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.