Pioneers strike five times as Mavs fall at No. 6 Denver

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Jordan McAlpine
SPORTS EDITOR

Taylor Ward had a goal and an assist in the loss Saturday night. His second-period assist on Kevin Conley’s power-play goal was the 100th point of Ward’s career. Photo courtesy of Omaha Athletics.

No. 15 Omaha dropped to 14-7 on the season and 4-5 in NCHC play Saturday night, falling to No. 6 Denver at Magness Arena, 5-2.

Denver freshmen Massimo Rizzo and Carter Mazur were as good as advertised as both had three points and were causing havoc in the Omaha zone throughout the night. The third member of that line, Cameron Wright, was just as active, as Wright scored two of the Pioneers’ five goals in the win. He also added an assist.

With the win, the Pioneers improved to 13-5-1 overall and 6-3 in NCHC play. DU also remained undefeated on home ice this season (9-0-1) and continued their dominance against Omaha, especially in the Mile High City. DU is 34-11-5 all-time against Omaha and 20-3-2 all-time at home.

Rizzo gave his squad, who never trailed in this one, a 1-0 lead 7:41 into the contest as he buried a Mazur feed into the Omaha net. Bobby Brink extended the lead to 2-0 a mere 20 seconds into the second period, putting home a loose puck after a Sean Behrens wraparound attempt.

Although Rizzo’s goal was DU’s lone tally in the first period, there could have easily been three or four. Isaiah Saville made 10 saves over the opening 20 minutes, and for the most part, the junior was the reason the game remained 1-0. Saville made 29 saves in the loss.

Brink’s goal, which was his eighth of the season, doubled the DU lead, but the two-goal lead was short-lived. Former Pioneer Kevin Conley wound up at the top of the far circle and hammered a Brandon Scanlin one-time feed past Magnus Chrona for a power-play goal, making it a 2-1 game. It was the fourth goal and second power-play goal of the season for the Omaha captain.

Conley’s blast came 6:06 into the second and 29 seconds into the man advantage. Oddly enough, in a game that featured 16 penalties, that was the lone power-play goal of the night. Taylor Ward also picked up the secondary assist on Conley’s goal, which was career point No. 100 for Ward.

The next two goals came off the stick of Wright for his 11th and 12th of the season respectively. The Bowling Green transfer was the recipient of an errant Mazur shot and buried it, making it 3-1 with 9:48 left in the second. That was the score after 40 minutes.

Wright then gave the Pioneers some insurance with 8:17 left in regulation, putting home a beautiful cross-ice feed from Mazur. Both of his goals were assisted by Rizzo and Mazur, as the line combined for nine points. Brink also had a multi-point night for DU with a goal and an assist.

However, the Mavericks were not done yet. Seconds after a 4-on-3 power play expired, Taylor Ward put home a cross-ice feed from Scanlin to make it 4-2 with 3:16 left. The goal was the 14th of the season for Ward, but that was as close as the comeback bid would get.

Cole Guttman put the icing on the cake, sending one into the empty Omaha net to make it 5-2 with 54.6 seconds left. The Pioneers have now scored at least four goals in all 10 of their home games this season and the nation’s highest-scoring offense was on display throughout the night, creating time, space and several high-danger chances in the Omaha zone.

On the Omaha side, the Mavericks are now 5-6-0 in the front end of series this season. They’re also 1-11 all-time in game one at DU in the regular season. However, they have shown the ability to respond numerous times and have posted a 9-1-0 record in game two so far this season.

Game two is set for a 7 p.m. CT faceoff at Magness Arena. Omaha will return home next weekend to face Minnesota Duluth at Baxter Arena.

News and notes

  • Denver was without head coach David Carle behind the bench Saturday night, who is in COVID protocol. Carle’s status for game two is TBD, but he will likely be out for the series finale as well.
  • Omaha finished the night 1-for-7 on the power play. Denver was 0-for-4. Omaha and Denver entered the weekend with the nation’s eighth and third-best respective power play
  • Omaha is now 2-5-3 in the last 10 games against DU. The Mavericks are 11-34-5 all-time against the Pioneers.
  • Brandon Scanlin had two assists in the loss. Scanlin leads Omaha with 17 assists this season, which is the most amongst NCHC defensemen.
  • Taylor Ward became the second Maverick to reach the 100-career point mark this season, joining Brannon McManus. Ward had a goal and an assist Saturday night.
  • McManus and Ty Mueller are both unavailable this weekend. Both are out due to illness.
  • DU’s Brett Stapley was called for three penalties, including a delay of game for a faceoff violation in the second period. Stapley was the HCA December National Player of the Month.
  • The Pioneers are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.

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