Denver Salvages Split and Beats the Falcons 3-1 in Game Two
In what was always going to be hard-fought game between these two regional rivals, the Pioneers shook off the cobwebs from the night before and exacted revenge on Air Force and won.
Bolstered by goals from Matt Marcinew,Nolan Zajac, and Nick Neville the Pioneers were able to salvage a split in the home-and-home series against the Atlantic Hockey Association squad from Colorado Springs with the 3-1 victory.
While the offense certainly looked good throughout the evening, it was the play of goalie Evan Cowley that kept the Pioneers in the game for the entire game. Much like the night before, the Falcons generated chance after chance, but this time, it was Cowley who consistently came up big.
After conceding an early goal to AFA defenseman Dylan Abood at the 1:43 mark of the first period, Cowley settled in and foiled every chance the Falcons had. Cowley seemed beaten more than once, but every time, he made the improbable, if not seemingly impossible save.
Finally, at the 13:35 mark of the first period, Marcinew tipped a shot from the point in through Billy Christopoulos' pads to tie the game at 1. It was a much needed goal for a team that was looking like it was going to be the victim of deja vu all over again. After Marcinew's heroics, the teams went into the first break tied at one apiece.
The first 17 minutes of the 2nd period was a dogfight. The teams exchanged quality chances throughout the period, but Cowley and Christopoulos were equal to the task every time.
At the 17:10 mark of the 3rd period, Nolan Zajac broke through for the first goal of the period with a clutch goal coming off of a penalty kill. He initially missed on a great breakaway chance, but after the puck bounced around the crease for a few seconds, he recovered and buried the second-chance shot to give the Pioneers the lead.
The Pioneers entered the third period with a 2-1 lead and 1:13 left in a power play. They couldn't convert in those 73 seconds, but they retained the momentum and dominated play in the third period. At the 12:57 mark of the period, Nick Neville finally broke through with a clapper from the point to give Denver the insurance goal it desperately needed to make it 3-1.
The best chance, Air Force had since the beginning of the game came with less than two minutes left as Quentin Shore took a tripping penalty with 1:02 left. With the goalie pulled, the Falcons would play 6 on 4 hockey through the final buzzer. Fortunately for the Pios, Air Force was sloppy and Denver was able to clear the zone twice to run out the clock and win 3-1.
"[Cowley's] puck tracking was the best I've ever seen it," Coach Montgomery said after the game. "I think he had a few great saves that really kept us in the game."
Earlier in the week, Cowley was named to the Mike Richter Award watch list, which is an annual award that goes to the best goaltender in the country. Tonight, Cowley showed why he deserves that honor.
Denver needed a victory like this to get past the disappointment of losing the season opener the night before. It was easy for many to believe that this team was not as good as advertised after an overtime loss to a "lesser" opponent.
If there is one thing that this weekend series against Air Force showed Pioneer hockey fans, it is that it is going to take a bit more time for this team to get used to playing with each other and play as a team. There is so much talent on this team, but it is going to take some time for these guys to play up to this team's potential.
It is clear, however, that once they do start to jell, the 2015-16 Pioneers are going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Denver was outshot tonight, 27-25; Cowley made 26 saves for a .963 SV%; On Zajac's goal, freshman Logan O'Connor earned his first point as a Pioneer with an assist; Denver took 3 penalties for 6 PIM while the Falcons took 4 penalties for 8 PIM; Grant Arnold did not play this weekend as he served his NCAA mandated 2 game suspension, details of which can be found here.
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