Denver captain Tariq Hammond makes season debut in North Dakota loss

photo courtesy of Shannon Valerio

The calendar year of 2017 would simultaneously be a gratifying and trying year for Tariq Hammond. The University of Denver Pioneers defenseman helped his team claim their eighth national title over Minnesota Duluth on April 8. Unfortunately, the staple of Denver’s blueline was on the receiving end of crunching hit against the boards that snapped his ankle requiring surgery. Hammond was later announced by DU head coach Jim Montgomery as the captain of the Pioneers’ 2017-18 roster. After the first surgery Denver’s leading man required another procedure.

A total of seven months later, Hammond would be ready to suit up in the Crimson and Gold for the 11th game of the season on Friday, Nov. 17 against the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks. Hammond returned in the thrilling game that was decided in the last three minutes of the third period where the Fighting Hawks edged the Pioneers 5-4.

While leading from off the ice imposed its challenges, Hammond continued to fulfill his role as captain to the best of his capability.

“It was good. It sucks watching all the time, but felt good to get back out there,” Hammond said. “I was just trying to help out my team as much as I could. It wasn’t enough tonight. We let this one get away from us.”

As such an essential component of Denver’s defensive corp, reintegrating the Calgary, Alberta native into the lineup was a waiting game the Pioneers were cautious with. While the 6-foot-1, 200-pound, framed senior may not be at full capacity yet, Hammond has notoriously been one of Denver’s larger, more tenacious players. Incorporating his bite along with the size of the recent blueline additions will be an element to the Pioneers’ game yet to be witnessed.

“It’s going to make a huge impact,” Montgomery said. “Especially as he gains his footing back and is game-shape. He’s captain, he’s a leader and he’s going to make us better in the long-run.”

Following his 2017-18 debut, Hammond dwelled more on the result of the game opposed to his opportunity to play for the first time in seven months, reflecting his instinctual leadership qualities.

“We started off hot. We were playing good Pioneer hockey, sticking to our details and the process, but we just kind of got away from it and it cost us the game,” Hammond said. We need to be more committed and that comes from our leaders. We need to lead better and we have a great opportunity to do that tomorrow night.”

Hammond’s physical presence is a component that will usher future success in this Pioneer lineup.