CHICAGO — Henrik Borgstrom’s 22nd goal of the season at 14:50 in the first period held up to be the game winner as Denver defeated Note Dame 6-1 to advance to Saturday’s championship game, but it was Will Butcher’s 30th assist of the season that made that play possible.
After picking up the puck that Liam Finlay dropped for him at the right point, Butcher hugged the right boards and circled behind the Notre Dame net with Irish forward Mike O’Leary in pursuit. The Denver captain pushed past O’Leary to get to the left side of the crease and transferred the puck from the front of his blade to back to front again.
He completed the assist by sliding the puck across the crease to Borgstrom, who had an open shot with Cal Petersen drawn to the left side of the net to defend against Butcher.
“I just did a high roll play with Fins and he just dropped it to me and I just saw a space behind the net, started skating and saw I had the angle on the guy and decided to take the puck to the net,” said Butcher. “Borgy made a great spin off a guy and laid it out to him, and he put it in the back of the net.”
Denver leads Notre Dame 2-0 after Borgstrom’s goal pic.twitter.com/bPBJoagPS3
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) April 7, 2017
That second goal came at a time in the first when Notre Dame had shown some signs of regrouping after Denver’s fast start, a couple of shifts that didn’t produce any great scoring chances but that at least had the Fighting Irish staying in the game.
Borgstrom’s goal — and the 2-0 lead the Pioneers took into the second period — put a comeback a little further out of reach for Notre Dame. It’s not that a two-goal is insurmountable, but the Pioneers established in the Midwest Regional that they can defend an early lead exceptionally well.
Denver led Michigan Tech 4-0 after the first game in Cincinnati and went on to beat the Huskies 5-2; after leading Penn State 2-1 after the first in the deciding game in that regional, the Pioneers defeated the Nittany Lions 6-3.
“I think we have to give a lot of credit to our forwards,” said Butcher. “Whenever we have a good forecheck going, we seem to get the puck back a lot more. When we get that more, we get that early jump.”