Pi­o­neers un­able to hold 2-goal lead

DEN­VER 2, W. MICH. 2

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Groke Nick Groke: ngroke@den­ver­post.com or @nick­groke

Dy­lan Gam­brel’s sleight of hand moved a wave of block­ers out of the way Satur­day night at Magness Arena. It was a quick bit of mis­di­rec­tion — he faked a shot and faded right, draw­ing in de­fense­men like kids wait­ing to see the rab­bit jump out of a hat.

And while they looked over here, Gam­brel pro­pelled a pass over there, to the stick of Gabe Levin on the back post for an easy Den­ver goal.

The Pi­o­neers are per­form­ing their own hoax too. Just when it looked like DU was fad­ing from con­tention, suf­fer­ing through its worst stretch in the Jim Mont­gomery coach­ing era, the Pi­o­neers popped back in the spot­light.

Satur­day, No. 14 Den­ver ran its points streak to six con­sec­u­tive games. Af­ter the Pi­o­neers and Western Michi­gan re­mained tied 2-2 through regulation and over­time, both teams were awarded a point in the Na­tional Col­le­giate Hockey Con­fer­ence. The Bron­cos got the ex­tra point in the stand­ings by win­ning in the se­cond over­time on Tay­lor Flem­ing’s goal in three-on­three hockey.

It was a dis­ap­point­ing re­sult for DU af­ter the Pi­o­neers led by two goals in the third pe­riod.

“Any­time you’re up 2-0 with nine min­utes left and don’t win, it’s a dis­ap­point­ing re­sult,” Mont­gomery said. “Our best play­ers need to be bet­ter. We re­cruited them to score goals.”

Den­ver out­shot Western Michi­gan 51-33, but the Bron­cos tied the score with 20 sec­onds re­main­ing in the third pe­riod when Fred­erik Tif­fels redi­rected Ai­dan Muir’s wide-open shot from straight in front of the crease.

Af­ter go­ing 0-for-De­cem­ber with four con­sec­u­tive losses, the Pi­o­neers dropped from a No. 9 na­tional rank­ing to 17th. Now they’re back. Af­ter fall­ing to sixth place in the NCHC, Den­ver is tied for third.

Levin’s goal came with just 1.2 sec­onds left in the first pe­riod, af­ter Western Michi­gan sur­vived a twoman dis­ad­van­tage as Den­ver pelted goal­tender Lukas Hafner with shots.

But with Flem­ing still in the penalty box, Gam­brel mocked a shot and faded to the right side. As the de­fense went with him, he found Levin for an easy goal.

In the third, DU’s Matt Marcinew mus­cled in a re­bound from the left side of the crease to put DU up by two. Western Michi­gan’s Colt Con­rad scored 26 sec­onds later on a turn­around wris­ter to get back in it.

Fri­day, the Pi­o­neers used two goals from se­nior Quentin Shore to de­feat Western Michi­gan 5-3.

“I liked how we played this week­end, but the killer in­stinct still needs to come,” Mont­gomery said.

Fresh­man de­fense­man Blake Hill­man of Den­ver cel­e­brates with team­mates af­ter a Pi­o­neers goal in the first pe­riod Satur­day night. Andy Cross, The Den­ver Post

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