Denver's Championship Wingmen
Off-Ice Bond Fuels On-Ice Chemistry for Terry, Lukosevicius
See all of CHN's Tournament coverage: articles, brackets, history and more.
CHICAGO Denver sophomores Troy Terry and Jarid Lukosevicius will now always be connected by Saturday night's national title game triumph in Chicago's United Center, but that connection, that relationship, was deep long before the Pioneers arrived in the Windy City.
"He's my roommate, and he's my best friend," said Terry, the Pioneers' leading scorer this season with 22 goals and 21 assists. "And to be able to have chemistry with him is very easy, just because we're so close."
"We room together, we do everything together," echoed Lukosevicius. "We're in all the same classes. He's my best friend, and he's also my linemate."
Indeed, on the ice, they play complementary wing positions with center Dylan Gambrell. And on Saturday night, in the second period of the Pioneers' thrilling 3-2 national championship game win over league rival Minnesota-Duluth, that off-ice bond clearly translated into on-ice chemistry.
Lukosevicius scored a hat trick within a span of 7:37 in the second period, the third-fastest hat trick in championship game history and the first hat trick in the national championship game, period, since 1993 — when Pioneers head coach Jim Montgomery scored a natural hat trick in the third period for Maine in a span of 4:35.
On the second and third goals, Terry provided the key assists, forcing the puck to the front of the net, where he knew — as if by a sixth sense — his friend and linemate would be.
"He's a great hockey player," Terry said of Lukosevicius, who credited his friend for 'doing all the work.'" He's easy to play with because he's always in front of the net. You know where he is because he's always battling. I think I needed to do a much better job after that first period at getting the puck to the net. I think I did a good job of it in the second period, and of course he was there for all of them to finish them.
"He forechecks so hard, and he possesses pucks. You feel like you have the puck 90 percent of the time when you're out there with him, just because he's working so hard."
Lukosevicius finished his sophomore season with 16 goals — third-most on the team after scoring just six as a freshman. Before the season, Montgomery switched him to the left-wing position that he played to perfection on Saturday.
But in the scoreless first period of the championship game, Terry, Gambrell, and Lukosevicius combined for just one shot on goal. At intermission, Denver's top line knew something had to change, and Terry took charge.
"They shut me down a lot in the first period, and they kind of pushed me out of the game," said the Denver native who grew up with season tickets to the Pioneers. "The biggest thing for me was to attack the net more. I thought we were doing a good job at keeping on them in the offensive zone, but we just didn't have that many chances right in front of the net. That was our biggest thing. We tried to get pucks to the net and really attack. That's where you score goals in games like this, and that's what we did in the second period.
"We got rewarded."
On Lukosevicius's second goal, which put Denver up 2-0 just 16 seconds after his first goal, Terry made a dizzying spin move in the offensive zone to create space away from the UMD defense, before shoveling the puck toward Bulldog netminder Hunter Miska.
"I made a cut back, and I saw I had some space," said Terry, the 2015 fifth-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks. "I went to shoot it off the side of the net, and the D really committed to blocking it. It was kind of instinctual. I ended up pulling it around him, and I tried making a power move to the net. I actually lost the puck, but that's why you have Jarod Lukosevicius. He's always in front of the net. He's done an incredible job at being there and being a presence."
Lukosevicius benefited from crashing the net, propelling Denver to its eighth national title in program history and earning Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors.
But Terry — whose season involved winning a gold medal with Team USA at the World Juniors — was not to be denied on Saturday night.
"It was incredible," said head coach Jim Montgomery, who — like Terry — wore the jersey number '19' as a player. "Ever since the NCHC playoffs started, he's been our most dominant player — all over the ice. He's been relentless. His opportunity to win gold at the World Juniors has really given him an idea of how to mentally prepare when you're playing in big stages. He's just incredible."
Said Terry, "I'll remember this year for the rest of my life. It's definitely been the best year of hockey of my life. I've been incredibly fortunate, and I can't wait to celebrate with these guys. I'm so proud of them. The World Juniors was incredible, but I don't know if it tops this. This is a pretty special feeling."
With boisterous celebrations ensuing all around them, Terry sat in the locker room — usually occupied by the Chicago Blackhawks — directly across from his good friend, Lukosevicius, as each answered questions about their special night.
Off the ice, they're often inseparable. On the ice, they play with a profound understanding of one another.
And now, sharing a national championship together, that bond will last a lifetime.