Photo courtesy DU Athletics
For the fourth straight year, the top-ranked University of Denver Pioneers will head to Minneapolis for the Frozen Faceoff thanks to Evan Cowley’s 4-0 shutout of the Colorado College Tigers on Saturday night. The win was the Pioneers’ 14th straight over CC and clinched the first-round series sweep.
“It just shows the incredible depth,” DU head coach Jim Montgomery said of Cowley’s second straight shutout. “That’s why we’re 28-6-4. We have depth at every position.”
The key to the second victory in as many nights was, yet again, a strong second period after a slow opening frame. The first period was, in many ways, similar to Friday night’s first period. It was tight, slow, and just didn’t allow either team to get much going on either end of the ice. It wasn’t quite a carbon copy of last night’s first period, but it was close.
Denver used the second period to impose its will on the opponent as they’ve done so many times this year. With two goals from Logan O’Connor and dominant offensive play, the Pioneers took control of the game and didn’t let the Tigers breathe for the final 40 minutes.
“It’s two weekends in a row where our third and fourth lines have really energized us and carried us,” Montgomery said. “Not only with their energy, which they always do, but also offensively.”
“Everyone wants a two-goal night,” O’Connor added. “I was just fortunate to get a couple by. We relished the [fourth line] role a lot tonight. We were getting pucks deep and doing simple things that our line thrives off of. We had all lines going tonight and that was great to see.
Troy Terry added two goals in the third period to end any hope of a black and yellow-clad miracle. His first came just 18 seconds into the period when he went coast-to-coast on the power play and found CC goalie Alex Leclerc’s five-hole (shocker) and his second was a top right snipe with the Pioneers shorthanded about midway through the final period.
“He was great in practice,” Montgomery said of Terry. “I challenged the power play, ‘you guys score here, you guys have a chance to end the game.'”
Simply put, the Pioneers came into Magness Arena this weekend and did what they had to do to keep working toward completing the championship trifecta. It would have been easy for the Pios to let emotions get to them this weekend with their rival coming into town for their first playoff hockey of the year, but they played measured, emotionless, quality hockey all weekend as they outscored the Tigers 8-1.
The defense was incredible all weekend and it was the play of both Tanner Jaillet on Friday and Evan Cowley tonight that put the exclamation point on the Pioneers’ weekend of dominance. They weren’t needed that much (as was the case for much of the year), but they were brick walls when they were needed.
“It’s unbelievable,” Cowley said of his second straight shutout. “Words can’t describe the emotions that the seniors have for this group of guys. It’s a great way to go out.”
The journey for the Pioneers is far from over. They still have two trophies they plan to raise over the next three weeks and Colorado College amounted to simply just another opponent along the way. Sure, it means just a little bit more that they were able to put their regional rival in their place, but the Pioneers have bigger and much more important goals. The Tigers were just another minor obstacle in their way.
The Pioneers don’t yet know who they’re playing next Friday at the Target Center in Minneapolis since Omaha and Western Michigan play Game Three of their first-round series tomorrow night. If Western Michigan wins, Denver will play North Dakota. If Omaha wins, they’ll play Omaha for a fifth time.