Denver blows three-goal lead as Dartmouth shocks college hockey world

Photo courtesy Shannon Valerio, DU Athletics

It seemed at first like the #2 University of Denver Pioneers had rebounded from a lackluster 1-0 victory over the Dartmouth Big Green on Friday night. Denver skated out to an easy 3-0 lead after the first period and it seemed like the Pioneers were going to cruise to an easy victory and sweep.

Then the second period happened and everything fell apart for the Pioneers. After three tough bounces, one off of DU goalie Tanner Jaillet, one over Jaillet’s head and another off of Tariq Hammond’s stick, the game was tied at 3 and the Pioneers were reeling. After nothing short of a dominant opening period, the Pioneers simply collapsed in the second period and just couldn’t pull it back together in the third and they went on to lose 5-4.

“The second goal is the one that really bothers me,” DU head coach Jim Montgomery said. “I put out a veteran line and we told them we needed to change momentum and they just didn’t play well enough. They were on the wrong side of pucks, they were reaching for pucks, there was no physicality and we need leadership up front from veteran lines. We don’t have a lot of veterans up front.”

After Dartmouth was able to tie it up, Denver looked disorganized and panicked in the defensive zone. Jaillet was able to keep the game tied until there was just over a minute and a half left in the third period as the Pioneers failed to pick up Colin Rutherford crashing the slot and Kevin Neiley found him from below the net. All Rutherford had to do was keep his stick on the ice and he was able to beat Jaillet with an easy shot. Dartmouth took the 4-3 lead, its first of the weekend.

Dartmouth added an empty-net goal before Jack Doremus scored made it a 5-4 game but it was all irrelevant at that point. The Pioneers had blown yet another multiple goal lead and heading into the holiday break, there are far more questions than answers for the preseason national title favorites.

At times through the first 18 games, Denver has looked every bit the national title contender that the media and coaches pegged them in October, but there have been far too many red flags over the course of the first half. Denver has all the talent to be better than last year’s national championship winning team, but to this point, they’ve been anything but that.

“I’m confused,” Montgomery said. “I just don’t understand why we’re not learning. I told the players we have to take this holiday break and people have to come back and see if we’re really committed to playing the right way. We don’t play the game the right way. It’s quite embarrassing.”

Tonight was a perfect representation of what the 2017-18 Pioneers are. They looked good for a decent portion of the game and it was almost enough to get the job done, but they couldn’t do enough to secure the victory. Whether it’s a leadership or a mental problem is for Montgomery and his team to answer, but right now, they look completely out of sorts and have many questions to answer over the next two weeks before Merrimack and Air Force come to Magness Arena.

“I hope we can repeat the second half of the last two years,” Montgomery said. “I don’t have the same feeling as the last two years. I question the character in our dressing room right now.”

9 thoughts on “Denver blows three-goal lead as Dartmouth shocks college hockey world”

  1. It is easy to get pissed, call out the team and Montgomery for blowing huge leads on a continual basis…and for getting embarrassed…at home…by Dartmouth. (!!!) The effort and/or production by our top guys is horrible–no goals tonight against an Ivy league team by Borgstrom, Terry or Gambrell. It’s pretty ridiculous, and those guys and the defense SHOULD be embarrassed. But I do have faith that the team will right the ship. Let’s face it, every goal by Dartmouth tonight (except ONE) was the result of a lucky deflection. Maybe the players can be excused for being a little burnt, too. They won the national championship last year and have been ranked in the top 3 all of this year. Of course there will be some motivation problems, like anyone using their brain could have predicted. They are entitled to a lull. But Monty should earn his paycheck and get these guys playing motivated hockey once again. Many legendary seasons have a low point…the 03-04 national championship team blew a 4 or 5 goal lead around this time of year, too, and then went on an amazing roll to win it all. This team is certainly capable of that, too, but Monty has to lead them out of this abyss. I bet that he will.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This one hurts.

    A lot.

    I have a feeling this game, and their reaction to it, will define their season. They will either find their leadership, character and toughness as a result of this loss, or they will unravel and fail in a blaze of talent gone to waste.

    Right now, this team lacks all three, and the late game panicking is the result.

    I hope it’s just the darkness before the dawn…

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  3. Monty’s quote says it all:

    “I hope we can repeat the second half of the last two years. I don’t have the same feeling as the last two years. I question the character in our dressing room right now.”

    These guys were all recruited for their character.

    If they don’t want to give 100% for the team and for the Denver name on the jersey, I’m sure Monty will remind them where the door is…

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    1. It’s not about refs at all. DU is the LEAST penalized team in all of college hockey – number 60 out of 60.

      This all about the 27 guys wearing the Denver letters on their chests, and each one of them needs to think about the contents of that most-important organ than lies just underneath those letters….

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  4. I see a lot of individual talent but not much team. I think some of the guys are looking at the stat sheet before looking at the scoreboard.

    Monty needs to tweak his game to suit his talent. The guys need to stop watching Borgstrom skate and get open themselves. Terry worked to get open on his goal and was rewarded with a great pass. After that…?

    Lots of juicy rebounds given up by the Dartmouth goalie, but nobody was in front to pounce on it.

    The second period goal shot from behind the goal line from the corner is simply inexcusable.

    We’re missing someone with a strong first pass out of the defensive end. The other teams aren’t respecting our ability to clear the zone. They’re clogging up the point and we’re obliging them by forcing it along the boards over and over again. We had some success taking it up the middle to clear the zone.

    Lots of talent waiting for a leader who does the little things that don’t end up on the stat sheet.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There are bad losses………………and then there’s last night’s debacle. That was really hard to watch. DU got up 3-0, looked sharp and committed to a winning formula, and then the wheels came off. It’s as if the Pios forgot how to compete at this level, forgot about the team concept, and forgot about what it means to be a winner. Last night’s effort wasn’t just a head-scratcher–it was hugely concerning.

    As Monty indicated, obviously there are some mental roadblocks that are preventing this team from realizing its potential. That’s disconcerting. It’s up to Hammond and the other leaders on team, whoever they may be, to right the ship.

    Adversity forces some folks to cower and give up; others learn from it, face the challenge head on, and subsequently get better and succeed. Hopefully this Pioneer team chooses the latter.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. DU, IMO, seems to rise to the challenge when facing stiffer competition and in games that have more on the line. I’m not trying to make excuses because clearly games like these against Dartmouth as well as Lake State are games that they should have won all four. I just think they’ve shown they can elevate their game when playing the likes of good conference foes like SCSU, UND, etc.
    Going into the second half of the season, I would imagine that most of not all of DU’s remaining games are conference meat grinder-type games. They’ll be fine and I’m sure they’ll be contending for the Penrose Cup.

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