Playing in windy conditions and frigid precipitation, the Pioneers powered a 14-11 victory over the visiting Marquette University Golden Eagles to claim the BIG EAST regular season title on April 30. Denver and Marquette clashed in the final regular season game to determine the No. 1 seed for the BIG EAST tournament. The triumphant Pioneers earned its third consecutive conference title after remaining undefeated in BIG EAST play for the 2016 season.
“Proud of our guys,” said head coach Bill Tierney. “It’s been a four month battle to try to get here and to try to win. This is the first of three championships that we [will] compete for and we got it. It wasn’t the prettiest, certainly wasn’t the easiest and wasn’t the cleanest. You have to give Marquette credit for that.”
Tewaaraton nominees Connor Cannizzaro (Cazenovia, New York) and Zach Miller (Steamburg, New York) led Denver’s offense with five points apiece. Cannizzaro tallied four goals and one assist, while Miller provided four assists and one goal.
“We knew they were going to be a tough opponent, they’ve always given us a tough fight,” said Cannizzaro. “We came out ready to battle and ready to battle the elements again with the snow and rain.”
Marquette denied Denver’s attack in the first quarter, preventing the Pioneers from yielding an early lead as was the case in previous matchups. Goals from junior captain Tyler Pace (Coquitlam, British Columbia) and Miller gave Denver a 2-0 lead with 8:35 left in the opening stanza. Marquette countered with a three-goal run to silence Denver 3-2 after the first fifteen minutes of play.
Denver’s attack found its rhythm and regained the lead after constructing a three-goal run within the first half of the second quarter. The Golden Eagles responded with two goals to equalize the score at five apiece. Cannizzaro would add one more for the Pioneers before half, as would Marquette, to deliver a tie score of 6-6 heading into the warmth of the locker room.
Following intermission, Denver returned electrified, stunning Marquette with six unanswered goals during the third quarter to maintain the lead for the remainder of the game.
“We always try to come out and catch our stride, and today we didn’t do that. We readjusted at halftime. Everyone hit their shots when they had the opportunity. We grinded it out,” said senior captain Jack Bobzien (Littleton, Colorado).
The Pioneers held a 12-6 edge over the Golden Eagles going into the final frame. Marquette outscored Denver 5-2 during the final fifteen minutes, delivering the 11-14 result.
Tewaaraton nominee Trevor Baptiste (Denville, New Jersey) aided in Denver’s possession, finishing the day with 19 faceoffs wins along with 15 ground balls. Despite Denver’s 15 turnovers throughout the game, freshman netminder Alex Ready (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) secured eight saves.
Denver will host the BIG EAST tournament May 5 and 7. The Pioneers will face Providence at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 5. The winner will advance to the BIG EAST tournament final May 7 at 2:30 p.m.
“The good news is, you’re playing someone you played a week ago, so you remember them. The bad news is, you’re playing someone you played a week ago, so they remember you. All the sudden you’re in championship mode. We talk about the three championships and this one is number two, coming up. We’re excited to be in it and we’re excited to be hosting it,” said coach Tierney.