Photo courtesy DU Athletics
Head Coach Jim Montgomery always employs a relentless, quick style of hockey which poses both offensive and defensive challenges. Even while they’re rolling on a 10-game unbeaten streak, the No. 2-ranked University of Denver Pioneers (7-2-3, 3-0-3 NCHC) are looking to improve their offensive chemistry and maintain their gritty play.
The Pios have managed the return of arguably the best defensive corps in the nation into an 88.6% (51/60) penalty kill percentage. DU’s success on the penalty kill is largely attributed to the grit and intensity executed by the forwards, notably by Logan O’Connor.
The 5’11” 175 lb. sophomore forward from Calgary, Alberta worked to earn a spot in the current lineup. Last season, just before Denver’s second half winning streak, classmate Jarid Lukosevicius replaced O’Connor on the line chart alongside former captain Grant Arnold and current assistant captain Matt Marcinew.
While Montgomery has been regularly changing the line combinations this season, O’Connor has often been paired with senior Evan Janssen. Together, they’re a robust force on Denver’s forecheck.
“I pride myself on being an energy player,” O’Connor said. “It’s nice going out there on a PK with Evan Janssen. I feel like we really gel well on the penalty kill and have a lot of good chemistry there. It’s nice to go out there with guys like that with a similar style of play who like to get pucks deep and grind teams down defensively.”
Thus far, O’Connor has recorded three points (0G-3A). While he may not be a scoring forward like Henrik Borgstrom, Troy Terry, or Dylan Gambrell, O’Connor radiates intensity the rest of the team feeds on. His explosive motor and physicality resemble the style of the 2013-14 “Mash Line” which included Matt Tabrum, Larkin Jacobson and Grant Arnold. The Mash Line’s dedication to Montgomery’s relentless style of hockey and high puck pressure has rubbed off on successors like O’Connor.
“I think skating with Grant was a huge impact on me,” O’Connor said. “He’s not only a terrific player and an energy player, but he’s also a tremendous leader. He’s got to be one of the better leaders I’ve ever played with hands down. That really helped me grow as a player after my freshman year.”
Given senior forward Emil Romig’s absence from the lineup due to a gruesome lower-body injury he took against North Dakota, O’Connor’s impact on the team as a momentum-builder is more important than ever.
“I feel like the penalty kill really helped me. Over the summer I worked on things that I struggled with last year,” O’Connor said. “Offensively last year I didn’t think I was very good in that aspect of my game. This year I’m using my speed more down low and taking the puck to net more so than I did last year. It’s giving me more confidence getting into the game.”