Pioneers pounce on the Huskies
cincinnati» It was generally a textbook NCAA Tournament opener for the Denver Pioneers, who find themselves a win away from reaching the Frozen Four for the second consecutive year.
Top-ranked DU came out flying at U.S. Bank Arena on Saturday, drawing three consecutive penalties and scoring twice on the power play in building an insurmountable lead and eliminating Michigan Tech with a 5-2 triumph in a Midwest Regional semifinal.
“Great start by our group, and you could tell, led by our seniors and juniors, that we’ve been here before,” DU coach Jim Montgomery said.
The Pioneers, who will play Penn State for the regional championship Sunday, led 4-0 after the first period and 5-0 early in the second. Sophomore wing Colin Staub scored consecutive power-play goals for a 2-0 DU lead and senior wing Emil Romig and senior defenseman Will Butcher also beat freshman goalie Angus Redmond in the Pioneers’ dominating 4-0 first period.
“We knew they were going to be fired up to be playing us and we came out hard,” Staub said. “Once we got on the power play, it was really important to us that we took it to them and got them on their heels. That’s what our power play gave us. It gave us all the momentum.”
The performance mirrored what DU did to Boston University a year ago in a West Regional semifinal, jumping to a 6-0 lead before winning 7-2. The Pioneers went on to defeat Ferris State 6-3 for their first trip to the Frozen Four since 2005.
“If I knew (the secret), I definitely wouldn’t be sharing it with you,” Montgomery said of the great starts in the regional openers. “I think it’s our experience and knowing you can’t sit and wait. You have to be the aggressors.”
Denver (30-7-4) is now in position to make back-to-back trips to the national semifinals. The Pioneers have reached 30 wins for the first time since 2004-05, when they won their second consecutive NCAA title and seventh overall.
Freshman wing Tyson McLellan also scored for DU before Michigan Tech (23-15-7) stormed back from a 5-0 deficit. Jake Lucchiuni scored the Huskies’ second goal with five seconds remaining in the second period, throwing the puck at the net from against the wall and surprising DU goalie Tanner Jaillet.
“I’m a perfectionist and nobody likes being scored on,” said Jaillet, who made 16 saves. “I thought those were two goals that probably could have been prevented. We’ll try not to let that happen (Sunday).”
Denver was in control throughout, outshooting Michigan Tech 17-5 in the first period and 34-18 for the game. The Pioneers only got two assists from their top three scorers in forwards Henrik Borgstrom, Dylan Gambrell and Troy Terry, but the underclassmen each played well and Gambrell and Terry had multiple scoring opportunities.
“I think they did a good job of limiting our time and space, but we still got our looks. We could have popped in a couple more,” Terry said. “That’s why we’re such a good team, because of our depth.”
Borgstrom centered the new “all-freshmen” line with wingers McLellan and Liam Finlay and assisted on McLellan’s goal. Gambrell centered Terry and Jarid Lukosevicius for the “allsophomore” line.
Lukosevicius had a team-high six shots, and Terry and Staub each had five.
Denver senior winger Emil Romig, left, leads teammates back to the bench after his goal during the first period of Saturday’s regional semifinal game against Michigan Tech in Cincinnati. The Pioneers won 5-2.