Pi­o­neers pounce on the Huskies

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - Mike Cham­bers: mcham­bers@den­ver­post.com or @mikecham­bers By Mike Cham­bers

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.

John Min­chillo, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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.

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