Denver hockey vs. Providence, Dornbach goal

The Denver Pioneers celebrate a goal scored by Casey Dornbach (17) during the third period of a game against Providence on Oct. 21, 2022 at Magness Arena in Denver. 

Sometimes the stats do tell the story.

During last weekend’s sweep at UMass, Denver went just 1-for-7 on the power play across two games and allowed two shorthanded goals and a power play goal. It was a special teams disaster.

But the No. 4 Pioneers returned home Friday night and delivered a special teams masterclass — a 3-for-5 performance on the power play and on the penalty kill they allowed just one goal on four attempts in a 4-1 win over No. 11 Providence.

“I thought [our] special teams were excellent in the second, obviously three power play goals is a huge factor in the win,” DU coach David Carle said. “We spent a lot of time in the zone on the power play because of our puck support and winning battles to extend zone time. I thought the [penalty] kill was good.”

It was a much-needed performance for DU, not just because of the sweep last weekend, but also because of how last season’s game at Providence went.

The Pioneers carried a 4-1 lead into the third period in that game 364 days ago, but they allowed five third period goals in a string of early-season losses. Those who were around for that game used it as motivation this time around.

“I think it was an important response for us,” goaltender Magnus Chrona said. “It was a nice feeling for us to finally beat them and not let it go in the third period.”

Denver hockey vs Providence, Magnus Chrona (30)

Denver Pioneers goaltender Magnus Chrona (30) watches the puck during a game against Providence on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022 at Magness Arena in Denver.

Despite the fact that last year’s game was clearly on his mind, Chrona was locked in between the pipes. The senior made a few key saves in the first period and got the bench fired up with a big stop early in the game on a play where it looked like he was beaten, but stuck his right pad out to deny what would’ve been the opening goal of the night.

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“He was stellar,” sophomore center Massimo Rizzo said.

Freshman Rieger Lorenz opened the scoring with his first collegiate goal on DU’s second power play of the he found his way in front of the net on a rush into the zone and steered the puck into the net on a nice feed from Jack Devine.

Sophomore Carter King has continued to work his way into a big role on the top power play unit for the Pioneers and netted his first goal of the season after finding a pocket of space in the slot midway through the second period.

The only even strength goal of the night came with just under 11 minutes remaining in the game as Rizzo picked up his second point of the night (he scored a power play goal earlier) with a beautiful assist to Casey Dornbach on an odd-man rush.

“I thought we did a great job of getting pucks up quick. They had a little change there and I took off,” Rizzo said. “Shai [Buium] did a great job getting the puck up to me and I just Casey buzzing back door.”

Denver hockey vs. Providence, Sean Behrens (2)

Denver Pioneers defenseman Sean Behrens (2) battles for the puck near his team's bench during a game against Providence on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022 at Magness Arena in Denver. 

The win on Friday wasn’t just an important one in terms of regaining momentum, it also means DU won’t head into banner raising night on a three-game losing streak. The Pios have tried their best to not reminisce on last year’s success too much as there’s another championship to be won again in April, but night’s like tomorrow can serve as motivation, especially for the newcomers that want to experience what it’s like to contribute to a title-winning team.

“It’ll be better [now] that we won tonight, I can tell you that,” Carle said with a laugh.