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.

5 thoughts on “Denver survives Duluth 4-3 to sweep regular season series with Bulldogs”

  1. That was a man’s game on Saturday night – two great teams going step for step with each other, with the Pios getting stronger as the game went on, sensing the importance of the moment and then finding the greasy goals they needed to come out on top to delight a sellout crowd at Magness.

    There is something special about playing UMD that brings out the very best in the Pioneers, and I think having about 35 Pioneer hockey alumni in the house last night helped, as well as the memorial service to Petey, their fallen helper earlier this week, to provide a bit more perspective and motivation for DU. Of course, this rematch of last year’s national title game had a lot of pride on the line, too.

    Last night, I was near an NHL scout, who was watching the game intensely and charting the game in his notebook. As a courtesy, I always leave those guys to do their jobs and don’t talk to them during the games, since they are at work and talking to fans is never on their priority list. About halfway through the third period, with the game tied 3-3, the scout leans over to me and say, “Watch this. Monty is going to load up and put his NHL guys together – Perunovich is starting to get tired,” referring to UMD’s wunderkind freshman defenseman, who was all over the ice last night. Sure enough when Peruonovich came on the ice 30 seconds later, Monty countered by sending out his “NHL” players loaded onto a single line — Borgstrom, Terry and Gambrell. As they often do, the big stars shone when the game was on the line – they got the puck deep, and found the greasy goal they needed to get the lead they never relinquished. It was coaching brilliance, and the big guns were the edge DU needed on a night when Jaillet was simply human.

    Moreover, DU didn’t wilt in the final minutes, either. They absorbed the UMD push and grew together in another step. We are all watching the team come together when it matters.

  2. One of the best games of the year. It was one of those games that kept your attention the entire time. UMD plays ‘heavy’ and fast so they are always a tough team to play. Tanner was crazy good in goal. And DU’s defensive corp is not giving up the breakaways they were giving up earlier in the season. To me, this has turned into one of the best series in college hockey over the last couple of years between two teams with great coaching staffs and skill.

  3. Mission accomplished this weekend. Really happy to see DU win two against a very talented and tough Duluth team. I think the Pios did more of the “little things” right and it showed. Most importantly, the effort was there, and it was needed. Duluth pushed hard.

    Is it just me or is this Pioneer hockey schedule very fragmented thus far in 2018? Another bye week coming up before the CC series. I looked at the schedule overall and DU has 34 regular season games. Seems fewer than normal. I thought they usually played at least 36.

    1. 34 regular season games is the NCAA limit. DU played 36 games on a regular basis while in the WCHA as the NCAA grants a waiver if you travel to Alaska. The NCAA grants a waiver for preseason tournaments, such as the Icebreaker, as well. DU has played 36 games twice since forming the NCHC — once for playing in a preseason tourney in Alaska and for playing in, and hosting, the Ice Breaker last season.

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