Denver survives Duluth 4-3 to sweep regular season series with Bulldogs

Photo courtesy DU Athletics

It wasn’t perfect but in Troy Terry’s last game before leaving for the Olympics in South Korea, the #4 University of Denver Pioneers survived a much more sustained and coordinated attack from the #9 University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. A night after Tanner Jaillet pitched a shutout and the Pioneers dominated much of the play, UMD came out firing and forced Denver to step up.

The Pioneers responded but it took until the second period for DU’s synapses to start connecting. Denver skated out to an early lead with a shorthanded goal off of Logan O’Connor’s stick. It was an awkward though successful start for DU, but UMD stuck with their gameplan and it resulted in two straight goals from Scott Perunovich and Kobe Roth. By the end of the first period, the Pioneers were in a position that they hadn’t been since 2017: trailing at home after the first period of play. UMD’s two first period goals were the first goals that Jaillet has given up at home in 2018.

Duluth picked up where they left off to start the second period as the Bulldogs continued dictating most of the play. About five minutes into the middle frame, the tide shifted as freshman Ryan Barrow wired a wrist shot past Duluth goalie Hunter Shepard to tie the game at two and grab the momentum back for the Pioneers.

“I thought they changed the momentum of the game,” DU head coach Jim Montgomery said of the players involved on the game-tying goal. “Jaakko Heikkinen had the hit, Durflinger picks up the rebound, gives it to Barrow and what a great release. It’s something we’ve been working with [Barrow] on and he’s been getting better and better.”

The lead didn’t last long as Riley Tufte beat Tanner Jaillet stick-side with a wrist shot about four minutes later after a DU defensive breakdown allowed him to get down low almost all alone. Still, it didn’t seem like Denver was going to relinquish the momentum they had grabbed back after one mistake. DU held onto control of the game and with just over two minutes left in the period, Jarid Lukosevicius was the beneficiary of a scrum in front of the UMD net. The puck was laying in the crease and Lukosevicius got his stick to it first to send it past a sprawling Shepard to tie the game back up at 3.

“For the first six minutes of the second, Duluth was the much better team,” Montgomery said. “I thought after that goal, I know they scored to go up 3-2, but I thought we were the much better team for the rest of the second period.”

Denver built on their strong second period and continued to control the game for the better part of the third period. With about 11 minutes left in the game, the Pioneers finally broke the deadlock. Troy Terry had the puck along the crease to Shepard’s left, saw that the UMD goalie was out of position, and shot the puck toward the net. The puck bounced off of Shepard toward the net but it didn’t fully cross the line. Dylan Gambrell was in the right place at the right time and he shoved the puck across the line to give the Pioneers the lead back.

“It seems like this weekend, anytime I put them [Terry, Gambrell, and Henrik Borgström] together, it was like the crowd thought something good was going to happen,” Montgomery said. “They didn’t disappoint.”

UMD pressed hard over the final 10 minutes of the game like they did last night. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Jaillet channeled his form from a night ago as well and kept Duluth off the board in the third period. It was a good game and a fitting send-off for Terry as he departs for the Olympics.

“I like the way our team is playing,” Montgomery said when asked about Terry’s impending absence. “Troy Terry was unbelievable this weekend. He can’t play better than he did this weekend…so I expect him to have a great Olympics. We’re really excited for him.”

While Terry won’t be with the program again until after DU’s series at St. Cloud State at the end of the month, the Pioneers are well-positioned both in the NCHC standings (1st place)  and the Pairwise rankings (#3) as the stretch run continues and the regular season winds down. Denver has a bye week before taking on Colorado College in the second home-and-home of the year when the Gold Pan will be awarded.