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Terry leads comeback to help DU force decisive game three

The Pioneers and Tigers will play an elimination game Sunday night

NCAA Hockey: Frozen Four-Denver vs Minnesota-Duluth Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

With their backs against the wall, facing a surprise elimination from the first round of the NCHC tournament, the Denver Pioneers looked to their biggest stars Saturday night at Magness Arena. With plenty of high-stakes playoff hockey under their belts, those stars answered in a big way.

A pair of third period goals by Troy Terry helped Denver erase a one-goal deficit and spoil another stellar performance in net by Colorado College goaltender Alex Leclerc. The 3-2 Denver win sets up a decisive game three Sunday night at Magness Arena, with the winner advancing to next weekend’s semifinals and the loser going home empty-handed.

For much of the contest, it looked like a heroic effort from Leclerc would be enough to complete the stunning upset for the 7th-seeded Tigers. One night after shutting out DU for the second time this season, the sophomore made 47 saves in the face of extended puck possession and offensive zone pressure from the Pioneers.

Adding to the early frustration was a disallowed goal off the stick of Blake Hillman at 13:05 of the first period that would have put Denver up. It was ruled that Logan O’Connor made contact with Leclerc, interfering with his ability to make the save.

Denver’s first chance with the man advantage went completely sideways, as a mishandled puck on the point led to a shorthanded breakaway chance for CC’s Trey Bradley. Bradley made a move around DU goaltender Tanner Jaillet and finished the chance to put the Tigers on top at 16:41.

After 20 minutes of play, Denver led 18-6 in shots on goal.

Late in the second period, after 150 minutes of scoreless hockey against Leclerc, Denver finally broke through. A late first period scrum sent CC star forward Nick Halloran to the box for a five-minute major cross-checking penalty at 17:45, allowing Denver to start the second period on the power play. With under a minute to go on the penalty, freshman defenseman Ian Mitchell gave up the puck to Henrik Borgström, who cut to the middle of the ice and rifled a shot past Leclerc for his 20th goal of the season.

Special teams continued to play a big factor, as Kristian Blumenschein took advantage of a DU too many men penalty to put CC back on top going into the third period with a goal at 17:40. Denver carried a 34-19 shot advantage into the final frame.

Feeling the desperation of a first-round rivalry loss, Denver kept pressure on Leclerc as the third period began. A lucky bounce finally went their way, as Troy Terry got involved with his 12th goal of the season to tie the game back up 2:17 into the third. After a scrum in front, it looked initially like Terry may have kicked the puck past Leclerc, but it was ruled after review that it had first touched the stick of a CC’s Mason Bergh.

The goal set off a barrage of good looks at the net and with the confidence of finally cracking Leclerc, Terry came back for more with under ten minutes to play. Hauling in a breakout pass from Mitchell, Terry crossed CC’s blue line, faced down a CC defenseman, and rifled a wrist shot over Leclerc’s shoulder to give the Pioneers their first lead of the series.

Colorado College pulled Leclerc in the final minute looking for the equalizer, but came up empty.

Sunday’s game three, starting at 6 PM MT, will decide the series. #3 Minnesota Duluth and #4 North Dakota swept through their first round series’, while #8 Miami and #1 St. Cloud State will also play a third game Sunday night. Denver-CC can be heard live on ESPN Denver 1600.