Category archive: Denver Pioneers
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Patience is a virtue. So is perseverance. Luckily for head coach Bill Tierney, his Denver Pioneers have both in spades.
In a must-win matchup against ECAC foe Fairfield at Rentschler Field in the first game of the ESPNU Warrior Classic, the No. 17 Pioneers rallied after trailing for all but four minutes of the game to escape with a 9-8 win.
The win sets up a de facto ECAC championship game between Loyola and Denver at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium on May 2. The ECAC's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, as well as the right to host the inaugural ECAC tournament in 2011, will be on the line.
Saturday's come-from-behind win against a Top 20 team should give Denver (10-4, 5-0) confidence heading into the showdown with the league-leading Greyhounds. It's the third such win for Denver, which started off the season with losses to Syracuse and Jacksonville before winning nine of the past 11. The Pioneers are riding a seven-game win streak; their last loss came at the hands of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.
"Fairfield took it to us. I thought we'd need to get to 10 or 11 to win this one," said Tierney, whose team trailed 3-0 in the first quarter before junior middie Andrew Lay put the Pioneers on the board. "Our players have a lot of resolve, a lot of no-quit in them."
After taking a 5-3 deficit into halftime, Denver came out fired up in the third quarter. The first-half sloppiness -- bad clears, turnovers -- was a distant memory. Sophomore attackmen Alex Demopoulos and Mark Matthews tied the game in the first four minutes of the quarter, before Fairfield's Max Trunz and Brent Adams scored back-to-back goals to give the Stags the lead once again.
"We were hoping to get off to a better start, but we always have the confidence to step up when we get behind," said Demopoulos after the game. The crowd's support didn't hurt -- while Denver traveled the farthest for the Warrior Classic, the Pioneers boast a few New England natives (including Demopoulos, who's from Canton, Conn.) who helped fill the stands with Pioneer fans.
The slow pace that marked the first half -- and nearly lulled the crowd at Rentschler to sleep -- was abandoned in the fourth quarter as both teams fought for their conference lives. After trading shots on goal -- Denver's Peter Lowell recorded nine saves on the day, Fairfield's Joseph Marra finished with six -- freshman attackman Colin Scott caught a cross-goal pass from Charley Dickenson to tie the game at 7. It was short-lived, however, as Fairfield's Ryan Mulford put the Stags ahead with less than 7 minutes remaining.
"After halftime, we got back together and knew what we had to do," Scott said. "In the first half, Fairfield was slowing the ball, and as long as they hold it, we can't get it. We felt like we had to push it as much as we could."
The young Pioneers didn't panic. They continued to win the faceoff battle (13-of-21 on the game). Matthews followed up a miss with a clean shot to tie the game with 4:35 remaining. He scored the game-winner a minute later, taking his man one-on-one and getting a bounce shot by Marra.
"We have been in this position before. We've come from behind to win three times this season," Matthews said. "From the start of the season, we've been playing with pressure -- playing for a new coach, playing for your spot. That experience is helping us now."
Denver is hoping that its ability to play loose in tight spots and its confidence that it can beat ranked opponents will pay off on May 2, when the Pioneers try to win the first-ever ECAC championship.
Lauren Reynolds covers college sports for ESPN.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Three-seed Vermont came into Friday's East Regional trying to shed its only three-game losing streak of the season. The Catamounts dropped the regular-season finale to New Hampshire back on March 7 (6-5 in OT) and then followed that up with a pair of losses to UMass-Lowell in the Hockey East quarterfinals (4-3 in OT and 4-2).
All of those setbacks were at home, and the playoff series loss forced Vermont off the ice last weekend while the Hockey East championships were being played in Boston.
So Kevin Sneddon's club went back to practice in preparation for the NCAA tournament.
"We had some time to work on the little details that we obviously got away from the last couple weeks of the season," junior left wing Viktor Stalberg said.
Righting those wrongs was the trick.
Vermont came out flying against No. 2 seed Yale on Friday and posted an impressive 4-1 win over the Bulldogs at the Arena at Harbor Yard in front of building-record hockey crowd of 8,478.
Coupled with No. 4 Air Force's 2-0 victory over No. 1 Michigan earlier in the day, Vermont's win means both of the lower seeds will meet in Saturday's regional final (ESPNU, 6:30 p.m. ET) with a berth to the Frozen Four on the line.
"It's a big win for our program," Sneddon said. "We capitalized on our chances and I think that was the difference in the game. Most of the scoring chances we had our guys did a nice job of burying them.
"I told our guys in the locker room that was probably our best game of the year. Defensive intensity, the puck battles that we won, our back pressure. We made it difficult for Yale to create offense and that's their game."
After UVM (21-11-5) shut down Yale's power play (which went 0-for-7 for the game) late in the second period during a 5-on-3 kill, junior left wing Colin Vock scored a backbreaking goal at 19:01 to make it 3-0.
UVM made it 4-0 in the third before Yale scored a late goal at 18:15 to erase a possible shutout for freshman goaltender Rob Madore.
"This is a great win for our program that I'll enjoy at some other point and time," Sneddon said. "We've got work to do. Air Force impressed me, from what I saw. The blocked shots, the goaltending that they had; any team that can shut down that Michigan offense gets instant credibility with me."
Air Force and Vermont have met five previous times with the Catamounts winning all of them. The last matchup was back in 1992 when UVM swept a weekend series in Burlington.
The Falcons, who now have one NCAA win to their credit, will be trying to advance to the Frozen Four for the first time in school history while also becoming the first Atlantic Hockey school to reach the national semifinals.
Prior to Friday, Vermont's only other NCAA win in school history came in 1996 over Lake Superior State and it advanced the Catamounts to Cincinnati for the Frozen Four before they lost to Colorado College in double overtime.
In other NCAA action from Friday, another No. 1 seed went down in the West Regional that was played at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. No. 4 Miami (Ohio) skated past No. 1 Denver 4-2.
In the first three games played in this year's tournament there were three upsets, if you go by the seeds. Time will tell whether that trend will continue Saturday.