CHICAGO - People love to talk about the stars, that’s how sports are covered. Will Butcher, Troy Terry, Henrik Borgström and Dylan Gambrell are all outstanding hockey players, but the depth that the Denver Pioneers possess is the reason they’ve got to this point and it’s the depth that will help them win the National Championship.
"I think all four lines I have confidence in," head coach Jim Montgomery said after the game on Thursday. "And they have confidence in each other. And the support they have and trust they have in the communication on the ice allows all lines to play well. But that depth that we talk about has been really pronounced here in the tournament."
On Thursday night in the Frozen Four, the third and fourth lines were making the biggest impact with their work ethic and relentless forecheck. The so-called “fourth line” of Evan Ritt, Colin Staub and Emil Romig combined for two goals and two assists against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
“I think that the best part about our team is the depth,” Ritt said during a press conference on Friday. “That we have four lines that we can roll.”
That line was matched up with Notre Dame’s top line for most of the night. It’s a luxury for coach Montgomery to have four lines that he trusts against the top lines in the country.
“It's nice that we have four lines and Coach [Montgomery] has the confidence to put out all four lines and our line just wants to go out there and contribute in whatever way we can.” Staub explained.
The third line combination of Matt Marcinew, Evan Janssen and Logan O’Connor set the tone from the very first shift against Notre Dame. The Irish were unable to handle their forecheck for the duration of the hockey game and they proved their worth as a top defensive line.
On Saturday night, DU will be going up against what Montgomery calls, “I think maybe the best line in the country.” UMD’s top line consists of Joey Anderson, Alex Iafallo and Dominic Toninato. There’s no telling which line DU will want matched up against them, but don’t be surprised if it’s the third or fourth line.
“They certainly matched up,” Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson said when asked about what makes DU so good. “They matched up their two grind lines, their third and fourth lines, against our two top lines. That was a huge factor. Having last change is extremely important.”
The Pioneers will have the luxury of last change on Saturday, a perk of being the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. That’s the advantage the Pios have, it’s up to Montgomery and his staff on how they utilize it.