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Denver vs. Minnesota-Duluth, Frozen Four 2017

Denver vs. Minnesota-Duluth, Frozen Four 2017

Down in the windy city at the United Center in Chicago, the Denver Pioneers, Harvard Crimson, Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs and fellow Hockey East native Notre Dame Fighting Irish will face off for the right to crown themselves national champions.

Their meeting will be the first No. 1 vs.

"Certainly a great team, seemed like a team on a mission to me", Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson said.

Of this year's Frozen Four, there are three teams that have won national championships in the past. Not even close. How had it devolved into a blowout so quickly?

On Thursday, the Denver Pioneers routed the Fighting Irish in their first matchup of the Frozen Four, 6-1. "They're a mentally tough team".

"Yeah, I mean, anytime you can inject one of the most talented offensive players in college hockey into a lineup that the team hasn't seen, you can watch film on them", Montgomery explained. It was a bit of a shock.

"We were entirely full of UMD fans and it may have been the loudest I've ever heard this place before", Abrahamson said. "I just didn't think we played as well as we're capable of playing".

Junior goalie Tanner Jaillet allowed a late power-play goal while DU was trying to kill off its first penalty.

Intermission provided a brief respite, but no solutions. Meanwhile, the Pioneers moved from mere body blows to knockout punches.

"I felt we were turning a corner and then we had a defenseman fall down", Jackson said on the third goal. "When we are moving and floor checking really well we are getting on top of pucks, we are getting the puck more and that is always good for us". But that third goal was the back killer. Evan Janssen fed Tariq Hammond, who scored easily to make it 3-0. Center Evan Ritt's score 111 seconds later pushed the Pioneer lead to 5-0 inside the four-minute mark. "We still think about it all the time", UD center Dylan Gambrell said.

Petersen paid a final compliment to the Pioneers: "A lot of credit goes to them". "It showed up a few weeks back in Boston, especially with some of our young defensemen making some plays coming out of our zone".

"We played them last year, and I think it was one of our better games of the year, actually".

Of course, that's before you factor in that the structure of the NHL Draft makes the college game a sort of extra minor league.

Dennis Gilbert, a third-round pick by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015, had a huge open-ice hit on Denver's Liam Finlay early in the second, but that was one of the biggest highlights for Notre Dame. Denver then added one more goal after that to cap off the night.

Demand has been high for UMD and Frozen Four merchandise since the team won a spot in the 2017 NCAA Frozen Four last month, said Julie Feiring, sales and marketing manager for UMD Stores.

"The feeling of losing that game is [a] awful feeling, one of the worst in my career and I don't want to feel it again", said defenseman Will Butcher. "The only thing is the fact that we got here and we made the run that we did".

A target that the Pios used to their advantage last Sunday night against the Nittany Lions, leading DU to punch their ticket to their second Frozen Four in two years.

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