The No. 1 DU hockey team wrapped up its regular season with a road sweep of University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO) on March 3 and 4, while also securing its first Penrose Cup as regular-season National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) champions for the 2016-17 season.
In the weekend’s first game, DU came out of the gates quickly, securing a 1-0 lead only 3:52 in. Forward Troy Terry (Highlands Ranch, Colorado) blazed a wristshot top-shelf off a pass from Jarid Lukosevicius (Squamish, British Columbia) on a two-on-one rush.
Junior goaltender Tanner Jaillet (Red Deer, Alberta) made 23 saves on 25 shots, beaten by one tipped shot in the first period and one screened shot in the second.
A relentless shift by the fourth line saw senior Evan Ritt (Lakewood, Colorado) shield the puck on the left wing before centering for sophomore Logan O’Connor (Calgary, Alberta) in front of the net. Denied point blank on his first two attempts, O’Connor’s unrelenting jamming of the puck eventually worked, lighting the lamp and evening the score at 2-2.
“Right now, I’m really happy that everybody in the lineup feels good about themselves, and everybody knows their role,” said Head Coach Jim Montgomery.
The Pioneers’ leading scorer with 36 points in 30 games played, freshman Henrik Borgstrom (Helsinki, Finland) broke the tie in the game’s third period with a one-timer from the right circle on a 5-on-3 advantage.
Midway through the frame, Borgstrom dashed into UNO’s zone and dished the puck laterally to Terry across the zone after finding himself surrounded by four Mavericks. Splitting the defenders, the Finnish sensation kept his balance and, after receiving the give-and-go feed from Terry, whacked home Denver’s fourth goal of the game.
The Pioneers would hold on to the 4-2 lead, winning the first game of the series and securing the NCHC regular-season title. It marked the program’s first Penrose Cup, as well as their first regular-season championship since 2010.
Senior goalie Evan Cowley (Evergreen, Colorado) received his first start since Jan. 7 in the weekend’s second game against UNO. The Florida Panthers prospect made the most of his opportunity, posting 28 saves in a 3-0 shutout victory.
Creating another highlight-reel goal, Borgstrom toe-dragged around a UNO defender and rifled his 20th goal of the season past the netminder to give Denver the 1-0 lead.
“You get a goal from Borgstrom, like you did both nights, that flattens people out. They’re going, ‘oh, jeeze,’ and now they’re playing from behind,” said Montgomery. “If talent works hard, you win a lot, and that’s what’s happened to us this year.”
Senior Emil Romig (Vienna, Austria) doubled the advantage in the third period with a laser of his own, on which senior Will Butcher (Sun Prairie, Wisconsin) assisted. The assist marked the captain’s 100th career point, making him only the second active defenseman in the country to reach that mark.
Borgstrom’s late empty-netter capped his three-goal weekend and the two-game sweep of UNO. The Pioneers advance to the playoffs with a regular season record of 26-6-4, the best mark in the NCAA, while also riding an 11-game win streak.
Serving as the top seed in the upcoming NCHC playoffs, DU will face Colorado College in a best-of-three game series March 10-12 at Magness Arena.