No. 3 Denver had to battle to beat Minnesota State Mavericks 4-3 Friday in its first road game of the season.
“We’ve had some great, great wins here [at the Verizon Center]; some big wins,” DU coach George Gwozdecky said in a Pioneers' news release. “We’ve also had some tremendously heartbreaking losses as well. Whenever these two teams get together, no matter what year it is, it’s always going to be an interesting game. It’s always going to be topsy-turvy, swings of emotion, and tonight certainly was.”
Only 3,184 fans came to watch those swings. The win gave the Pioneers (6-1-0, 4-1-0) sole possession of first place in the WCHA.
Goals by freshman Nolan Zajac, sophomore Joey LaLeggia and senior Shawn Ostrow put the Pioneers 3-0 early in the second period. But they needed sophomore Daniel Doremus' goal in the third for the game-winner.
Junior goalie Sam Brittain made 33 saves, including a kick-save with six seconds left off a face-off shot from Eriah Hayes that would have tied that score.
“I thought we started out reckless on the power-play, and Sam Brittain made some great saves to ‘save our bacon,’ so to speak,” Gwozdecky said.
The Mavericks (3-4-1, 1-4-0) got goals late in the middle period, at 15:43 and 17:16, from Jean-Paul Lafontaine and Hayes to close within 3-2.
For the Pioneers’ final goal, Ostrow, from behind the net, threw the puck up to Doremus, alone above the near hash mark. He then snapped a wrister that beat goaltender Stephon Williams just below the cross bar to make it 4-2. It was the only shot on goal DU had in the third period when they were outshot 13-1.
Lafontaine' second goal at 18:09 cut the Pioneers’ lead to one goal again.
The Mavericks used two goals. Phil Cook was pulled after the Pioneers' third goal. He had nine saves in 23:28. Stephon Williams had seven saves the rest of the second period, none in the third.
MSU probably deserved a better fate than a loss.
Three stars of the game were Lafontaine of MSU, Ostrow and Nolan Zajac of DU.