Photo courtesy DU Athletics
The top-ranked University of Denver Pioneers went into Omaha this weekend with one goal on their minds: clinch the Penrose Cup and bring the huge trophy back to Denver with them. After they clinched the NCHC regular season title last night with a 4-2 victory (and UMD’s loss to Western Michigan) over the Omaha Mavericks, the focus tonight shifted to ruining the Mavs’ Senior Night. And boy, did they ever.
DU goalie Evan Cowley got the nod in the crease ahead of Tanner Jaillet, in part to give Jaillet rest and to make sure Cowley is prepared in case the unthinkable happens early in the playoffs. Cowley rewarded DU head coach Jim Montgomery’s confidence with a dazzling 28-save shutout of one of the best offenses in all of college hockey.
The Pioneers needed a good performance between the pipes tonight as their offense had trouble getting going at times. They were only able to score three goals, one of which was an empty-netter with 45 seconds left.
Henrik Borgström (who else?) netted two goals, including the empty-netter and Emil Romig tallied a goal less than a minute into the 2nd period to cap the night’s scoring. Otherwise, it was a defensive struggle, for the most part.
Sometimes, when there’s more hockey to play after clinching a championship, it’s difficult to get up and play solid hockey the next day. Thanks to the incredible leadership of guys like captain Will Butcher, that wasn’t an issue. Denver went out and continued to play relentless Denver hockey even though there wasn’t much on the line this evening.
The story this weekend was Denver’s first ever Penrose Cup, as it should be. But it’s important to also talk about the fact that Denver was able to keep its focus and win the games they didn’t need to. That’s a sign of a mature locker room with exemplary leadership.
This team is special and I’m convinced their journey isn’t over, not by a long shot.
Denver hosts Colorado College next weekend in the first round of the NCHC Tournament. It’s a best-of-3 series and games one and two will be on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively. If game three is necessary, it will be on Sunday night. Tickets for games one and two are still available right here.