Pioneers force Game Three behind heroic effort from Troy Terry, Henrik Borgström

Photo courtesy DU Athletics

A night ago, #5 University of Denver Pioneers head coach Jim Montgomery wasn’t pleased with his top players’ inability to produce in the big moments of Game One of the best-of-three NCHC Quarterfinal series with the Colorado College Tigers. Tonight, however, in Game Two, the Pioneers came away with a gritty, hard-fought 3-2 victory behind two goals from Troy Terry and a goal from Henrik Borgström.

If there were any ill effects from the Game One shutout, Denver certainly didn’t show them. Almost as soon as the puck dropped, Denver made it clear that they had moved on from last night’s frustration and they punched CC in the mouth. The Pios hemmed the Tigers in their zone and within the first half of the opening period, Denver appeared to take the lead on a point shot by Blake Hillman. After a lengthy review, the officials ruled that Logan O’Connor interfered with Alex Leclerc and waved off the goal.

“There was a lot of emotion in the game,” Montgomery said. “I liked the way we played with emotion…it was a heated game. There were some calls that didn’t go our way, especially early, but we played a team game and I liked how resilient we were.”

The overturned goal opened the door for the Tigers to strike first and they took full advantage. Near the end of a first period DU power play, CC forced a DU turnover in the offensive zone and Trey Bradley beat DU goalie Tanner Jaillet on the shorthanded breakaway. What once looked like a great response by the Pioneers was devolving into a nightmare sweep scenario as the Tigers took the 1-0 lead into the locker room after the first period.

Denver’s top players woke up in the second period, though. Just two minutes into the middle frame, while on the latter half of a cross-checking major by Nick Halloran, Borgström finally beat Alex Leclerc and got the Pioneers on the board with a top-right snipe. By the end of the period, Kristian Blumenschein restored the Tigers’ lead with a power play goal of his own. All of the goodwill that the Pios had built over the course of the period was gone and a sweep was once again heavy on fans’ minds.

Enter American Hero Troy Terry.

Just two minutes into the third period, Terry found himself in the right place at the right time and a CC clearing attempt bounced off of Terry’s skate and past Leclerc to knot the game at two. There was a lengthy review to determine whether Terry kicked the puck, but it was determined that it was the CC player’s effort that caused the goal, not Terry’s skate. Then, with about five and a half minutes left, Terry sent Magness Arena into a frenzy with a top-left snipe to give the Pioneers their first lead of the weekend. All the Pioneers had to do was defend well for the next five minutes and they forced a Game Three on Sunday night.

“People don’t realize how hard it is to come back from the far East,” Montgomery said of Terry’s return from the Olympics. “He just hasn’t had the energy levels that he’s used to. You could see with the emotion in his body, that was Troy Terry on a high-end.”

It might sound like an overused cliche, but the Pioneers are at their best when their best players are playing well and tonight was no exception. The big three of Borgström, Terry, and Dylan Gambrell all played very well with the Pioneers’ backs against the wall. Denver responded exactly how a team fighting for their lives should. This was about as good a playoff hockey game as you’ll ever see at the collegiate level and the Pioneers showed tonight that they can fight through adversity and win.

“They took it to another level,” Montgomery said of his best players’ performance. “We’re fortunate to have the elite players that we do and when they play like that it’s just hard to handle [for the opposition]”

It’s anyone’s guess as to which DU team will show up tomorrow night. If they can duplicate tonight’s effort, they’ll book themselves a trip to the X in St. Paul. But if they duplicate Friday night’s effort…just set your alarm for next Sunday afternoon for the NCAA Tournament Selection Show. Only time will tell what kind of effort the Pioneers will bring but tonight, they forced Game Three and that’s what matters.

Game Three start time note: Puck drop for Game Three is slated for 6:00 PM tomorrow night. If you’re planning to attend or watch the game on, be sure to note the altered start-time.