Photo courtesy of Denver Athletics
Success in the attacking zone is difficult without a consistent effort from the blue line. The University of Denver Pioneers currently lead college hockey with the most wins in the 2016 calendar year with 30. Returning five of six defensemen from their trip to 2016 Frozen Four has greatly facilitated the Pios’ 2016-17 campaign success.
Denver’s head coach Jim Montgomery employs a quick, transitional style of hockey which often requires defensemen to join offensive transitions. While Juniors Tariq Hammond and Adam Plant don’t join the rush as frequently as other defensemen, they are the Pioneers’ source of physicality and consistency defensively.
In their sophomore campaigns, Hammond and Plant filled physical roles left behind from graduate defensemen Josiah Didier and Joey LaLeggia.
“I think I started playing bigger minutes last season and took on more of a shut-down role around Christmas last year,” Plant said. “Both myself and Tariq both really jumped into those roles and I think we’ve really done really well so far.”
Plant fits Montgomery’s preference of a smaller blueliner with a stature of 5’10” and 170 lbs. Plant’s skating is immaculate and the Penticton, British Columbia native has excellent hockey IQ. Plant reads scenarios timely and acts efficiently while maintaining composure.
In an interesting contrast, Hammond is Denver’s biggest player at 6’2” and 195 lbs.
“We have a smaller D-core. I have some size on me so I use that to my advantage,” Hammond said. “I try to be a shutdown defenseman, embrace that role and do the best I can with it.
Hammond models his style of play after Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers or Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks, he says,”I want to be a two-way defenseman that can play a 200-foot game.” As such, the Calgary, Alberta native radiates intensity with his physicality along the boards.
Denver hockey prides itself on tenacity and speed which Hammond and Plant embody. While the duo isn’t as active in the offensive zone as fellow blueliners Will Butcher, Blake Hillman, or Michael Davies, Hammond and Plant are pivotal at keeping opponents’ scoring chances to a minimum.
“My main focus is making it easy for TJ [Tanner Jaillet] when I can,” Plant said. “Getting in front of shots, taking away space and gaining back possession. Points and that doesn’t really matter, it’s more just the win at the end of the day. Always defense first and that leads to offense.”
As Hammond and Plant continue to grow into their roles after passing the halfway point of their junior seasons, they remain humble in the preparation ahead.
“We want to get better everyday as part of the process we stick to,” Hammond said,” We have good defenseman and that’s a strength of our team and knowing that we want to play to those strengths and win as [many] games as we can.”