In a back-and-forth game, the No. 1 Denver Pioneers’ big-time players came up with the plays they needed to, and freshman phenom Henrik Borgström scored at 3:44 of overtime with a quick wrist shot five-hole to give the Pioneers a 4-3 win over No. 18 St. Cloud State.
Troy Terry got the puck down low and slid a pass to Borgström in the slot, and he ripped a quick shot on net, happy after missing several opportunities earlier in the game.
“I just saw it was an odd-man rush creating, and I know when Terry has the puck he will find me for sure, and that’s what he did there,” said Borgström. “I felt pretty good after the goal; I had like 10 chances in the game but just couldn’t bury one.”
“I thought it was a great game,” said Denver coach Jim Montgomery. “To me, playoff game, NCAA-type game where there’s momentum swings, there’s a lot of emotion in it. They’re a great team. They make a lot of plays, and they make life really hard; they really challenge you defensively.”
It didn’t take long for the potent Denver offense to get on the board early, as Borgström sent a pass to Terry at the far post to Jeff Smith’s right, and Terry one-timed it into the open net at 3:08.
“El Capitan, Will Butcher, he found me,” said Borgström. “I was pretty much goal line, and saw that Terry was back door and I just came around and got the puck there. The puck was rolling though, and that made it hard.”
However, St. Cloud answered less than two minutes later when Mikey Eyssimont got the puck behind the goal line and circled out in front, ripping a snap shot glove side past Tanner Jaillet at 5:05.
“Mikey was outstanding tonight,” said St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko. “He set the one up and scored the one. We were trying to get him more pucks, and we just couldn’t get him any more pucks.”
St. Cloud then took the lead at 8:20 when Eyssimont carried the puck across the crease and backhanded a pass to Jon Lizotte at the right faceoff dot, who beat Jaillet low stick side with a quick snap shot.
“It was the Borgström, Gambrell, Terry, Butcher show tonight with the mistakes we made,” said Motzko. “That’s why they’re number one in the country; they have big-time players like that. We’re hanging right in there, playing just fine the second half of the year. Five overtime losses since Christmas.”
“Our four best players were our four best players, and when that happens, usually good things happen, and they were all dynamite tonight,” said Montgomery. “He’s right; I thought their best players were their best players. I thought Eyssimont was incredible tonight.”
Denver tied it at 12:05 when Evan Janssen got the puck behind the net to Smith’s left and sent a pass to Dylan Gambrell in the right faceoff dot, and Gambrell one-timed a snap shot top corner glove side.
Gambrell put Denver up 3-2 early in the second period when he took advantage of a neutral zone turnover, racing down the right side and getting a step on St. Cloud defenseman Jack Ahcan, then cutting to the slot and beating Smith at 2:09.
From there, the game settled down, and with time winding down, it seemed that Denver might hold on for the win, but before St. Cloud even needed to pull its goalie, the Huskies tied it when Judd Peterson drove the net and whacked at a loose puck and it slid under Jaillet’s pads with 2:22 remaining.
“Coming off our bye week, we weren’t real sharp tactically with things,” said Motzko. “That’s normal and we were trying to play through it. I’ll just go back, the mistakes, you can’t make them against that team.”
With the win and Minnesota Duluth’s tie against Miami, Denver moved into first place in the NCHC standings and has a game in hand on Duluth in the race for the Penrose Cup.
“That’s really good for us,” said Borgström of the results. “That’s our first chance for the Penrose Cup, and we’re fired up about it, and we’ll be stronger tomorrow.”
“As coaches, we knew it after the second period,” said Montgomery. “But we weren’t worried about that, we weren’t concerned about that. You want to win a championship because you earn it, and that’s what we need to do. If we didn’t win tonight, you’re in a dogfight. We’re still in a dogfight.”
No. 2 Minnesota Duluth 3, Miami 3 (Miami wins three-on-three OT)
Miami’s Gordie Green scored at 16:15 of the third period to tie the game 3-3 after Minnesota Duluth had rallied from 2-1 down in the third on goals by Adam Johnson on a power play at 5:03 and Parker Mackay at 8:12. Green then got Miami an extra point with a goal at 3:37 of the three-on-three OT when Scott Dornbrock got the puck to him in the slot. Green fired a shot that Hunter Miska stopped, but the rebound came right back to Green and he one-timed it past Miska. Earlier in the three-on-three OT, Ryan Larkin, who made 29 saves, robbed Willie Raskob, who was alone in front and backhanded a shot on net, only to see Larkin stop it with his outstretched right leg.
Colorado College 3, No. 8 Western Michigan 3 (CC wins three-on-three OT)
Alex Berardinelli’s dramatic goal with one second left in the three-on-three overtime gave Colorado College an extra NCHC point in what was officially a 3-3 tie with Western Michigan. Berardinelli completed a rush up the right side of the boards by unleashing a blast that beat Ben Blacker as time expired. Colorado College rallied from 2-1 down to take a 3-2 lead into third on goals by Trevor Gooch and Sam Rothstein in a 1:47 span late in the second, but Western Michigan tied it at 1:14 of third on a goal by Hugh McGing. Blacker made 37 saves in the tie.
No. 16 North Dakota Omaha
The last time North Dakota faced Omaha back in January, the Fighting Hawks exploded for 16 goals in two games. Facing the Mavericks Friday night, North Dakota’s moribund offense, which had scored only 12 goals in its previous seven games, exploded for six goals en route to a 6-4 win over Omaha. North Dakota built a 3-0 lead after Brock Boeser’s power-play goal just 50 seconds into the second, but let Omaha back into the game. Steven Spinner started the rally with two goals in a 1:56 span starting at 7:57 of the second, and David Pope tied it at 13:59 of the second. After North Dakota took a 4-3 lead early in the third period on a goal by Christian Wolanin, Omaha again tied it, this time when Fredrik Olofsson struck at 8:29. Tyson Jost scored the game-winner and his second goal of the game at 14:11 of the third with a big-time play, skating the puck out from behind the net and deking two Omaha defenders as he cut to the slot and ripped it top shelf. Boeser added some insurance just 44 seconds later when he knocked Olofsson’s inadvertent pass up the middle out of the air and, alone in front, ripped it in. Cam Johnson made 33 saves in the win, which moved North Dakota back into possession of a home-ice spot for the first round of the NCHC playoffs.