DENVER – One of the greatest rivalries in college hockey and the last two national champions going at it. The matchup between the No. 1 ranked Denver Pioneers and the No. 3 North Dakota Fighting Hawks didn't need any extra hype and it certainly didn't disappoint, with the Fighting Hawks scoring the game-winner late in the game to win 5-4.
Denver gave up a 3-0 lead, leaving head coach Jim Montgomery's visibly unhappy about his team's performance during the post-game press conference.
"We have lapses that are 'oh my god' bad team hockey," Montgomery said. "And it’s happening primarily by returning players that have won championships, which tells me we’re not getting led the right way right now."
The Pioneers got off to the ideal start - UND couldn't handle DU's forecheck and the Pios generated shot after shot in the first period. They had 20 shots halfway through the first frame to North Dakota's two. Jake Durflinger kicked off the scoring for Denver on a rebound off of a shot by Tyson McLellan seven minutes into the period. A few minutes later DU was back at it again, this time on the power play - Henrik Borgström found Jarid Lukosevicius in front of the net who put it top shelf to make it a 2-0 hockey game.
The second period was much different. While DU had all of the chances in the first period, the second was the exact opposite. UND came out on a mission to get back into the hockey game, though their chances dwindled when Logan O'Connor scored a shorthanded goal for the Pios just six minutes into the period.
But the Fighting Hawks weren't ready to give in. Zach Yon made it a two-goal hockey game with six minutes left in the second and then Joel Janatuinen made it 3-2 just two minutes later. That gave UND all the momentum they needed heading into the third period.
"I didn’t think our second period was that bad until the last six minutes," Montgomery explained. "We stopped getting pucks to safe places, we started turning pucks over through the middle and they started beating us to our net. And it just didn’t end. We have a serious lack of commitment to a team-first attitude right now."
North Dakota picked up right where they left off for the third period. Five minutes into the period Colton Poolman made it 3-3 off of a beautiful shot over Jaillet's right shoulder. Just a minute later, the Fighting Hawks scored again as Christian Wolanin gave the Hawks a 4-3 lead.
"I thought they played more responsibly and faster," Montgomery said on the different North Dakota team that DU saw in the last two periods. "They won more battles than us after that. That’s what turned the game was them being more tenacious than us."
That's when the Pios got some life back in them after being dominated for a full period and a half. It was on the power play when the Pioneers were finally able to tie the hockey game. Ian Mitchell slid the puck over to a wide open Troy Terry who fired it home with a beautiful snipe over the goalie's left shoulder.
"I thought after they went ahead and we called a timeout that we took over the game there, which led to the power play which led to the goal," Montgomery said. "Then I thought we took our foot off the gas pedal. Give them credit because they were the better team after we tied it up. We were on our heels and they were on top of us. And I just think there is more conviction to their team first attitude than there is ours."
If that goal took any life out UND, it wasn't noticeable. They scored the game winner with 2:31 left in the game on a goal that was redirected in front of the net.
First star: Christian Wolanin (UND)
Second star: Troy Terry (DU)
Third star: Johnny Simonson (UND)
Everybody likes to say that 3-1 is the worst lead in hockey. But arguably it's actually 3-0 because if the other team scores a goal, you suddenly have the worst lead in hockey. Zach Yon's goal 13:38 into the second period was the turning point of this game because DU wasn't able to answer after that.