“I call him the Kobe Bryant of hockey,” said Jim Montgomery, Troy Terry’s coach at NCAA Denver, “because he’s one of those athletes that has the ability to raise his game in big moments. And he’s done it throughout his career.
Nothing that Troy Terry does surprises his coach, former NHLer Jim Montgomery. And it will not surprise Montgomery when Terry moves on to The League That Shall Not Be Named™ shortly after his NCAA season ends at the University of Denver in less than two months.
Bur first things first. Team USA has not exactly blown away its competition so far at the Olympics, but its college players have clearly been the drivetrain for the team. It’s pretty clear that if there is going to be a 2018 version of the Miracle on Ice, it will have to once again be led by a bunch of college kids. The team has been riding largely on the backs of Terry and Ryan Donato, a junior at Harvard. The two youngsters have found chemistry with former NHLer Mark Arcobello, on a line that has accounted for five of the nine goals Team USA has scored in the tournament.
This does not surprise those who have followed Terry’s career closely. Winning seems to follow him around, as evidenced by the World Under-18, World Junior Championship and NCAA titles that he already has on his resume. In 2017, Terry went all T.J. Oshie/Jonathan Toews in the WJC, propelling his team to the final with three shootout goals against Russia in the semifinal before scoring the only goal in the shootout to beat Canada in the gold medal game. Later that season with the University of Denver, Terry led the Pioneers to the Frozen Four, and had two assists in the championship game to help them win the U.S. college title. And when the Americans were playing for their lives in a playoff game against Slovakia on Monday night (or Tuesday morning depending on where you were in the world), Terry had three assists in a 5-1 win. Winning follows some guys around. Others push it in their direction. Terry is the latter.
“I call him the Kobe Bryant of hockey,” Montgomery said, “because he’s one of those athletes that has the ability to raise his game in big moments. And he’s done it throughout his career.”
And like Bryant, Terry could end up being the steal of his draft year. Taken in the fifth round by Anaheim in 2015, Terry looks NHL-ready. In fact, Montgomery is not even trying to make it like there’s a chance Terry will play a senior season at Denver. As far as the coach is concerned, it’s a matter of whether or not Terry joins Anaheim for the playoffs this season or starts there in 2018-19. Much of that depends on how far the Pioneers go in their quest to repeat as NCAA champions this year. From what I’ve been led to believe since I’m boycotting The League That Shall Not Be Named™ until the Olympics are over, the Anaheim team is currently in the thick of playoff contention. If Terry and the Pioneers were to advance to the Frozen Four, his season wouldn’t end until April 7, five days after the regular season ends in the big league. If the Anaheim team doesn’t qualify for the post-season, Terry would not be available until next season, but if the Ducks are in the playoffs, they’ll have a decision to make on him. Anaheim’s AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls, are in second place in their division and could have a long playoff run ahead of them.
“I think Troy is going to move on,” Montgomery said. “That’s my personal feeling on it. We haven’t discussed it, but I just think he’s physically and mentally ready now. Anaheim’s right there on the bubble and getting him would be like being able to add a player without making a trade.”
Team USA will try to move on to the semifinal with a victory over the Czech Republic in the Olympic men’s hockey quarterfinals tonight. And it will do so knowing that it can rely heavily on its young players, who have proved they are up to the task playing on the world’s largest stage against men. Even though Jordan Greenway, Terry’s teammate on that 2017 WJC team, has only one goal in the tournament, he has been a beast at times creating space and playing a physical style. “Can you imagine having to play him in a seven-game series?” said Montgomery of Greenway. “All those kids have done well. They’re definitely giving that team life and confidence.”
Now that we’ve reached the Olympic games that really matter, here’s a brief preview of each quarterfinal games. All times are Eastern.
USA vs. CZECH REPUBLIC (10:10 p.m. Tuesday): Team USA looked dominant in its 5-1 win over Slovakia in the qualifier, but had an up-and-down showing to that point playing in the toughest group in the tournament. Until unleashing five goals against the Slovaks in the qualifier, USA had trouble generating offense and they’ll have their hands full trying to beat Pavel Francouz, who has given up only two even-strength goals in the tournament.
OAR vs. NORWAY (2:40 a.m. Wednesday): Norway is playing with house money and knows its up against a powerhouse team, one that leads the tournament in goals and boasts the most star power. This one could get ugly early and is a matchup that not even the Russians could find a way to screw up.
CANADA vs. FINLAND (7:10 a.m. Wednesday): This is a pick ’em game between two evenly matched teams. Canada went 2-0-1, scored seven goals and had a plus-7 goal differential; Finland went 2-0-1, scored 11 goals and had a plus-5 goal differential. Both teams have by far the best power plays in the tournament, but the Canadians are the least penalized team among those left. Canada will have to find a way to contain Eeli Tolvanen, who leads the tournament with 2.5 points per game.
SWEDEN vs. GERMANY (7:10 a.m. Wednesday): OAR may have entered the tournament as the favorite, but the Swedes have emerged as the team to beat through the preliminary round. How good have they been? Well, they can’t find a place in their lineup for consensus first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin, who has been a healthy scratch in two games and played sparingly in a third. Hard to argue with the coaches, who are quick to point out that Sweden has given up only one goal in the tournament.