneers in the SCSU zone had the Huskies gassed while DU rotated some fresh bodies on the ice. Hank Crone fed Edwards from the right half wall and the defenseman fired a shot past a screened Castor from the center blue line for a 1-0 Pioneer lead. A similar play from the left blue line at 8:10 increased the lead to 2-0. Michael Davies fired a shot that was re-directed by Tyler Ward past Castor for his fourth goal of the season. Less than two minutes later, a defensive breakdown by the Huskies allowed a three on one and Ward scored again on a shot from the right circle that leaked through Castor for a 3-0 lead. In an odd turn of events, Chase Brand was called for hooking on a play that had him drop to the ice after getting a high stick to the face by Liam Finlay. The play was reviewed, there was no penalty to Denver and the Pioneers were on a power play. They capitalized with Emilio Pettersen ripping a shot past Castor from the right circle for a 4-0 lead at 13:20.
The Huskies responded with a goal certain to be the NCHC “Play of the Week” at 14:57. On a highly imaginative play, Kyler Kupka lobbed the puck from his blue line over the DU blue line and defenseman to a streaking Jake Wahlin who toasted Chrona with a shot from the left circle for a 4-1 game. The goal energized the Huskies who seemed to take over control of the game from that point on. They scored another with the “Gold” line out there at 18:06. With the Huskies pressuring in the Denver zone, Jack Ahcan steered a puck towards the goal that was re-directed by Will Hammer to close the lead to two goals at 4-2. Denver outshot the Huskies 14-9 but the tide in the game was changing.
The Huskies came out in period three with renewed energy and several quality chances that had Denver on their heals. They continued their rally adding another, again with the “Gold” line on the ice at 7:10. Wahlin fed Nick Perbix at the point from the right corner and Perbix charged in with a shot and buried his own rebound to close the lead to a goal a 4-3. SCSU continued their attack and nearly had another goal with Micah Miller and Jack Perbix whacking at the puck in a goalmouth scramble at 10:35. A penalty to Griffin Mendel at 14:56 for goaltender interference was a golden opportunity to tie the game. The Huskies had good puck movement and three shots on goal but couldn’t get a puck past Chrona. Appropriately, a final point blank shot by Will Hammer with two minutes remaining was saved by Chrona.
Castor was pulled for an extra attacker with 1:40 remaining and Denver capitalized with a goal by Emilio Pettersen to salt away the 5-3 win and sweep. The Huskies attempt to rally had them outshooting the Pioneers 17-7 in period three. Jaxon Castor turned aside 26 of 30 shots while Magnus Chrona stopped 26 of 29. Denver had the advantage in the faceofff circle 35-32. SCSU had one man advantage and were 0 for 1. The Pioneers were successful in 1 of 3.
The “Gold” line of Jake Wahlin, Will Hammer and Kyler Kupka had a productive game with Wahlin 1-2-3, Hammer 1-1-2 and Kupka 0-1-1.
Stars of the Game: #1 Tyler Ward (DU), #2 Emilio Pettersen (DU), #3 Jake Wahlin (SCSU)