Denver Edges Duluth to Secure Weekend Sweep

photo courtesy of Shannon Valerio

After a relentless defensive battle was exerted between the top-ranked University of Denver Pioneers and the No. 15 University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs (UMD) each team anticipated the other to make a mistake and capitalize on the stumble. The Pioneers earned the weekend sweep with the 2-1 victory in Saturday, Dec. 2 night’s game, after they edged the Bulldogs’ in Friday night’s contest of the 2017 national championship rematch hosted at AMSOIL Arena. A methodical first and second period resulted in heightened intensities that rose during the final frame. Denver (9-3-2, 5-3-0 National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC)) held a 1-0 lead over the Bulldogs (7-8-2, 2-6-0 NCHC). UMD forward Blake Young scored with 11 minutes remaining in regulation to rob Denver goalie Tanner Jaillet of the shutout.

DU head coach Jim Montgomery assorted the line pairings throughout the game. Towards the end of the regulation, he assembled a freshmen line where Kohen Olischefski drove to the net. Olischefski’s shot was rebounded towards the backdoor to Jake Durflinger who buried the loose puck, scoring his fourth career goal and the 2-1 game-winner.

Denver’s first goal occurred from forcing a turnover. UMD amplified pressure in the final minutes of the second frame testing DU’s defense, but the Pioneers blueline maintained composure and countered with 21 seconds remaining.

After Denver’s defense cleared a puck to the attacking zone, junior forward Colin Staub pressured UMD’s defenseman Dylan Samberg who was positioned with his back towards the boards. Samberg, feeling Staub’s pressure, blindly sent a pass towards behind the cage. DU’s Logan O’Connor read the play, intercepted the pass and fed classmate Jarid Lukosevicius across the slot. Lukosevicius snuck the one-timer past UMD’s goalie Hunter Shepard to give DU a 1-0 lead.

Duluth’s blueline notably continued to obstruct the Pioneers’ dynamic offensive contributors. Ranking in the top-five for various NCAA offensive production categories, Troy Terry and Henrik Borgstrom were snapped of their point-streaks. Terry had a nine-game point streak while Borgstrom (13-9-22) had an 11-game point streak (7-6-23) both ended on Friday, Dec. 1.

Senior assistant captain Adam Plant did not return to Denver’s lineup for the second game of the series. The defenseman’s status was questionable entering the weekend after sustaining a concussion during the North Dakota series. Friday night Plant was on the receiving end of a menacing hit from UMD’s Nick Wolff along the boards where he immediately displayed a flustered reaction, but continued to play the remainder of the game.

Ryan Orgel made his collegiate debut against the Bulldogs and was paired with senior captain Tariq Hammond for the majority of the game. Orgel was added to the Pioneer roster on Thursday, Nov. 23. The defenseman joined the team from the North American Hockey League’s Lone Star Brahmas. Sized at 5-foot-11, 185-pounds, he officially wore the jersey number six, formerly worn by last season’s blueliner Matt VanVoorhis.

Sophomore forward Tyson McLellan was also out of Denver’s lineup. In the last seconds of the first game McLellan suffered a wrist-injury. Amid the Bulldogs’ final efforts, McLellan got caught up in a scrum in front of DU’s net.   

The Pioneers return to Magness Arena on Friday, Dec. 8 for a home-and-home series and Battle for the Gold Pan against their storied rivals, the Colorado College Tigers. Puck-drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. MT.

7 thoughts on “Denver Edges Duluth to Secure Weekend Sweep”

  1. Good teams find ways to win, even when they don’t have their “A” game and the Pios stole a road win with only 14 SOG tonight, and finished out the sweep of an improving UMD team. UMD was the better team over the course of the game on Saturday, but the Pios’ hung tough and got a greasy goal when they needed it from Jake Durflinger. Thus, the Pios’ snuck out of Duluth with six points on the weekend, despite only scorning three times over the two games, with Borgstrom, Terry and Gambrell basically shut down all weekend.

    Now comes a much-improved CC team next weekend, who will be coming off a bye week where the Tigers will have had two weeks of practice to get ready for the Pios, and with DU out on break, no student section to cheer them on this weekend.

    Pios will need to be very focused this week in practice, and I hope Monty challenges Borgstrom, Terry and Gambrell to make far more of an offensive impact than they did in Duluth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. i guess they don’t want regular fans there either since i just saw a commercial for the game on cbs4 with davies where they give the wrong date (7th instead of 8th). du athletics’ inept marketing dept continues to amaze with their incompetence.

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  2. Almost every series has been against a top rated team. Now comes a relatively much easier bunch of games. As long as the players don’t relax and “play down” to their opponent we should stay top rated for quite a while. Feb. and March have some tough games.

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  3. I don’t think CC will be easy at all – in fact, the opposite. The Tiggies are vastly improved this year – right behind us in the NCHC standings. They haven’t beaten the Pios in a long time (extra motivation), and they have beaten North Dakota, Miami and Omaha in NCHC play already this year. Add on top of that the extra prep week for CC, the DU student break (no student section, meaning no energy in Magness) and a misfiring offensive weekend for DU in Duluth, and I think the Pios will need to work very, very hard for success this coming weekend.

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  4. Not directly related to this story but I spent the afternoon re-watching the gold medal game from last year’s IIHF World Junior Championship between USA and Canada. Thanks again to DU’s “Mr. Five Hole” Troy Terry! Man, one of the best hockey games I’ve ever watched bar none!

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  5. It is not news that the students will be gone for several games, and the marketing folks (if there are any) have done little to fill the stands. Putting out an email to the choir at the last minute is pretty weak. Why not get creative and enlist the help of youth hockey teams in the Denver area? Sell them and their parents tickets at a reduced rate, $5 for the kids and $10 for the parents. You will generate some revenue, fill the stands with DU fans (hopefully) and help create future DU hockey fans. A full arena with mostly DU fans is better than empty seats or CC fans. By the way, hardly a word in local media about our #1 ranked hockey team that swept their opponent last weekend and are playing their arch rival this coming weekend.

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  6. Just looked at tickets/seating chart for the DU – CC game. Looks like 90% of the tickets are sold. As usual, there are seats in the upper end-zones and one upper section has good availability. By game time, I am guessing most of those seats will be gone. If this was not CC or North Dakota, I am sure there would be a lot more open seats.

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