The Finnish Touch

Photo courtesy DU Athletics

The best don’t become the best by luck. Success is achieved through repetition and exertion. The University of Denver Pioneers freshman forward Henrik Borgström embodies that through his dedication and persistence. After waiting 30 minutes after practice to speak with Borgström, his lethal work ethic became apparent as the Florida Panthers first-round pick was the last to leave the ice. He’s frequently the last off the ice during pre-game warmups as well.

Borgström, a Helsinki, Finland native, leads the Pioneers with 16 points (8 goals, 8 assists) and has scored in 11 of DU’s 14 games. His success didn’t come immediately though as he struggled in Denver’s first few games.

During DU’s second game against Boston University on Oct. 15, Borgström broke through with two goals and an assist to lead the Pioneers to the weekend sweep. He didn’t stop there. He continued to amass points after his first tally. As a result, the 6’3”, 185 lb. center earned the NCHC Rookie of the Month [October] honors.

“I think in the first game against BC I had so many chances and got a bit frustrated. Then against BU things started to get better once I got the first [goal].”

Since finding his rhythm, Borgström has become a force to be reckoned with. He effortlessly weaves through opposing blueliners with remarkable stickhandling, sometimes so knavish he deceives his own teammates.

Head coach Jim Montgomery pairs Borgström in variations with sophomores Gambrell, Terry and Lukosevicius on the top line.

“After the first three games I think everything has been easier for me,” Borgström said. “I’ve had the chance to play with great linemates like Troy [Terry], Luko [Jarid Lukosevicius] and Gambs [Dylan Gambrell] which helps me a lot. It’s easier to score points when there’s guys like that.”

While Borgström is a dominant attacking threat, he’s not selfish with the puck.

“I try to watch the situation; see how the goalie is positioned and if there are any teammates around me,” Borgström said. “It’s hard to make those decisions. Sometimes when you watch games afterwards it seems so stupid because you made a pass when you should have shot. Or you shot when there was a guy wide open. It’s hard, but I’m trying to find a balance between goal scoring and passing.”

With the absence of former forwards and faceoff specialists Quentin Shore and Gabe Levin (graduation), Borgström has assumed that role, boasting a decent .477% faceoff win percentage.

As Borgström and the Pioneers spent the past week preparing to renew the Gold Pan Rivalry with Colorado College; Friday, Dec. 2 and Saturday, Dec. 3, Borgström acknowledges the tradition and respect between programs, “Even though CC hasn’t done so well in the past few years there is still lots of emotions. It’s a bit of a shame that we have winter break going on so there aren’t any students here, but I’m really excited and looking forward to it.” 

Comical in his interactions and post-goal celebrations, the outgoing Finnish forward has sparked creativity among Denver’s dynamic offense. The Pioneers average just 2.71 goals per game but as the season has advanced, they have incorporated crafty, clever plays during their possessions. More often than not, these plays center around Borgström.

Denver travels to the World Arena for the first of a home-and-home series against CC on Friday, Dec. 2 before hosting the Tigers for Game 2 at Magness Arena on Saturday, Dec. 3.