Montgomery goes full circle from Maine to Denver in NCAA title win
(Photo by Bob Snow, Bruins Daily)
CHICAGO – In 1993, one for the NCAA record books as a player; in 2017 a second as head coach.
Then add another asterisk for “Monty” and “Luko” – now joined at the record-setting hip.
Saturday night, former Maine Black Bear and Montreal native, Jim Montgomery, won his second national championship, this one behind the bench as coach of the Denver Pioneers in a dramatic 3-2 win over NCHC league rival Minnesota-Duluth.
On April 3, 1993, Montgomery played one of the most memorable periods in NCAA history, when Maine entered the third period down, 4-2, to Lake Superior State. In a span of four and a half minutes, Paul Kariya set up Montgomery three times for the natural hat trick en route to a 5-4 final – and Maine’s first-ever title under the late great Shawn Walsh.
No shortage of Montgomery’s appreciation for Walsh and Black Bear recruiting guru Grant Standbrook’s contribution to Saturday night’s win.
“It’s an incredible feeling of pride that we were able to do this and to be able to lead a group like Shawn Walsh did who is a mentor of mine, the way he led us,” Montgomery said emotionally in his postgame comments. “He’s a legend. But I just draw a lot, my experiences from him. And especially Grant Standbrook, who I’ve worked with. And I spoke to Grant today about what does it take. And we had a great moment. And he’s in his hospital. He’s battling cancer right now. And he’s texting me, he’s calling me in between periods to give me advice.”
Saturday night, Monty’s talented freshman, Jarid Lukosevicius, replicated his coach’s explosive 1993 output by firing home three goals in the second period in a span of 7:39 to carry Denver to its eighth title.
It was the first hat trick in a championship game in that 25-year span.
“No, I didn’t know it before,” the freshman said about matching a niche in NCAA history.
His coach was not far behind. “I did not know there was another – that’s the first hat trick,” Montgomery added. “But I’m glad I’m part of both, and I’m glad we won the championship on both nights.”
Montgomery, Hockey East’s all-time points leader at 301 – and fourth-best in NCAA history – also becomes the third coach in NCAA history to win a national championship in both roles (Mike Eaves, George Gwozdecky, Al Renfrew).
Monty toiled in a 12-year journeyman professional career from 1993-2005, including five NHL teams with 122 games in seven NHL seasons.
Last year, his Pioneers came within a goal of playing for it all in a one-goal loss in the semifinal, won by eventual champion North Dakota.
In the short years ahead, look for an NHL team to be calling on Montgomery to take over those reins as the Flyers did two years ago when they recruited Dave Hakstol from North Dakota.
With a band of returnees, including Friday night’s announcements of 2017 Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher and 2017 Mike Richter award recipient Tanner Jaillet in goal, Denver was on a mission as the No. 1 team in the country for most of the season and No. 1 seed in the tournament.
The Pioneers came out firing, hitting two posts and registering the first eight shots on Richter runner-up Hunter Miska. “Luko,” the game’s MVP, took over the second period, deflecting home his first at 4:44. Sixteen seconds later, a crease tip past Miska. He completed his fete at 12:23 when he nuzzled a rebound to twine.
The first two are the fastest scored by an individual in NCAA tournament history.
The third belonged to Duluth; they pasted Denver with a 17-3 shot disparity in a valiant attempt for the equalizer.
How does winning as player and coach get defined?
“I think when your adrenalin is going as a player, it’s maybe more euphoric, just in the sense that you’re just – your heart rate’s up Mine probably 180,” Montgomery said.
“But as a coach, it’s an incredible feeling. And you’re more proud of your student-athletes and how they’ve grown and how they seized the moment. And it’s just a special bond when you’re part of a special program and a special family and you have that kind of commitment to each other. It never dies. And these young men I know will be friends for life and they’ll be proud Pioneers for the rest of their life.”