Pioneers Ready for the Tournament
DU plays Michigan Tech on Saturday night
“I think we got punched in the nose, but I think it is the best thing that could have happened to us.”
It’s not often that a head coach says a loss is a good thing, but coach Jim Montgomery believes losing to North Dakota last weekend might be just what his team needed. It was the Pioneers' first loss since January and he’s now using it to refocus his team as the puck drops on the NCAA Tournament this weekend.
“We have been winning a lot of games and cruising along and we hadn’t faced adversity,” Montgomery says. “This is going to be the best thing that could have happened to us because it’s going to put more urgency in our game and it’s going to put the details and intensity back in our practices.”
After finishing the regular season with 29 wins and spending much of the season as the No. 1 team in the country, DU was awarded the top overall seed in the tournament. First up for the Pioneers will be Michigan Tech, a team they have not faced this season. In fact, DU has not played any of the teams in their region this year.
“This is exciting in the sense that we get to see some new teams that we have not seen,” says Will Butcher, a senior defenseman and team capatain. “We are just focusing now on Michigan Tech and playing well against them on Saturday.”
Butcher is one of eight seniors on the team. He says there would be nothing better than making sure his last collegiate hockey game ends with a victory.
“It’s been our goal since day one to win a national championship,” Butcher says. “We have felt all along that we have the group to do it this year. It would be great to go out that way as a senior.”
The puck drops on Saturday’s game at 11 a.m. MT. You can watch it live on ESPNews or listen to it on 104.3FM The Fan.
ESPN anchor John Buccigross makes his prediction for the NCAA Hockey Tournament
Hobey Baker Finalist
Will Butcher is one of 10 nominees for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, college hockey’s most prestigious honor. In addition to their success on the ice, nominees are recognized for their leadership, integrity and achievement in the classroom.
“He makes us go offensively and he makes us go defensively,” Montgomery says of Butcher. “His confidence and his ability to make plays gives our team confidence. His ability to say the right things at the right moments also gives our team the right leadership at the right moments.”
Butcher says he has the success of his teammates to thank for his own achievements and that his attention right now is not on winning the Baker award.
“I’d much rather win a national championship with the guys and be a part of that,” Butcher says. “That means a lot more to me than the personal accolades.”
While Butcher focuses on his play on the ice, fans can help him try to win the Hobey Baker Award by voting here for their favorite player. Voting is open to the public through Sunday, March 26.