No. 3 North Dakota rallies back in a wild win over top-ranked Denver. “It’s embarrassing,” DU coach says

Saturday, 18 November 2017, 04:29:51 PM. Teddy bears rained onto the Magness Arena ice in the first period Friday night, a cuddly display of fandom for a game quickly flipping toward nasty.

Teddy bears rained onto the Magness Arena ice in the first period Friday night, a cuddly display of fandom for a game quickly flipping toward nasty.

No. 1-ranked Denver and third-ranked North Dakota were flying around the rink, sometimes off their skates. Hits came hard and heavy. Pushing and shoving nearly boiled over into brawling. The teams traded long spells of domination.

In a back-and-forth drag-out bout between the past two national champions, after Denver cruised to a three-goal lead only to watch it melt away, North Dakota finally found a winning tip-goal with less than three minutes remaining for a wild 5-4 victory over the Pioneers.

Denver (6-3-2) last week twice defeated then top-ranked St. Cloud State to regain the top rung of the rankings. But to open a two-game weekend series against rival North Dakota (8-2-3), the Pioneers finally fell to a ranked opponent this season in six games.

“Right now, I have to take a lot of blame,” Denver coach Jim Montgomery said. “Because we’re not committed to playing a team game. Everybody is very happy when things are going well. But we don’t want to do the little things. It’s embarrassing.”

Johnny Simonson, a fourth-line senior center for North Dakota, redirected a rocket shot from Hayden Shaw at the blue line with 2:31 remaining for the game-winner. It came just five minutes after Troy Terry buried a top-shelf shot for DU to tie the game.

Denver  20-year-old freshman Jake Durflinger punched in a rebound goal for a 1-0 lead after a shot from the point by Tyson McLellan and a second-chance try from Michael Davies was turned away. Durflinger in the opening seconds had put the North Dakota goaltender on notice. He wristed a shot off Peter Thome’s face from the right side.

The Pioneers hardly let up in the first. They had a 22-1 shot advantage in the first. They didn’t allow North Dakota a second shot until 14 minutes in.

Jarid Lukosevicius, DU’s  top-line junior wing, posted in front of North Dakota’s net and calmly waited for Henrik Borgstrom to slide around a defender on the left side and dart a pass for a flashy one-two goal to make it 2-0 in the first.

Denver boosted its lead to 3-0 six minutes into the second swimming upstream. Defensemen Sean Mostrom got tagged for holding and sat in the penalty box. But Logan O’Connor, a junior wing, sprung loose down the ice, muscled off a defender, then deked Thome into a forward dive before slipping in a short-handed goal.

But North Dakota, the 2016 national champion, is ably replacing the standout offense they carried last season, even after losing forward Tyson Jost to the Avalanche. Zach Yon and Joel Janatuinen scored within two minutes of the second period, twice taking advantage of Denver goalie Tanner Jaillet. Yon beat him to the short side with a wrist shot and Janatuinen grabbed a wayward rebound across the goalmouth for an easy putaway.

After DU dominated the first 30 minutes, North Dakota did the same over the second half. Christian Wolanin, the son of former Avs defenseman Craig Wolanin, slammed a lasered wrist-shot with six minutes left to give North Dakota its first lead.

“We’re not team-first right now. There’s no reason for it,” Montgomery said. “We have to get back to caring about the process.”

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