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American Dream: Terry huge part of Colorado contingent to win U.S. World Junior gold

 

MONTREAL, CANADA - JANUARY 4: USA's Troy Terry #20 lets a shot go while Russia's Yegor Rykov #28 defends during semifinal round action at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)

The funny thing about Troy Terry scoring shootout goal after shootout goal in the 2017 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship is he rarely scores them in practice – according to his University of Denver teammates anyway.

Yet score he did – three times in a shootout to lift Team USA to a 4-3 victory against Russia in the semifinals on Jan. 4, and then he was the only one of 10 shooters to put the puck in the net during a shootout against Canada for a 5-4 victory that gave the Americans their fourth gold medal, and first in four years, in the top Under-20 event in the world.

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“I was watching the semifinals there in Montreal when they played Russia,” said DU teammate Henrik Borgstrom, who played for defending champion Finland. “When he had those three shootout goals, I was like, ‘Oh my god, Troy.’ It was fantastic.

“Our entire (DU) team was tweeting about. We were all real happy for him. Then he did it again.

“The odd thing is he never scores those in practice. That between-the-pads thing, it doesn’t work on our goalies and then he decides to pull that move out in the World Juniors. It shows he has great character and he isn’t afraid of anything.”

Terry, a sophomore for the Pioneers and Highlands Ranch native, maintained a normal pulse before, during and after the tournament.

“Troy has a confidence about him that he can do that in any situation because he’s done it most of his life,” said Team USA assistant coach Steve Miller, a longtime DU assistant and associate head coach and currently the director of hockey for the Air Force Academy. “He doesn’t have to talk about it because he feels like he’s done it. He’s not built that way. His mom and dad (Susan and Chuck) are such great people and raised him the right way. He’s all about the team.”

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Indeed, upon his return to the Pioneers’ lineup on Jan. 7, Terry was more at ease talking about being back in Colorado with his teammates than the impact his post-regulation exploits had on the hockey world. DU honored him with a video tribute during a first-period break against Arizona State that night.

“That was pretty special just to see how much support I had back here for over here for what happened over there,” said Terry, a fifth-round draft choice (148th overall) of the Anaheim Ducks in the 2015 NHL Draft.

“It was really amazing. I get a lot of attention for the shootouts but (Team USA) played such a good team game in both of those.”

As fun as the World Juniors were for Terry, there is no place like home.

“These guys (at DU) are my best friends,” Terry said. “I was obviously staying in the moment of there, but as soon as we won that game, I was looking forward to getting back with these guys. There’s nothing like putting on a Pioneers jersey and playing with these guys.”

The euphoria of returning to his college team soon was supplanted by what one would expect from hockey teammates.

“They were really happy for me,” Terry said. “It was pretty cool. Everyone was screaming and hugging me and I’ve been getting razzed about it a little bit.”

Terry, who played youth hockey for the Littleton Hawks and Colorado Thunderbirds, Miller and Borgstrom, a freshman at DU who was a first-round pick (23rd overall) of the Florida Panthers in last June’s NHL Draft, were three of the five participants at the World Juniors with ties to Colorado. The others were former Littleton defenseman Caleb Jones, who was a mainstay on the Team USA blue line, and head coach Bob Motzko, who spent the 1993-94 season as an associate head coach under Frank Serratore at DU.

Serratore, now Air Force’s coach, said Team USA’s victory could be considered among the top highlights ever for USA Hockey.

“This could easily be framed as a top-5 event, for sure a top-10 event, in USA Hockey history,” he said. “You’ve got ’60-’80-’96, the first time that we won World Juniors (2004). To win it up there, to beat Canada twice, to beat Russia twice – it’s top-10 for sure, possibly top-5 in all of USA Hockey history, in my opinion.”

Team USA’s ascent began last summer when USA Hockey gathered the 42 of the top eligible players at its National Team Development Program (NTDP) site in Plymouth, Mich.

“From Day 1, you could sense there was a camaraderie with that group of players,” Miller said. “When we convened in Buffalo (before the tournament), it was an easy group to coach. They bought in, they played for each other and we had a great support staff. They helped guys get ready and limit the distractions.”

That closeness extended to the coaching staff. Motzko and Miller were on former DU coach George Gwozdecky’s staff at Miami in the early 1990s, and Motzko was a groomsman at Miller’s wedding. Miller coached with fellow Team USA assistant Kris Mayotte at Providence College in 2014-15, when the Friars won the NCAA championship, and he has known and coached against Grant Potulny, another assistant, for years.

“There was great camaraderie on the staff,” Miller added. “We got together every day about how we could make this team better.”

