Pioneers unable to hold 2-goal lead
DENVER 2, W. MICH. 2
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