DU hockey cruises past Notre Dame to advance to NCAA national championship

CHICAGO - They said they weren’t satisfied. They said they weren’t going to get wrapped up in the hype of playing in the Frozen Four.

They didn’t.

"I don't know if we can play better. Hopefully we do on Saturday night," head coach Jim Montgomery said. "It was an incredible performance. I was wowed by our team."

The Denver Pioneers were methodical in their dismantling of Notre Dame Thursday at the Frozen Four. The Pioneers took the shine right off of the bright gold helmets the Fighting Irish wear in a 6-1 win that wasn’t even that close.

"I mean it was awesome. That was probably the best game we've had all year," junior goalie Tanner Jaillet told 9NEWS. "Our forwards completely dominated that game, made mine and my D-men's job easy."

The pressure was steady in the first period and eventually paid off when Emil Romig beat Notre Dame star goalie Cal Petersen high to the short side just over eight minutes in to the game.

"The line out there before us, our freshman line with (Henrik) Borgstrom, (Tyson) McLellan, and (Liam) Finlay, they were dominating for about a minute in their end, just controlling the play," Romig said. "Then the puck got chipped out and we got un the ice and went right back at them. We got in there and controlled the puck for another 30 seconds and then I got the puck behind the net and was thinking about stuffing the puck but I saw (Notre Dame goalie Cam) Petersen try to swing his stick and knock the puck away so I had to widen out a little bit and just tried getting the puck on net and I got lucky."

The Pioneers made it 2-0 a few minutes later when Henrik Borgstrom buried his 22nd goal of the season off a nice pass from the captain Will Butcher.

"I wasn't that impressed because I know what this team is capable of. I trust all the guys and when everyone plays the way their capable of there is the result," Borgstrom told 9NEWS.

Things evened out a bit in the second period. Notre Dame was able to establish some sustained pressure in the Pioneers zone, but a mistake by Luke Ripley proved costly. The Notre Dame defenseman fell in the neutral zone, leading to a 2-on-1 for Denver. Evan Janssen made a terrific pass to Tariq Hammond for a goal that made it 3-0.  Dylan Gambrell and Evan Ritt added goals before the period ended to make it 5-0.

After giving up the only Notre Dame goal of the game, Gambrell added one more late score in the third period to make it 6-1.

The Pioneers will play fellow NCHC team Minnesota-Duluth in Saturday’s national championship game.

"Minnesota-Duluth is a fantastic hockey team, and we knew from the beginning of the year the first time we played them that they were probably going to be at this point at the end of the season and we'd probably have to play them again if we wanted to win a national championship," senior Matt VanVoorhis said."

Back in December the two teams split a two game series in Denver. The rubber match will decide who wins the title.

"It's not surprising," Montgomery said. "We know how good Duluth is. I thought they were the best team in our conference coming in to the year and they've shown that.... we're going to have to play a really good game. It's going to be a close game, it's not going to be 6-1 like it was (on Thursday)."

The Bulldogs can’t have liked what they saw from Denver on Thursday at the United Center. The Pioneers said this was a business trip, and they wanted to look composed against the Fighting Irish.

The looked more like a machine.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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