DENVER - Not often in athletics do the two best teams in any given sport have the chance to matchup in the regular season. At Magness Arena on Friday night the two, by far, best teams in college hockey treated the world of hockey to a worthy duel. The No. 2 Denver Pioneers and the No. 1 Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs went head to head in a matchup that had a few weeks worth of anticipation behind it. The game did not disappoint.
The two programs each bolstered one of the best units in the nation, DU's defense and UMD's offense. The contest would be won by who could establish their style of hockey. Following a brief feeling out process the Bulldogs were able to play their game off the top. But it did not last for long as the Pioneers came right back in the second period scoring three and that's all they would need to get going en route to a 4-3 victory on home ice.
The Bulldogs were able to get on the scoreboard first with an unassisted goal by Alex Lafallo 13:04 into the first. The first line left winger was able to pick up a loose puck on the blueline and fire it past Tanner Jaillet.
This goal alarmed the Pios just a bit as their second and fourth lines chipped in for big shifts to draw penalties. However, they hit the snooze button and were back on their heels for almost the entire first period. But right before the whistle blew to signal the first intermission Jaillet made two huge consecutive kick saves with his left flipper to hold the contest at 1-0 Duluth.
Denver came out flying upon the second-period start. And it would pay deviance seven minutes into the frame as the Pioneers fourth line started and this time concluded the action. Tyson McLellan beautifully forced a turnover with the old 'stick on stick, stick on puck' maneuver in the corner which popped the puck to Colin Staub, who passed it to Kevin Conley who one-timed it to the twine. The freshman Conley not only tied it but scored his first collegiate goal.
UMD answered with some heavy hitting and zone time but it wouldn't bother DU much as Troy Terry's slick mitts forced a neutral zone turnover. On the ensuing 2-on-1 rush he shot short side high which was turned way but the rebound found the stick of Logan O'Connor and the Pios led 2-1.
22 seconds later Terry's hands were on display again. Denver, forcing the puck in deep on a Michael Davies dump in Dylan Gambrell won a board battle below the goal line and threw it out front to Terry. The hometown sophomore went forehand-backhand-five hole to fool Hunter Miska and take a two goal lead.
But before the ice could come down as snow, a nasty wrister from Devils' prospect Joey Anderson brought the score back to one, just two minutes after Miska was found down and out.
The score stayed that way until the third when, guess who, Terry was playmaking with his paws one more time. This time finding Jarid Lukosevicius in the slot who threw it on an empty net. Miska lost his net on the initial Terry shot which was blocked, he fetched it back and found Lukosevicius who did the rest. The Pios then led by two, quickly into the third period.
Denver would proceed to dump and chase the puck for a majority of the middle portions of the third until Minnesota Duluth started pinching and putting on the pressure late. They got good chances, even changing the scoreboard, making it 4-3 but they would not change the outcome as Jaillet's left leg would come through a final time to finish.