DENVER — Despite a number of late lineup changes, Denver eked out a hard-fought 2-1 overtime win over Boston College behind two goals from Danton Heinen.
With three key players out of the lineup for the Pioneers, one might have expected BC to have an edge the second game of the weekend series. Joey LaLeggia, Zac Laraza and Quentin Shore were all game-time scratches for coach Jim Montgomery’s team, but the home squad came out with speed and a physical side to their game that created a couple of early opportunities that were just off the mark.
With just 55 seconds remaining in overtime, Heinen had a golden opportunity stationed to Thatcher Demko’s right and snapped the game-winner past the BC goalie’s glove side for the win.
“We had three guys out with a stomach bug and two guys that played the game with it,” said Denver coach Jim Montgomery. “We really showed some depth tonight, which we recruited for so we can compete better in the NCHC. Some guys really stepped up, especially in situations where they are playing with different people. It was a big win against a very good opponent tonight.”
Special teams were on display much of the game as the teams exchanged and overlapped penalties resulting in a number of four-on-four shifts and multiple power plays. Both Demko and Evan Cowley for Denver continued their strong play in the series with Demko staring down a Daniel Doremus breakaway miss and sprawling for a left pad save on a nice back-door play during a five-on-three power play for the Pioneers that robbed Heinen.
The seesaw battle ended with Denver ahead on shots for the period by a 12-9 margin and the penalty boxes vacant for the start of the second period.
Just like Friday night, the Pioneers had the early jump and the retooled first line leveraged a great cycle play to score the game’s first goal. Doremus left the puck for Trevor Moore, who cycled around the left faceoff circle before feathering a pretty backhand pass across the crease to Heinen, who deflected the pass into the open net to Demko’s right for a 1-0 lead.
After generating few quality scoring chances from back-to-back power plays, the Eagles saw Demko come up with another big stop off a partial breakaway by Emil Romig with nine minutes to play in the period.
After a dump-in and aggressive forechecking by Quinn Smith, the puck came back to the point where a shot by Travis Jeke was deflected in front by Destry Straight past Cowley’s glove and the game was tied at one apiece.
BC continued to get power-play opportunities, but Denver came up with the better scoring chances while shorthanded, with none better than Doremus coming straight across the goal at Demko, only to be stoned at the far post by Demko’s pad and then glove on the rebound chance.
Following four straight power plays for the opposition, Denver went on the man advantage when Brendan Silk took a hooking penalty at 18:35 of the period. The Pioneers couldn’t generate any good chances in the final 90 seconds, but would start the third period on the power play.
Shots favored BC 11-8 for the period and both teams were even at 20 shots apiece for the game.
Denver opened the third period with just over 30 seconds of power-play time and created a couple of good scoring chances with Demko needing to be sharp on shots from Doremus and Moore.
At 2:28, a tripping minor to Smith gave Denver its fourth power play of the game and again Demko proved up to the challenge on two great opportunities of the sticks of Moore and Heinen.
The Pioneers saw two more power plays with their best chance coming off a defensive miscue by the Eagles that saw the puck bounce behind Demko, only to be swept off the goal line by Teddy Doherty with just two minutes remaining in regulation.
“We got chances on the power play, but I would say the reason we didn’t score was Thatcher Demko for BC, who made some terrific saves,” said Montgomery.
The third period ended scoreless and showed the Pioneers out shooting BC 11-5 for the period and 31-25 through three periods of play.
Overtime started quickly for the Pioneers with Heinen again getting a quality chance off a backhand coming off the right wing that was stopped by Demko. Cowley matched Demko’s big save just 25 seconds later when he made two stops on the initial shot and rebound from Adam Gilmour and Chris Calnan.
Both teams were clearly playing for the win as Cowley made another big save on a Ryan Fitzgerald wrap-around attempt and Demko stopped Grant Arnold on the door step.
For BC coach Jerry York, here were positives despite the overtime loss.
“I thought both teams battled hard and both goaltenders were great tonight,” said York. “We battled hard this weekend for six periods and an overtime session against a good team on the road. As I told the kids in the locker room, we are a better team than we were when we got here Thursday and we just need to keep working on continuing to improve in November.”