DU hockey: Humbled by Western Michigan, Pioneers now face No. 1 St. Cloud State

DU hockey: Humbled by Western Michigan, Pioneers now face No. 1 St. Cloud State

Jim Montgomery never envisioned that his defending national champion and preseason No. 1 University of Denver team would go undefeated. There’s just too much parity in college hockey, particularly in the rugged National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

Montgomery knew his uniquely talented team would absorb defeat, and figured the Pioneers wouldn’t go unscathed during a four-game NCHC home stretch that begins this weekend against St. Cloud State and continues Nov. 17-18 versus North Dakota.

Montgomery was blindsided, however, by what happened last weekend at Western Michigan, when the Pioneers blew 4-2 leads twice and lost 6-5 and 7-4 in Kalamazoo, Mich.

“The bewilderment for me was, I didn’t see it coming,” Montgomery said.

Eight games into the season, No. 3 Denver (4-2-2, 0-2 NCHC) has realized that its explosive offense (4.12 goals-per-game) can’t always overcome second-rate defense, and that the Pioneers must figure it out quickly because new No. 1 St. Cloud State (7-0, 2-0) is the country’s most prolific offensive team (4.71 goals-per-game)

The Pioneers called a players-only meeting before Wednesday’s practice. Team captain Tariq Hammond, a senior shutdown defenseman who is sorely missed, remains out while recovering from a second ankle surgery. But his voice is being heard.

“It was more to calm everyone down,” junior defenseman Blake Hillman said of the meeting. “After last week, everyone’s confidence was low and we haven’t had a ton of energy this week in practice. It was more about bringing up the energy and just being happy to be here and play hockey for Denver. We’re in a great program at a great school. We’re lucky to come to the rink every day and try to get better. It’s a great challenge for us to bounce against the best team in the country.”

Click to read...  The Great One among those to pay respects to Mr. Hockey

“Fixing it is just communication and relaxing, putting it in the past,” senior defenseman Adam Plant added. “The only way this past weekend hurts us is if we dwell on it and keep thinking the world is ending. In reality, it’s two games. It happened last year. It’s never nice to lose two weekend games but having it happen early in the season could actually be good for us in the end.”

DU began 0-2 last season before finishing 33-5-4. But the Pioneers never had concerns about defending and finished first nationally in goals-against average (1.82). They’re currently 40th (3.12).

Denver is playing two 18-year-old freshmen defensemen in Ian Mitchell and Griffin Mendel, plus sophomore Erich Fear, who played just six games as a freshman. But Montgomery said last weekend’s losses went beyond inexperience.

“Complete lack of commitment to team defense and playing the right way,” he said. “We were easy to play against. Some of that was them. They were really good. Really committed. We just got out-competed and beat to our net too consistently. How we fix it is getting back to our team identity with our puck pressure.”

Offensively, DU forwards Troy Terry (2.00) and Henrik Borgstrom (1.86) rank first and second, nationally, in points-per-game, with Borgstrom producing an NCAA-most nine goals. The Pioneers are a goal waiting to happen.

“We’re still making plays. That’s the good part,” Montgomery said. “The last two years when we’ve struggled, we didn’t have the offense to win us games. But we were definitely more committed at the other end of the ice. This year, if we can get that same level of commitment in our own end we’re going to have a lot of positive results.”

Footnotes. Both games this weekend will begin at 7 p.m. and carried regionally by Altitude. … DU freshman forward Jack Doremus and freshman goalie Dayton Rasmussen will serve one-game suspensions Friday for breaking team rules. Rasmussen, who normally backs up senior Tanner Jaillet, will be replaced by freshman Devin Cooley. … Hammond is still weeks away from making his season debut.

Click to read...  Centennial woman who ran Avalanche website sues Vox Media on claims that SB Nation broke labor laws
1
Like
Save


Broncos | Nuggets | Rockies | Avalanche | Rapids | Outlaws | Mammoth
Mile High | Coors Field | Pepsi Center | DSG Park

Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | DMCA Policy