photo courtesy of Shannon Valerio
Across the span of five minutes, three goals were scored exchanged between teams to requiring double overtime. A game which the University of Denver Pioneers dominated in finesse and was countered by the grit and extraordinary hustle of their opponent the Lake Superior State Lakers.
“You’ve got to give them a lot of credit, [Nick] Kossoff and their entire defensive unit,” Head coach Jim Montgomery said. “Their entire defensive plant was really good.”
Down 2-1, the Pioneers (1-0-1, 0-0-0 NCHC) equalized the score 2-2 as sophomore forward and Florida Panthers prospect Henrik Borgstrom played a cross-ice pass to junior assistant captain and San Jose Sharks prospect Dylan Gambrell. Gambrell collected the puck in the neutral zone and rushed the attacking zone where he buried the puck past Laker goalie Nick Kossoff.
Kossoff, who played for the Colorado Thunderbirds U18 team, would face 66 shots by the end of regulation from Denver’s dynamic offense.
“I knew they were the No. 1 team in the country, I just tried to keep it in reach there,” Kossoff said. “I think just realizing we were in reach there and just doing whatever I can to keep the puck out of the net.”
Just over two minutes later in the third period, a costly Denver turnover resulted in a tic-tac-toe passing sequence dow low where Jake Hand buried a backdoor shot past Jaillet to regain the Lake Superior State’s’ lead 3-2.
DU sophomore forward Liam Finlay would score his second goal of the season and second goal that sent the game into overtime (Notre Dame’s second game) with four minutes remaining in regulation.
In the second period of extratime, junior forward Jarid Lukosevicous buried a rebound, terminating the game and the unofficial score in favor of Denver.
While the Pioneers handedly controlled the puck possession of the game, the Lakers were efficient in their execution. Lake Superior State (1-2-1, 0-1-1 WCHA) took a 2-0 lead three minutes into the second period.
Denver outshot Lake Superior State 17-7, creating lethal chances on net, but the Pioneers’ execution was unlucky. DU had a few scramble plays where the puck straddled the goal-line and one play where Lukosevicius fired a wrister that ricocheted off of the upper corner of the pipe.
In the final four minutes of play, Borgstrom was called for tripping. With just under 30 seconds remaining on the powerplay, the Laker’s forward Brayden Gelsinger beat DU’s goalie Tanner Jaillet on the backdoor.
Returning for the second frame, Lake Superior State doubled its lead within the opening three minutes. The Pioneers failed to clear a puck from behind the net and Lakers forward Max Humitz buried the one-timer short-side past Jaillet.
Denver finally got on the board as junior forward Colin Staub circled behind the net and dished a puck in the slot to Borgstrom. The Helsinki, Finland native notched his one-timer short-side, to cut DU’s deficit down by one goal. The goal immediately ignited the Pioneers’ momentum in the attacking zone. Denver amassed a 19-5 shot on goal advantage throughout the second period.
Denver implemented an explosive, harmonious tempo of play, but the reality was even the outstanding 66-17 shot advantage reflected the lack of execution and room for growth for the Pioneers.
“There are a ton of positives, too many to list,” Montgomery said. “The number one was how resilient we were. I think it was only the first shot they had in the third and they scored. The only negatives really in my mind were on our special teams and we weren’t crisp on our breakouts. There were too many breakouts where we were over-handling pucks. We didn’t do that last weekend, but its early in the year and we need to continue to get better.”
The Pioneers held a pre-game celebration commemorating the accomplishment of winning the 2017 national championship title and the physical raising of the banner at Magness Arena. A video clip of the journey to the claim the title was displayed prior the raising of DU’s eighth banner along with an introduction of the returnees from the national title team in attendance at tonight’s game.
Denver and Lake Super State clash for the second game of the series tomorrow at Magness Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.