DENVER (CBS4) – The University of Denver Pioneers hockey team’s late run, including winning the National Collegiate Hockey Conference tournament, has landed them in the NCAA Frozen Four. Head coach Jim Montgomery is happy to be headed to the tournament healthy and with one of the best goalies in the nation.
The Pioneers wouldn’t be in the final 16 teams of the nation if they didn’t with their conference tournament, and Montgomery gives a lot of credit to junior goalie Sam Brittain.
“He is the best goalie in the country and he’s been the person who has given us the confidence, game in, game out, to be able to do the things we’ve done,” Montgomery said. “Now the rest of the team has really raised their game to a championship level, and that’s why we’re having the success we’re having right now.”
Because the team struggled at times during the season, Montgomery made some changes. One of those changes was the creation of the so-called “Mash Line,” which has enjoyed some great success since they’ve been out on the ice.
“I think the Mash Line … has given us a team identity of second and third effort and physicality. It’s really (that), I think, the emotion of our team feeds off that line,” he said. “They’re a ‘MASH unit,’ they’re putting people into a MASH unit. Now they end up dinged up too, but that doesn’t stall them.”
He said the physicality from the onset of the game sets the tone for the team and that’s how they were able to turn things around.
“I like our team to be considered relentless, and I think they embody that relentlessness.”
Montgomery tells his team to “believe in the process.”
“We have a board in our room that has seven things that we believe is our process that gives us a chance at success,” he said. “I think that when you’re facing elimination games and you’re in playoff hockey, you have to be about the process and stay in the moment. Because if you let your mind stray towards outcomes and, ‘Maybe this is the last game I play,’ then you tend to stray from your game plan.”
Montgomery took over for DU coaching legend George Gwozdecky, who was let go by the school. But he doesn’t feel like there’s a sense of vindication for taking the team to the tournament in his first year.
“No, not at all. George Gwozdecky is a good friend of mine and he’s someone that I’ve leaned on and he’s helped me. I think he said it best … ‘What’s most important is the Denver hockey family.’ And I’m just very happy that our student athletes had the opportunity to win a championship to add to the great tradition that Coach Gwozdecky and Murray Armstrong started here at Denver.”
DU will play the historically dominant Boston College in Worcester, Mass. this Saturday at 2 p.m. It will be televised on ESPNU.
Watch more of the video with Jim Montgomery in the Xfinity Monday Live! section.
– By Matthew J. Buettner, CBSDenver.com