Terry Returns as Triumphant Hero
5 Pts. In First Game Since Winning Gold
by Avash Kalra/Senior Writer
DENVER For Denver Pioneer Troy Terry, it's been quite a week.
Within a matter of 48 hours spanning Wednesday and Thursday in Montreal, Terry went from 19-year old college sophomore to national hero, thanks to an individual performance for the ages at the World Junior Championships, scoring on all four of his shootout attempts in the semifinal and final rounds, thereby leading Team USA to the gold medal.
In an effort reminiscent of T.J. Oshie's 2014 performance at the Sochi Olympics, Terry went 3-for-3 once the semifinal game against Russia reached the shootout round. The next night, in a dramatic final against Team Canada that saw Team USA battle back from two separate two-goal deficits, Terry scored the only goal by either team in a five-round shootout — the gold-medal winning goal.
That gold medal was undeniably the result of a complete team performance, but Terry's individual performance in the shootouts — a perfect 4-for-4, scoring 'five-hole' on each unique attempt — made him an instant international sensation.
"The first one, I was definitely planning that," said Terry about his first goal in the Russia game, scoring 'five-hole,' i.e. through Ilya Samsonov's legs. "And the last one [against Canada], too. The second one, I was just making a move, and it ended up opening up. So it was a reactionary type thing. The third one, I figured if I did it twice, I might as well try it a different way again."
Team USA was coached by St. Cloud State head coach Bob Motzko, who as an NCHC rival will coach against Terry and the Pioneers four times in the next eight weeks. Motzko, Terry reveals, changed his plans for the shootout once Terry caught the hot hand.
After the shootout round against Russia was tied after five shooters apiece — prompting a series of sudden-death rounds in which players are allowed to repeat — Terry became Motzko's clear 'go-to guy.'
"He was going to put me and then put [Jeremy] Bracco because Bracco scored too," explained Terry. "And then after I scored the second one, he could kind of see it, I guess, is what he said, that I was confident that I could score. So he told me to go finish it off.
"It was definitely one of the most nerve-wracking things I've ever had to do, but it was definitely something I'll remember forever."
Terry's heroics garnered attention from celebrities, NHL players, and even his namesake — former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and three-time Super Bowl winner Troy Aikman.
"A tweet from Troy Aikman - that's like, my dad's and my house's idol when I was younger," said an almost incredulous Terry of the NFL Hall-of-Famer. "That was cool. Just a tribute to how much support we had. It reached people in the NHL who were following us. I got all kinds of tweets from people like that, so that was pretty cool."
Saturday, Terry returned to the lineup for the Denver Pioneers. And just as it was on Wednesday against Russia, and on Thursday against Canada, the night was his.
Playing alongside fellow NHL draft picks Dylan Gambrell and Henrik Borgstrom, Terry registered a two-goal, three-assist performance in the Pioneers' 6-1 win over Arizona State.
And midway through the first period, he was honored with a video tribute and recognized — to the tune of a thunderous ovation and scattered 'USA' chants — at center ice.
"That was pretty awesome," said Terry, an Anaheim Ducks draft pick in 2015. "That was pretty special. Just to see how much support I have back here for what happened over there, and what we accomplished, is pretty awesome."
"These guys are my best friends. I was obviously staying in the moment there, but as soon as we won that [gold medal game], I was looking forward to getting back with these guys and playing. There's nothing like putting on a Pioneers jersey."
As Denver completed its weekend sweep of Arizona State, Terry was named the first star of the game after his five-point performance.
"Coming off that high, you could tell the game was fluid and easy for him," said head coach Jim Montgomery. "He was dancing out there — and obviously, a 5-point night, a career night for him as a Pioneer. Hopefully he can go five points every night the rest of the year, and I'd like our chances then."
Clearly, there's a qualitative benefit to having Terry in the lineup — for Team USA last week, and now for Denver, ranked No. 3 in the Pairwise and looking to return to the NCAA Frozen Four in just three months time. In the meantime, Montgomery noted there's likely a quantitative benefit, too.
"It helps in all facets," said Montgomery. "It was a great crowd. I bet there's at least 1500 less people here if Troy's not here tonight."
The sophomore right wing has 11 goals and 11 assists in 19 games this sophomore season, now about to enter its stretch run. His 22 points are tied with Borgstrom for the team lead.
Indeed, playing on Denver's top line for a team with legitimate national title aspirations, he's now making a name for himself in college hockey. Of course, he made a name for himself last week in Montreal, too, and for the foreseeable future at least, he'll be recognized nationally as the hero who won the gold medal.
And perhaps that's fitting.
For someone named after Troy Aikman himself to have made the first mark of his career while playing for — well, who else? — America's team.