Tanner Jaillet, defense shine in Pioneers’ fourth straight home shutout

Henrik Borgström scored once in the third period, off of #9 University of Minnesota Duluth goalie Hunter Shepard’s mask,  to provide the #4 University of Denver Pioneers with their only goal against the Bulldogs. If the game was played in any other building, the lack of offense may have spelled doom for the Pios. Instead, reigning Mike Richter Award winner Tanner Jaillet shut the door on Duluth and has yet to give up a goal in three games at Magness Arena in 2018, his fourth straight home shutout overall.

Denver played a good, dominant game after a disjointed, awkward first period. Neither team could sustain much offensive pressure to start the game, but once both teams settled in, Denver took over. Unfortunately for the Crimson and Gold, that didn’t necessarily mean much more than some good, sustained time in the offensive zone. Through the first period, Shepard matched Jaillet save for save and both goalies managed to keep the game scoreless.

“This was a good test,” Jaillet said after his shutout. “They’ve got a good team over there. I thought our guys played great all night, whether it was blocking shots or breakouts or whatever it was. I thought our guys were really solid tonight.”

The Pioneers took over the game in the second period. They were crashing the net hard, drawing penalties, and making everything difficult for the Bulldogs. The only thing standing between Denver and an offensive explosion was a sophomore goalie in Shepard. Through two periods of scoreless hockey, the Duluth goalie made all 18 saves, most of which were under serious duress and sustained Pioneer pressure.

About two and a half minutes into the third period, Henrik Borgström may or may not have called bank and shot the puck off of Shepard’s helmet and into the back of the net for the game’s only goal. After Borgström’s celebration was over, the UMD assault began and it took a herculean effort from Jaillet and DU’s defense to maintain the 1-0 lead and seal the shutout. Denver’s goaltender made all 17 saves, many of which came in the game’s closing minutes, to preserve his shutout.

“Well, we’ve seen that shot a lot,” Montgomery said when asked if Borgström did indeed call bank. “He’s just such a creative offensive player that he can see space where a lot of shooters don’t.”

Jaillet has regained every bit of his 2016-17 Richter Award-winning form and if it seems like it’s getting repetitive, it’s because it is. DU’s starting goalie just continues to wow fans and teammates alike. To call him Denver’s best player right now somehow seems like an understatement. He’s been everything the Pioneers have needed and then some in the crease.

“He’s just…it’s wow,” Montgomery said, struggling to come up with words to describe his goaltender’s performance. “He’s just been special. I think he’s been our best player in the second half and probably for the entire year. If I have to say there’s an MVP right now, it’s him.”

The calendar has flipped to February and the stretch run of the season is officially upon us. Denver is a team already well-equipped to make another deep postseason run, both in the NCHC and NCAA Tournaments. But if Jaillet can maintain this form for the long haul through March and hopefully into April, there’s no question that Denver will once again be the team to beat.

But step one must come first as Jaillet will put his home shutout streak to the test once again tomorrow night when the Pioneers and Bulldogs do battle in game two of the weekend series. By virtue of their road sweep in early December and tonight’s victory, Denver has already clinched the season series against the team they beat in the 2017 National Title.