When UNO begins the NCHC playoffs next week, it will do so after suffering a weekend sweep and a shutout loss.
No. 1 Denver got two goals from freshman Henrik Borgstrom for the second night in a row, and Pioneer goaltender Evan Cowley stopped all 28 shots he faced as DU knocked off the Mavericks 3-0 in front of 6,306 at Baxter Arena.
The game was the final one in the regular season for both teams.
UNO coach Dean Blais pulled out all the stops to try to get the Mavs on the scoreboard, including pulling goaltender Evan Weninger with just more than seven minutes left in the game, but the Mavericks were never able to solve Cowley.
Despite the loss, Blais said he liked the intensity his team played with over the weekend and didn’t see the sweep as a negative heading into the postseason.
“Never happy with a loss. Happy with the effort. You can’t really get negative or down on the guys,” Blais said.
UNO claimed the NCHC’s No. 6 seed and will begin a three-game series at No. 3 seed Western Michigan on Friday.
The Pioneers had the Mavs on their heels early after Fredrik Olofsson was hit with a five-minute boarding penalty just 33 seconds into the game.
But Weninger stopped all five shots he faced on the power play, including a point-blank save on Liam Finlay to keep the game scoreless.
Blais said that kill gave the Mavs some early energy that they carried over from before the start of the game.
“For sure we had the momentum. We were ready. I could feel it in the locker room.
“The guys wanted to come out and obviously win that game for a lot of different reasons. There was a lot at stake tonight. I think the guys proved that in their effort,” Blais said.
Seniors Ian Brady, Justin Parizek, Austin Ortega and volunteer assistant coach and former goaltender Kirk Thompson were honored before the game as part of Senior Night.
Brady said he liked the way the team was playing after the early kill.
“I think we controlled the play after that five-minute was up. Evan did stand on his head and make a couple big saves. All the guys were blocking shots and getting the puck out. It was a good thing to see,” Brady said.
The Pioneers outshot UNO 12-6 in the first period, but the game remained scoreless heading to the second.
Borgstrom, who scored Denver’s final two goals Friday, got the Pioneers on the board 15:24 into the second with his 20th goal of the season to give DU a 1-0 lead.
That lead held after a second period in which each team got off 10 shots on goal.
It took the Pioneers just 38 seconds into the third period to make it 2-0.
Emil Romig skated down the left wing and snapped a wrister from the left faceoff circle past Weninger for his seventh goal of the season.
The Mavericks went on their third power play of the game at 11:34 of the third period, and Blais upped the ante when he pulled Weninger with 36 seconds remaining on the power play.
Blais said he was willing to do anything at that point to get the Mavs on the board.
“Cowley covered the net real well. I thought we had plenty of opportunities, especially when we ended up pulling the goaltender and trying to score that first goal. We wanted to get one, get two,” Blais said.
Weninger remained on the bench after the penalty ended and stayed off for the Mavs’ fourth power play of the game after Troy Terry was called for tripping with 4:15 left in the game.
Borgstrom added an empty net goal with 45 seconds left in the game.
Denver (26-6-4, 18-3-3) ......... 0 1 2—3
At UNO (16-15-5, 9-13-2) ....... 0 0 0—0
First Period: None
Second Period: 1, DU, Henrik Borgstrom (Will Butcher) 15:24.
Third Period: 2, DU, Emil Romig (Colin Staub) 0:38. 3, Borgstrom eng (Dylan Gambrell) 19:15.
Shots on goal:
Denver .......... 12 10 5—27
UNO .............. 6 10 12—28
Power plays: Denver 0 of 3; UNO 0 of 4.
Penalties-minutes: Denver 5-10; UNO 4-11.
Goaltenders: Denver: Evan Cowley (28 shots, 28 saves, 59:57); UNO: Evan Weninger (26 shots, 24 saves, 53:43).