College hockey: North Dakota has the tall task of containing Denver's big three
DENVER -- Henrik Borgstrom blew past St. Cloud State captain Jimmy Schuldt.
When the first-round pick of the Florida Panthers reached the left side of the crease, he put the puck on the toe of his stick, glided from left to right across the top of the crease, moved out of the reach of Husky goalie Jeff Smith and roofed the puck in the top corner of the net.
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Later in the game, Borgstrom scored again.
It was business as usual for the University of Denver sophomore star from Finland.
Borgstrom already has 11 goals this season--more than anybody in the country and twice as many as anyone on UND's roster. He's averaging more than a goal per game.
His teammate, junior Anaheim Ducks draft pick Troy Terry, has 18 points this season--second in the nation.
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And Pioneer junior Dylan Gambrell, a San Jose Sharks pick, also ranks in the top five nationally in points per game with 16, making him the only National Collegiate Hockey Conference player with 100 career points.
It's a dynamic trio--ranking 1-2-5 nationally in points per game--that nobody has been able to slow down this season.
That is what UND will be tasked with this weekend as it takes on its toughest assignment of the season--a two-game series against No. 1 Denver at 8:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Magness Arena.
"They're obviously extremely skilled and they can make a play out of anything," said UND senior captain Austin Poganski, who hasn't been on the ice for an opponent's even-strength goal since the first game of the season. "That's something we have to key on this week."
Borgstrom, Terry and Gambrell have combined for 51 points in 10 games. Borgstrom, personally, has a point in all nine games he's played this season.
The last team to hold all three of them off the scoresheet in the same game was UND in last year's NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinals at Target Center. The Fighting Hawks won that game 1-0.
"You have to try to play offense against them," junior forward Rhett Gardner said. "Sometimes, the best defense is an offense. We have to be simple through the neutral zone, get pucks deep and keep them in their end."
Shutting all three down is a challenge, because Denver moves them around so much.
Sometimes, they're all centering different lines. Other times, they sneak shifts together.
Those three and Frozen Four hero Jarid Lukosevicius have accounted for roughly 60 percent of Denver's goals this season.
"They have depth on their team, too," UND coach Brad Berry said. "The message for our guys, since we don't have last (line) change, is whoever is on the ice, they have to have accountability, knowing who is on the ice. You have to take care of the puck, not turning it over and giving them free opportunities. They're a good rush team, a good team in the offensive zone. Limiting their time there is going to be critical."
This weekend's series not only features college hockey's last two national champions--UND in 2016 and Denver in 2017--but also two teams that have consistently been at the top.
UND has reached the NCAA tournament for 15 straight seasons, Denver for 10 They are two of the four longest NCAA-tournament streaks of all time in college hockey.
No other NCAA team has an active streak of more than four national tournaments in a row.
In the last 11 years, UND and Denver are first and third in overall wins, too. UND has 297 victories, Denver 288.
That has helped spice this rivalry between old Western Collegiate Hockey Association brothers.
"Everyone always talks about Minnesota and Wisconsin," Berry said. "We've moved away from that league. This is probably one of the best modern-day rivalries we've had. You can tell because there's emotion and intensity."
Another top foe
For the third time in five weeks, UND will be playing against a team ranked in the top 10 nationally.
UND split against Minnesota, which is ranked No. 7 in this week's poll and earned a win and a tie at Wisconsin, which is ranked No. 9 this week.
"We're going to be playing against one of the top teams in the country again," Berry said. "We've done that early in the season and we've answered the bell. We have to continue to answer the bell and grow as a team. If we take care of the little things in the game, the result will take care of itself. We don't want to get caught up in the wins or the result. We want to get caught up in the things that get you the result."
No. 3 UND at No. 1 Denver
--When: 8:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
--Where: Magness Arena, Denver.
--Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).
--Records: UND 7-2-3 (2-1-1 NCHC); Denver 6-2-2 (2-2).
--Of note: This series features the last two NCAA national champions.
This article is written by Brad Elliott Schlossman from Grand Forks Herald and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.