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DENVER – Behind two goals from Denver’s top line and 19 saves from Tanner Jaillet, the No. 10 Denver Pioneers held off a determined Wisconsin team, emerging with a hard-fought 3-2 win.
“I thought it was the type of game we needed,” said Denver coach Jim Montgomery. “We needed to be in a close game. We needed to be in a game where we didn’t have an A game and we needed to find a way by using our heads and our feet to manage a victory, and I thought our third period was the recipe for success that we will need.”
Denver carried much of the early play, forcing Wisconsin goalie Joel Rumpel to make several big saves, including one on a blast from Nolan Zajac off a drop pass from Joey LaLeggia. The Pioneers kept coming in waves, and eventually struck first when Daniel Doremus carried the puck down the right side and broke into the slot, getting off a backhand shot that Rumpel stopped. However, Doremus picked up the rebound and poked it home at 9:29.
“They’ve got it on a string a lot; it’s nice to see,” said Montgomery. “I think it really puts teams on the defensive, and you could see that Wisconsin was changing. Every time if they didn’t have the matchup they wanted, they were getting their D-men and the line they wanted out against them, and I just kept shuffling the deck to stay away from it.”
Late in the period, while on a power play, Wisconsin almost tied it up, but Joseph Labate’s blast from the left circle hit the post. However, with the power play time carrying over into the second period, Labate got some karmic justice when he picked up a rebound in the slot of a Jake Linhart shot and fired it along the ice past the outstretched left leg of Tanner Jaillet at 40 seconds of the period.
“I think that was one of his more complete games,” said Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves of Labate. “He was physical, he was intelligent without the puck, he created scoring chances, he was involved. He did a lot of good things, and he was one of the guys we singled out in the locker room as playing a really complete game for us.”
Denver returned the power-play strike five minutes later when Gabe Levin sniped a shot from the left side that Rumpel stopped. However, the rebound came right to Quentin Shore outside the crease, and he fired it under the cross bar past a diving Rumpel at 5:26.
Danton Heinen gave the Pioneers a little breathing room at 9:08 of the third off a brilliant feed by Doremus, who got the puck by the left post and as he was getting knocked to the ice backhanded it to Heinen streaking into the slot, and Heinen quickly knocked it in.
“That was all him,” said Heinen of Doremus’ setup play. “He made a great play while lying on his back, and all I had to do was put it in the open net, so that was all him. I had the easy part.”
However, Wisconsin then closed to within one late in the period when Adam Rockwood streaked down the right side and behind the net, completing a wrap-around goal that banked in off Jaillet’s leg at 14:38.
Wisconsin pressed hard in the last five minutes, but was unable to solve Jaillet again.
“I didn’t think they got a scoring chance in the last five minutes,” said Montgomery. “That’s what we cared about. We knew they were going to push. We iced the puck one time when we shouldn’t have. That’s the only thing we need to be better at, but you are going to make mistakes. They’re coming after us.”
“As we told the young men in that room after the game, right now we aren’t measuring ourselves in the wins and losses, we measure ourselves in growth, and we had good growth tonight,” said Eaves. “I thought that we had great energy. We legitimately had a chance to find a way to win that game; we just didn’t get it done.”
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