CHICAGO - The Denver Pioneers did what they set out to do over a year ago after their devastating loss to North Dakota in the Frozen Four. They battled through the toughest game they’ve played all season and were able to hang on to defeat the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs 3-2.
“After that loss it seemed like everybody was focused from that day on to become better,” Will Butcher said after the game. “Become committed to excellence, like we always talk about. And just sticking to our process as usual. And like I said, I'm so proud of these guys. They followed Coach Montgomery, followed our leadership group this year. And like I said, I can't put it into words.”
Jarid Lukosevicius played a huge role, scoring all three goals for the Pioneers. But Tanner Jaillet was the star of the game with his 38 save performance against the Bulldogs.
Luko[sevicius] is always starving for goals and tonight he got three,” Henrik Borgström said after the game. “I think he is the right guy to do it.”
The Pioneers came out like a team on a mission in the first period. The forecheck was relentless and the Pios were able to register eight shots in the first period to UMD’s 0. After that the Bulldogs started to gain some ground and had their own stretches of offensive zone time. UMD’s Dan Molenaar took a penalty with about three minutes left in the period, the Pioneers were unable to score but they were able to garner some momentum leading into the second period.
It took over 24 minutes but the Pioneers were finally able to crack the scoreboard in the second. Michael Davies fired the puck from the point and Lukosevicius was able get just enough stick on it to put it in the top shelf. 16 seconds later, Lukosevicius was at it again. This time it was Troy Terry who set him up after a gorgeous spin move. 16 seconds is the fastest any team has ever scored two goals in a National Championship.
Duluth was able to answer when they went on the power play a few minutes later, it was Joey Anderson who fed Alex Iafallo with a shot pass where all Iafallo had to do was redirect it into the net. The scoring didn’t stop there, Lukosevicius scored his 3rd when he ripped a shot top shelf with one knee on the ice. It was the first hattrick in the National Championship since Coach Montgomery did it back in 1993 with the Maine Black Bears.
The third period was heart wrenching for everyone. Tariq Hammond was taken off on a stretcher in the early stages and that seemed to take a lot of wind out of the Pioneers. Dallas Stars draft pick Riley Tufte scored with 5:21 left in the hockey game to make the game 3-2. From then on, DU held on for dear life to win their 8th National Championship in school history.
"They were coming strong," Jaillet said after the game. "They were throwing the kitchen sink at us. Our guys had huge blocks, making plays. We were able to weather that storm and obviously come out with the win."
First star: Tanner Jaillet (Denver) Second star: Jarid Lukosevicius (Denver) Third star: Troy Terry (Denver)