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Lucky 13th Forward

Denver advances to the national title game with another 2-1 OT win.

Denver forward Tristan Lemyre gets tripped up after putting the puck past the BU goaltender to tie the game in the second period. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

ST. PAUL — Denver defeated Boston University in overtime to reach the national championship game. Despite Bloomington native and one-time Gophers forward Tristan Broz ending the game on a slick shot in the extra frame for a 2-1 victory in the first Frozen Four semifinal, Denver had a complete team effort to even make it that far.

The Pioneers faced down an early deficit thanks to a breakaway, top-shelf goal from Boston University’s Luke Tuch on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center. The forwards were still apprehensive about what BU’s top players could showcase when caught off guard, and the defense was keeping the Terriers’ shots to manageable areas. The real breakthrough came when there was a brief lapse in greatness from highly-touted NHL prospect and Montreal Canadiens draft-pick Lane Hutson.

Deep in his own zone, Hutson blindly sent the puck lazily toward the front of his own net, where Miko Matikka gladly scooped the puck up and sent it over to the open man, Tristan Lemyre, with a crease open just enough to sneak the puck past.

Denver’s Tristan Lemyre skates by his teammates receiving high-fives after he tied the game 1-1 in the Frozen Four semifinal. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

Lemyre had an interesting journey to the game-tying goal for Denver. Looking at the line chart released before the game, Lemyre was a bit lonely. That is, because he was the 13th forward for the game, without any permanent linemates. In this instance, he was out there with Matikka and Aidan Thompson for the goal.

“He’s been really good for us, he’s been fighting through an injury of his own,” said Denver coach David Carle. “[He’s been] putting his body on the line for the guys and the team. Really, really happy for him that he was able to get rewarded.”

Lemyre’s goal-scoring prowess hasn’t been on full display this season, to say the least, though it has come at opportune times. His game-tying goal in the Frozen Four semifinal game was just his second of the season and sixth of his career.

His only other goal this season? A tally in a 7-2 rout of St. Cloud State on March 2. Lemyre also hasn’t slotted in to each game this season, with Thursday being his 26th of Denver’s overall 43 played through the national semifinal round. Carle said that Lemyre played an integral role while star forward Massimo Rizzo was out with an injury.

“He comes into the night as our 13th forward, he’s been a big reason we’ve went 12-1-1 without Rizzo in the lineup,” Carle said, of Lemyre.

Denver goaltender Matt Davis made 33 saves and allowed only one goal against Boston University. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

‘Big-time’ goaltending performance
Another person that can be hoisted onto a pedestal for why Denver will be playing for its 10th national championship is the backstop, goalie Matt Davis.

Goal scoring has been tough to come by for the Pioneers in the last three games. Just six goals over that span, but the best part for Denver has been that its only ceded three goals. Davis has made the clutch plays when it matters, gobbling up pucks and preventing rebounds to keep the electric BU forwards from cashing in on anything but the Tuch breakaway goal.

“Matty D sitting here again, was excellent for us,” Carle said. “Especially was the best player in the first period and overtime.”

Carle wasn’t kidding. BU had 20 shots through the first two periods while Denver had just 11. Even more, in the first period, the Terriers outshot the Pioneers 10-3. Despite going down a goal, Davis kept Denver in the game with a close score long enough for the forwards to find their game and deliver on offense.

“He’s been unbelievable,” Rizzo said, of Davis. “He showed up when we needed him the most, I’m super proud of him.”

Added Broz regarding Davis: “Big-time performance by him, three straight games.” 

Davis, Lemyre and the rest of the Pioneers will hope to replicate the big-time performance in the national championship game on Saturday.

Drew has a passion for just about all things hockey. He started covering the Gophers' men's hockey team in 2016 and has been around high schools and the pros ever since. Follow his regular hockey commentary (and other nonsense) on Twitter @covedrew and on the MNCAA podcast covering the Gophers as well as the college hockey scene across Minnesota.

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