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UND HOCKEY: Denver finishes rare sweep

DENVER -- UND came to Denver with a chance to move alone into first place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

It came to the Mile High City with a chance to clinch a top-half finish in the league and home ice for the first round of the playoffs.

It did neither.

Instead, UND got swept for the first time in two-and-a-half years, losing 6-4 and 4-1 to the University of Denver in Magness Arena.

It marked the first time since UND had been swept since November 2013, when St. Cloud State did it in Ralph Engelstad Arena. It was the first time that UND had been swept on the road since November 2011, when it lost two at Minnesota.

UND had been 24-1-1 after a loss or a tie and 18-1 after a loss since that sweep against St. Cloud State in 2013.

"Obviously not good," UND captain Gage Ausmus said. "It's not acceptable for our program to lose two games in a row, no matter where we're at or what team we play, so it doesn't sit well with us. We got outplayed both nights. It's something we need to learn from quick or it's going to hurt us in the end."

Denver's vaunted top line of Trevor Moore (goal, two assists), Dylan Gambrell (two goals) and Danton Heinen (two assists) notched points No. 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 of the weekend, while fourth-line forward Jarid Lukosevicius scored the go-ahead goal early in the second period to lift the Pioneers to the sweep.

On the other side, UND's dynamic CBS line of Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz was held without a point for the first time in the 18 games they've played together.

Because of the sweep UND remains tied with St. Cloud State in first place in the NCHC standings with 41 points. Both teams have six games to go. UND will close the regular season against Minnesota Duluth, Nebraska Omaha and Western Michigan. The Huskies close with Nebraska Omaha, Minnesota Duluth and Colorado College.

UND dropped to 22-5-3 overall and 13-4-1 in NCHC play, while third-place Denver improved to 15-8-5 and 11-5-2. The Pioneers started the season 7-7-2, but are 8-1-3 since Christmas break.

"Losing one game is one thing," UND coach Brad Berry said. "Losing two games is something that doesn't usually happen. Obviously, we're taking it hard. It's about learning what we did do this weekend what we didn't do this weekend.

"You can't take it for granted. You can't just assume you're going to win a game or win two games in a row. It takes a lot of work and takes a 60 minute effort. It's not one period on and one period off. It takes 60 minutes."

The Fighting Hawks, playing without injured defenseman Paul LaDue, got off to a fast start in Saturday night's game, outshooting the Pioneers 8-1 in the opening few minutes, but UND was unable to build a lead.

It missed a couple of Grade A chances, including a Caggiula breakaway and a Boeser rush on the right wing.

Then, Denver scored on its second shot of the game.

Heinen curled off the wall with the puck and dished it to Gambrell, who was in the left circle. Gambrell sniped it far side over Cam Johnson's glove for a 1-0 lead at 8:31.

UND answered just 30 seconds later.

Luke Johnson got the puck to Austin Poganski, who was open in the left circle. Poganski rifled a shot off the far post and in to tie it up. It was his seventh goal of the season.

Denver regained the lead for good at 2:40 of the second period when Gabe Levin set up a wide open Lukosevicius in the slot. Lukosevicius picked the glove-side corner of the net for his fifth goal of the season as the Pioneers controlled the second period (11-6 in shots). It was the first period of the weekend that the Pioneers outshot UND.

In the third, Moore iced it with a five-hole goal on a clean breakaway and a Gambrell empty-net goal.

UND entered the weekend 11-1-1 on the road, but lost a pair of games in the span of two days, allowing a season-high 10 goals on a weekend.

"The biggest learning point is you have to come to the rink every day and not expect anything," Ausmus said. "You have to earn everything. If we want to accomplish all of our goals, it's not going to just come to us. We have to work for them. I think we came into both nights this weekend and kind of expected to win the games. We didn't really earn anything. The biggest learning point is we have to earn everything we want."

Notes: NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton and director of officials Don Adam were in attendance. . . Former Western Collegiate Hockey Association commissioner Bruce McLeod attended the game. . . UND has killed 20 straight opponent power plays after going three-for-three on Saturday night. It has killed 52 of 54 since the start of December. . . Troy Stecher led UND with seven shots on goal. . . Will Butcher was a plus-four for Denver.

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 11th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2014, he was named one of the top three beat writers in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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