April 7, 2017 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Denver Rolls Past Notre Dame In National Semifinal

by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer (@MikeMcMahonCHN)

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CHICAGO — Seemingly destined to play in the national championship game all season, Denver will face Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday night after defeating Notre Dame, 6-1, in a national semifinal on Thursday night at the Frozen Four in Chicago.

“It was awesome," said Denver goaltender Tanner Jaillet. "That was probably the best game we've had all year to be honest. Our forwards completely dominated that game and made mine and my D-men’s job pretty easy.”

The Pioneers led 2-0 more than midway through the second period. It was a deficit Notre Dame erased earlier in this tournament against Minnesota, coming from behind to win 3-2 in the opening round, but this was different. The Pioneers dominated possession, and eventually broke through with three more goals in the final six minutes of the second period to take a 5-0 lead into the locker room.

"We looked a little bit more like we did a few weeks back in Boston Garden," said Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson, referring to his team's 5-1 loss to Mass.-Lowell in the Hockey East semifinals. "But we certainly had a tough opponent, and that certainly had a lot to do with it."

Denver dominated the game's opening period, jumping out to a 2-0 lead and outshooting the Fighting Irish 13-3.

Emil Romig opened the scoring at the 8:18 mark of the period. Colin Staub flipped a backhand pass to Romig behind the goal line and he skated it in front, roofing a wrist shot over Cal Petersen's left shoulder for his ninth goal of the season.

Just over six minutes later, Hobey Baker finalist Will Butcher carried the puck from the point behind the net, backhanding a pass in front for Henrik Borgstrom, who blasted a one-timer past Petersen, doubling the Pioneers' lead.

Things settled to a whisper in the early portions of the second period, with the teams trading some shots early before the Pioneers began control more of the play as the period played on.

Then, in the final six minutes, Denver put the game out of reach.

With 5:53 left in the period, Tariq Hammond scored his third goal of the season, finishing a pretty play by Evan Janssen, who set him up on a 2-on-1 after initially faking the centering pass.

Just over two minutes later, Dylan Gambrell made it 4-0 Pioneers, beating Peterseon on a wraparound shot after playing catch with Troy Terry and Hammond earlier in the shift.

About two minutes after that, the Pioneers led 5-0 on a goal from Evan Ritt. After the puck was settled down by Staub, he dropped a pass for Ritt who then made his way to the high slot, snapping a shot that hit the top of the net and bounced back out in front of Petersen.

"I don't know what to say," Denver coach Jim Montgomery said. "I'm amazed at the effort our team produced in a big-time moment against a really good college hockey team in Notre Dame."

After trading power plays in the third period, the Irish finally got on the board with 8:36 left in the game on a wrist shot from Jordan Gross at the point that was tipped by Cam Morrison in front.

After that, the Pioneers again controlled possession, thanks in part to an interference penalty on Anders Bjork that put Denver back on the power play with 6:35 to play. The Pioneers then ran out the clock for the win, including tacking on another Gambrell goal with 3:15 to play.

Denver will be playing for its first national championship since 2005, when the George Gwozdecky-led Pioneers beat North Dakota for its second national title in as many years. In 2004, the Pioneers defeated Maine in Boston.

“We'll just try and focus on the game (Saturday)," Jaillet said. "Don't think about anything else. We don't want to look past that game Saturday, and we’ll be ready for it.”

Saturday's championship game will be the first time the No. 1 and No. 2 overall seeds play in the final since 2003.

It also guarantees an NCHC national champion for a second straight season, following North Dakota's win last year in Tampa.

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