Last night, it was the lack of shots that doomed the #3 University of Denver Pioneers against Ohio State. Tonight, the Pioneers had more than their fair share of shots on goal against the #5 Boston College Eagles, but just one of them found twine as the Eagles skated away from Magness Arena with a 3-1 victory.
In the third period alone, the Pioneers outshot the Eagles 23-5. But they couldn’t push the puck past Eagles goalie Joe Woll when it mattered.
Such a high shot total can sometimes be deceiving. There are times when a defense plays extremely well, keeps the shots to the outside and gives their goalie a good angle on every shot. That wasn’t the case tonight, at least in the third period. Unlike last night against, OSU, the Pios had no problems finding space down low right in front of Woll.
In an odd and surprising twist, it was the Pioneers’ finishing ability that betrayed them this evening.
If there was one player whose struggles in the offensive zone stuck out, it was freshman Henrik Borgström’s. The Finn rarely has many problems finding himself with time and space, but his finishing ability (no pun intended) was lacking all night. In the third period alone, he had the puck alone in front of Woll twice and sent the puck into the goaltender’s chest.
“I was just really happy to see Henrik Borgström start to play,” DU head coach Jim Montgomery said. “He was playing aggressively, he was attacking the net, he was walking people, you could see his hands. He missed three glorious scoring opportunities, but he had them.”
It wasn’t just Borgström who had trouble down low. Sophomores Dylan Gambrell and Troy Terry both had numerous scoring chances in the latter part of the game, but either their shots missed the net or didn’t make Woll work hard to make a save.
It’s not like there isn’t an answer to the scoring woes, though. Right now, there just isn’t much chemistry on any lines. Some players just haven’t seen the kind of ice time with their linemates to develop a kind of on-ice rapport.
“When you look at our top six [forwards], we don’t have a senior in our top six,” Montgomery explained. “We don’t have a junior, really. It’s going to take a while for these young men to get comfortable and be go-to guys.”
That lack of chemistry was never more evident than in the middle of the third period when Borgström tried to pass the puck across the slot to Gambrell and instead of finding his stick, the freshman’s pass found Gambrell’s skates. It was a close play, but close just wasn’t good enough to beat Woll tonight.
Starting 0-2 was certainly not exactly what DU had in mind, but when you consider that offensive juggernaut Boston University comes to town next weekend for Parents’ Weekend/Homecoming, DU’s offensive woes look more and more troubling.
As always, it’s important to take every early season loss with a grain of salt. Denver looked like the national power it is at times in the third period, but the rustiness and inexperience held the Pios back this weekend. The only way to shake that off is to get on the ice and keep playing and keep working to win hockey games. The wins will come, that much is for sure. This team is far too talented to let this short 2-game losing streak define their season.