photo via courtesy of Shannon Valerio
The tone was set in the second meeting in South Bend, Indiana on Saturday, Oct. 14. The No. 1-ranked University of Denver Pioneers (1-0-1, 0-0-0, NCHC) embodied the relentless hockey that once haunted the No.4-ranked University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-1-1, 0-0-0, Big Ten)
Denver displayed resilience and fight in the final minutes of an excellent early-yet college hockey game to defeat the Fighting Irish 4-2.
Despite outshooting the Fighting Irish in every period and nearly doubling the total shot tally 48-29, the Pioneers and Irish skated to an official 2-2 overtime tie in Friday night’s game. Both goals were scored from sophomore forward and Florida Panthers prospect Henrik Borgstrom who reportedly was out ill Saturday’s game.
DU returned to Compton Family Ice Arena and mirrored it’s play to the quick and unabating style that head coach Jim Montgomery has instilled in the Denver hockey culture. The system of hockey that heavily helped the Pioneers with their success last season in clinching their 8th title, including the 6-1 Frozen Four victory over the Irish.
Even without Borgstrom in the lineup, Denver didn’t struggle to light the lamp. The Pioneers got on the board with just under 10 minutes in the opening frame, the goal scored from their top line. Anaheim Ducks prospect and assistant captain, Troy Terry collected a rebound in the slot. The junior forward finished his shot just inside the right post.
Denver displayed a strong forecheck, providing an opportune chance in front of the net during the final minutes of the first period. Sophomore forward Logan O’Connor pressured Notre Dame’s defense forcing a turnover. O’Connor found freshman forward Jake Durflinger alone down low in the slot, where Durflinger played a one-timer past Fighting Irish goalie Cale Morris, to record his first career goal.
With a 2-0 lead, the Pioneers’ dominated the second period and majority of the third period under Montgomery’s tactics. The Fighting Irish visibly had no rhythm as they circulated the puck across zones; the Pioneers were quick to eliminate time and space, disrupt and prevent any attempt Notre Dame puck possession and work collectively as a cohesive unit across all three zones and 200 feet of ice.
Just under five minutes remaining in the third period, Notre Dame’s Cam Morrison shot a rocket of slap-shot past DU’s Tanner Jaillet to cut the deficit down to one. Morrison scored the sole goal in the Frozen Four meeting as well.
Up by just one goal, the Pioneers didn’t back down as the clock winded down. Denver’s forecheck was amplified in the final minutes as a powerplay goal was further reviewed and ruled a goal in favor of the Fighting Irish thus tying the score 2-2 with under five minutes emaining in regulation.
Deja Vu back to Friday night, the score was tied two apiece and overtime became is on the line. With 4:28 left in regulation, sophomore forward Liam Finlay knocked in the go-ahead goal. San Jose Sharks prospect and junior assistant captain Dylan Gambrell added an empty-net goal to secure the 4-2 victory.
The differences in the series was strides in the levels of hockey admitted. Friday night appeared like a typical early October hockey game, whereas Saturday had the energy, excitement and tenacity of an early February game.
DU returns to Magness Arena to host Lake Superior State University on Friday, Oct. 20.