DENVER – In the final seven minutes of the game, sophomore Zac Larraza scored two goals in less than two minutes to turn a four-goal tie into a 7-4 victory for No. 9 Denver against No. 13 Nebraska-Omaha on Friday in front of a crowd of 4,907 at Magness Arena.
The win marks the Pioneers’ fourth consecutive win and their fourth in a row against a ranked opponent, marking the first time since the 2007-08 campaign that Denver has notched four consecutive victories against ranked foes. It was also the first time the Pioneers defeated four consecutive teams ranked among the top 13 since winning the frozen four games of the 2003-04 season en route to the NCAA title.
The victory improved the Pioneers’ record to 13-6-3 and 9-5-1 in WCHA play, while Nebraska-Omaha slipped to 13-9-1 and 9-5-1 in conference action.
“I’m proud of the fact that our team found a way to win,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. “They responded when things were looking their bleakest. We beat a team that was extremely hot. They were first place in our league and can really score. As bizarre and strange as that game was from my standpoint and the way we played, the most important thing was we got a very important two points.”
Denver needed just a pair of shots to take an early 2-0 advantage. Junior David Makowski registered his sixth goal of the season on a power play goal just 2:29 into the first period. Junior Nick Shore slipped a pass through the front edge of the crease, allowing Makowski to bury a one-timer, giving the Pioneers the 1-0 advantage.
Sophomore Matt Tabrum increased the Denver margin to 2-0 at the 8:41 mark of the opening period with a successful breakaway opportunity following a turnover in the Omaha attack zone. Tabrum beat Omaha goalie John Faulkner on his stick side for his fifth goal of the season.
Pioneer goalie Juho Olkinuora turned away 21 shots in the first period, allowing Denver to keep momentum firmly on its side heading into the first intermission despite the fact that it was outshot 21-6 for the frame.
Nebraska-Omaha got on the board 3:57 into the second period when Josh Archibald finished off a 3-on-1 break, beating Olkinuora over his shoulder to make the score 2-1.
Freshman Quentin Shore responded almost immediately for Denver as he buried his seventh goal of the season just 14 seconds later to re-establish a two-goal advantage for the Pioneers at 3-1. Shore has scored four goals in the last four games after just registering three in the initial 18 contests.
Nebraska-Omaha managed to get back within a single goal when Andrej Sustr netted a power play goal at 17:39 of the second to make the score 3-2.
Senior Shawn Ostrow answered for Denver at 19:30 with his seventh goal of the season, which saw him bat the puck out of the air and into the Nebraska-Omaha net following a rebound to up the margin to 4-2.
Brent Gwidt trimmed the margin to 4-3 with a short-handed goal 25 seconds into the final period, the sixth shorthanded goal that Denver has allowed this season.
Nebraska-Omaha managed to knot the game at four on a goal by Ryan Walters at the 12:19 mark of the third period.
Tabrum added an empty net score with three seconds remaining in regulation to account for the final 7-4 margin.
Denver won despite being outshot 42-22. Both teams came away 1-for-3 on power-play opportunities.
Olkinuora made 38 saves while earning his fourth win in a row.
Denver won the overall faceoff battle 43-33. Ostrow led the Pioneers on the draws, capturing 19 of 32.