Pioneers overcome sluggish start to leave Sun Devils in the dust

Photo courtesy DU Hockey

It wasn’t the opening period that Jim Montgomery and his #3 University of Denver Pioneers had envisioned coming into the first-ever meeting between the Pios and the Arizona State Sun Devils. But in the end, it didn’t matter as DU poured it on in the 2nd and 3rd periods to win 5-1 over the fledgling ASU program.

The Pios’ first period was, in a word, horrid. With such an inexperienced team in the building, it might have been overconfidence or it might have been carryover rust from the holiday break, but whatever it was, it wasn’t working. In fact, by the end of the first period, the Pios were down 1-0 to ASU thanks to a power play goal scored by North Dakota transfer Wade Murphy.

He claims that he could say what he said during the first intermission could be said on TV, but whatever it was that Montgomery actually said to his team, it worked. The Pios came out with an extra gear in the second period and had ASU on their heels from that point. It took DU barely four-and-a-half minutes to get on the board as Henrik Borgström buried a shot glove side to beat ASU goalie Ryland Pashovitz.

“After I didn’t score at World Juniors, it felt really good to get those two goals,” Borgström said after the game. “We have to be better tomorrow night.”

Apparently the combination of Montgomery’s intermission speech and Borgström’s goal is exactly what DU needed to return to their first half form. Three goals from Matt Marcinew, Borgström again, and Emil Romig (his first of the year) later, the Pioneers had a 4-1 lead and were simply imposing their will on the Sun Devils.

“I didn’t like [Romig’s] first period and I liked the way he responded like the rest of the team,” Montgomery said. “It’s nice to see him get rewarded.”

By the time the second period came to an end, there was a feeling around Magness Arena that the game was already over despite there being 20 minutes of hockey left. Denver was looking sharp and ASU looked stunned.

The third period came and went. DU got another goal, this time off the stick of Evan Janssen. ASU had two players ejected from the game and Denver simply coasted to the finish.

This seemed like an important turnaround for the Pioneers. The two altogether poor performances at Providence last weekend combined with that first period seemed to be an alarming trend for the Pioneers. They stopped the bleeding, though and turned things around.

It was no coincidence that Henrik Borgström, fresh off a disappointing performance in the World Junior Championship registering no points in Finland’s poor showing, was the one who got things going for the Pioneers. It was almost as if the Pioneers said to each other, “Oh yeah, we’re actually good at hockey, aren’t we.”

“To be honest, I think wearing a Pioneer jersey gave him a lift,” Montgomery said of Borgström’s return to the ice for the Pios. “He was really happy to be back home.”

For a game that at first seemed like it was going to be a surprisingly close finish, the Sun Devils’ first game against the Pioneers was kind of lackluster, which in the end, is exactly what the Pios wanted, nay, what they needed.