Pioneers eyeing playoff home-ice after split with St. Cloud

  

The Pioneers traveled to St. Cloud Minnesota this past weekend for a critical series with the Huskies where Denver got a little closer to securing home-ice for the playoffs.  The teams split the series with St. Cloud winning Friday’s game 5-1 and Denver taking the second game 5-2.  And after Saturday night’s win, the Pioneers now have 19 straight seasons with 20 or more wins.

With just a home-and-home series with Colorado College left in the regular season, the Pioneers will need to finish strong, as Western Michigan and St. Cloud are just two and four points behind Denver in the NCHC standings, respectively.  Let’s recap what happened with St. Cloud.


Game 1

Friday night’s game was very competitive until the second period when St. Cloud decided to open things up.  After Emilio Pettersen scored his 11th goal on the season on the powerplay, the Huskies scored three straight in a span of ten minutes and that’s all St. Cloud needed to earn three points on Friday.  Shots for the Huskies, by period, were 5, 20, and 3, having clearly moved into preventative defense in the third period.

Huskies goaltender David Hrenak was phenomenal, allowing just one goal on 32 shots.  St. Cloud improved to an impressive 9-0-2 when leading their opponent after the second period. Illinois native Kevin Fitzgerald led the Huskies with two goals and an assist in a much-needed win for St. Cloud, who are also fighting for their playoff position.

Here are a few observations from Friday’s game:

  • For the first time in nine starts this season, Devin Cooley was pulled after giving up four goals on 19 shots.
  • After registering 11 shots on goal in the series with Miami, captain Ian Mitchell was limited to just one shot Friday night.
  • Freshman forward Bobby Brink was held out again after sustaining a lower-body injury in the North Dakota series.


Game 2

Saturday night’s game was a different story.  After head coach David Carle emphasized the Pioneers refocusing their efforts and staying out of the penalty box, the team turned in one of their best games of the season, defeating the Huskies 5-2.  Despite going 0-6 on the powerplay, the Pioneers had five different goal scorers with Liam Finlay, Jake Durflinger, Kohen Olischefski, Mitchell, and Pettersen all lighting the lamp.  After starting Friday’s game on different lines, Cole Guttman and Pettersen were reunited Saturday and combined for eight shots on goal.

As expected, this game was very physical with several roughing minors.  For the St. Cloud seniors, this was the last time they would skate for the Huskies at home and they weren’t about to go down easily.  If anything, St. Cloud sent a message that this wouldn’t be the last time both teams crossed paths.  It’s possible that in just a few weeks this could be a playoff matchup.

Pettersen extended his scoring streak to three games and has officially doubled his goals from last year with 12.  Finlay has his own point streak of four games, and Mitchell tied his career-high in points with 30.


What’s next?

The Pioneers face off against their bitter rivals, the Colorado College Tigers, as they wrap up the Battle for the Gold Pan.  Denver swept the Tigers back in December, winning 3-0 and 3-1.  Colorado College is currently 8th in the NCHC and coming off two losses at home against Minnesota-Duluth.  The Tigers wouldn’t like anything better than to play spoiler for the Pioneers.  You can catch Saturday night’s game at Magness Arena on CBS Sports Network at 8:07 mountain time.

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