Many of Team USA’s players, including Terry and Jones, played together with the NTDP, and that and having to repeatedly come back from deficits steeled the Americans for the final three games, each of which were one-goal affairs.

“There was a lot of adversity we had to deal with during the tournament,” Terry said. “Battling back, stuff we had to deal with that brought us closer together as a team. A lot of us played together before, so we knew each other already.”

Jones, who like Terry was playing in his first World Juniors, emerged as an every-situation force for the Americans. A 2016 draft selection by the Edmonton Oilers (fourth round, 117th overall), Jones has been a point-per-game player for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League this season after ringing up 57 points in 76 games a season ago.

“He was able to play against any type of player,” Miller said. “He can play those heavy minutes. He’s an elite defender and he makes really good puck decisions. By the end of the tournament, he was playing as well as anybody.

“It was a great tournament for another guy who started his hockey career in Colorado.”

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The Americans swept their four preliminary round games by a combined 18-5 margin, with only a 3-2 win over Russia and a 3-1 triumph over Canada close. The quarterfinals brought Switzerland, which pushed the Americans to the limit in a 3-2 victory. The Swiss overcame a 2-0 deficit to tie it early in the third period before Jordan Greenway scored the winning goal. Terry had an assist on Team USA’s first goal, one of his seven points in the tournament.

“Troy came in as a top-six forward but he accepted a fourth-line role,” said Dave Starman, a CBS Sports Network analyst who called the World Juniors for NHL Network’s U.S. telecasts. “He still played on the power play and the penalty kill. He accepted the fact the top two lines were the top two lines.

“I saw him play the same way he does at DU – great puck control and retrieval, played to his line and supported his center. He was a glue guy. Even if he hadn’t done what he did in the shootouts, he still would have had a good tournament.”

In the semifinal, the U.S. twice rallied from one-goal deficits before taking a 3-2 lead on Colin White’s second goal of the game late in the second period. Russia tied it in the third. Terry and Jeremy Bracco scored in the initial five-round shootout, which finished tied. Terry got the call on the next two tries and buried both of them, giving the U.S. a berth in the gold-medal game and making Terry the darling of the social media and hockey worlds.

“After I scored the first one, it helped my confidence,” Terry said. “Where it came back to where (Motzko) could use the same guy, I think he was going to put me and then Bracco again. Bracco scored, too.

“After I scored the second one, you could kind of see it that I felt pretty confident I could score, so (Motzko) told me to finish it off. It was definitely one of the most nerve-wracking things I ever had to do, but it’s something I’ll remember forever.”

Miller was confident Terry could deliver because he’d seen him do it as a youth and repeatedly in breakaway contests during World Junior practices.

“(Against Russia in Round 6) we were down by a goal and Bobby knows how good Troy is offensively with his stick and that he can score goals, and that was the next guy up on the bench he wanted to go with,” Miller said. “It’s kind of crazy how that all came together. Then he scores and the next guy up is Bracco. Troy came down and made it look easy. Didn’t look tense. Then the thought is put him back out there again.

“There was no stress in any part of him coming down – he did it three different ways.”

Team USA faced its stiffest test against the Canadians, who not only had a huge home-ice advantage but also twice built two-goal leads only to see the Americans make up those deficits.

Tyler Parsons made 46 saves and stopped all five shootout attempts by Canada. Terry scored the only shootout goal the U.S. would need for a heart-stopping 5-4 victory and some precious metal.

“He went back to the go-to for the one against Canada,” Miller said. “It matched that one against Russia, coming down that side and snapping it five-hole. It was funny in his interview after the game against Canada when he said, ‘I was thinking about changing it up, but then I saw that area and I couldn’t pass it up.’ That was funny. He was definitely thinking and seeing the game at a different level than most of us.”

The added benefit for Colorado hockey fans is the World Junior hero is still playing here. Terry returned to DU’s lineup and put up a career-high, five-point game against Arizona State.

“I bet there were 1,500 more fans here (Jan. 7) to see Troy Terry honored,” DU coach Jim Montgomery said. “It’s great for our program and great for hockey in this region. I think there’s going to be a lot of kids not only in Colorado, but in bordering states that want to play hockey and be Pioneers because of Troy Terry.”

Added Miller: “If you read this as a Hollywood script, you wouldn’t believe it. But I think as time unfolds going forward, we’ll start to look back and start to remember little things that happened with this journey.”

Terry USA photo/IIHF Images On Ice; Terry DU photo/DU Athletics; Miller photo/Chris Bayee

— Chris Bayee