CINCINNATI — With two goals in the first period and five points from winger Troy Terry, the top-seeded Denver Pioneers did what they needed to do to defeat the No. 3 Penn State Nittany Lions on Sunday with a 6-3 victory at the U.S. Bank Arena.
With the victory, the Pioneers earned a spot in the Frozen Four for the second straight season.
Denver coach Jim Montgomery admitted that Penn State’s relentless attack was difficult to deal with.
“They way they play, they come at you,” said Montgomery. “You really have to be aware of what you are doing defensively to be able to stop that offensive attack.”
Terry, who was named the Midwest Regional most outstanding player, broke open a 2-2 game with his first of three goals, on a power play in the second period.
After Nikita Pavlychev nearly gave the Nittany Lions the lead just seconds into a penalty kill where his shot just sailed over the crossbar, the Pioneers quickly transitioned the other way with center Henrik Borgstrom and Terry creating a 2-on-1.
Borgstrom faked a shot before feeding the puck to Terry, who quickly beat Penn State goaltender Peyton Jones with a wrist shot at 6:30.
Terry and Borgstrom hooked up a second time late in the middle frame during a lengthy 4-on-4 situation. Terry stole a clearing play, fed the puck to Borgstrom and then went to the net, where he got the puck back and beat Jones at 18:42.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is not to watch him,” Terry said of Borgstrom. “[I] just get up in the play with him and be ready every time.”
Terry capped his hat trick with a goal into an empty net late in the contest.
Nittany Lions coach Guy Gadowsky pulled Jones with 3:34 left in the third. Terry stole the puck at his own blue line, skated it in alone and deposited it into the yawning goal at 17:46 of the third.
Terry’s first assist came just 3:17 into the contest when he was part of a well-executed cycle with center Dylan Gambrell. Gambrell carried the puck up the right boards before feeding to Terry, who quickly moved it to Jarid Lukosevicius, who drove the puck from the right corner to the slot and around Jones.
Terry also assisted on Lukosevicius’ second tally of the night at 15:40 of the second period when, off a faceoff, he took a pass from defenseman Adam Plant and then fed it over to Lukosevicius for the one-timer to make it 4-2.
Gadowsky knew Terry and Borgstrom were going to be a handful, but he said he was more impressed with the overall lack of time and space his team got thanks to the forecheck of the Pioneers throughout the contest.
“I thought they were a very quick team,” said Gadowsky. “I thought they won a lot of races. It’s easy to see why they are the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.”
Borgstrom, who finished with three assists on the night, picked up his first of the night on a goal from Plant at 7:19 of the contest. Borgstrom dropped a pass to Plant for the shot from the right point that beat Jones.
Pavlychev, Denis Smirnov and James Gobetz all scored for the Nittany Lions in the game, with Gobetz’s goal being the first of his college career. Pavlychev scored short-handed 15 minutes into the game, while Smirnov’s came just after a penalty kill early in the second.
Denver, which is 16-1 in its last 17 games, plays Notre Dame in the Frozen Four semifinals in Chicago on April 6.