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DENVER — St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said his assistant coach had said the game was like watching “a slow death.”
No. 13 Denver rallied from a poor start and a first period deficit to beat St. Cloud State 3-1 in front of 5,019 fans at Magness Arena.
St. Cloud came out with a lot of jump, and Denver looked flat in comparison.
Much of the early action took place in the Pioneers zone, with the Huskies applying good pressure, but unable to break through. Denver had a good chance to get the first goal when it got the period’s only power play, but the Pioneers couldn’t get anything sustained going in the offensive zone.
Late in the first period, St. Cloud capitalized when Tim Daly got the puck on the right-side boards and sent a shot on net that DU goalie Evan Cowley misplayed. The rebound got behind him in the slot, and Joe Rehkamp knocked it home at 18:24.
Despite only giving up one goal on 11 shots, Montgomery pulled Cowley after the goal and replaced him with Tanner Jaillet.
“I didn’t think he was tracking the puck well,” said Montgomery. “I thought there were a lot of rebounds. He made a couple of real good saves on guys wide open, but we look for the consistency of our goalies, and you know what, we thought he was guessing a little bit. He wasn’t square to pucks, and that goal, you can’t let in a goal from the goal line.”
Denver regrouped during the period break, and quickly tied the game when Gabe Levin picked up a rebound of a Joey LaLeggia shot in the crease and backhanded it in before St. Cloud goalie Charlie Lindgren could cover it at 2:45 of the second period.
“We knew that St. Cloud is a very skilled team, and we didn’t feel that we were playing them hard enough,” said LaLeggia. “We came out in the second period and buckled down on defense and had a good 40 minutes the rest of the game.”
It wasn’t long before Denver took the lead. On a power play, LaLeggia got the puck in the slot and ripped a quick wrist shot top corner stick side at 4:59.
“I thought in the first period he was our best player, and I thought it just continued,” said Montgomery of LaLeggia. “There was a twinkle in his eye, and you could see it in his step and how he was playing on the ice. He has games where it’s like, you know what, if we’re not going to be able to play I’ll do it by myself, and he energizes the team and we follow him.”
Through the rest of the period, the Pioneers kept Lindgren busy, forcing him to make several tough saves, including a diving stop on a one-timer bullet from Trevor Moore and another on a quick shot from Moore near the goal line as time wound down in the period.
“That was one team responding,” said Motzko. “They responded, and that’s what’s disappointing. They outworked us for two periods. The first period was a good period, but they made the turnaround response. They sent a message pulling their goalie right away, we mean business, and their guys responded. Give them all the credit; they deserved the win.”
Early in the third, Garrett Milan had a golden doorstep opportunity, but couldn’t corral the bouncing puck before Denver iced it. That proved costly when moments later, Denver grabbed a two-goal lead. Daniel Doremus backhanded a rebound of a Moore shot from the slot past Lindgren at 4:05.
Jaillet wasn’t called upon to make as many saves, but when he was challenged, he came up big, no more so than with 47 seconds left in the game, St. Cloud’s star forward Jonny Brodzinski got the puck in the slot off a Denver turnover and fired it on net, but Jaillet made the stop.
“Tanner was awesome; it’s nice to have two goalies that we can trust and rely on,” said LaLeggia. “It was great for him to come in and help us get the win.”
Montgomery indicated that Jaillet will get the nod Saturday when the teams face off at 7 p.m. MST.
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