Nick Shore has scored 13 goals for the Denver Pioneers this season. And in the 11 games he’s found the back of the net (there were two multi-goal games), his team has won all 11.
“I guess we need to do a little more of that then,” he jokingly said when we talked last night.
The WCHA Tournament – better known as the Final Five – begins later this afternoon, with DU set to take on Michigan Tech in their opening game. Asked if winning that match-up was as simple as making sure he scored then, Shore was quick to look at the bigger picture.
“As a team, if we just have a good effort and play the way we can, I think we’ll have a pretty good chance of winning.”
Their determination was certainly tested last weekend when tournament play began. In a best-of-three series vs. Wisconsin, they dropped the opening game 1-0 and then took the next two. Things came right down to the wire though, as the last game needed overtime to decide the outcome.
“Nothing came easy that entire series,” Shore noted. “But, I thought we did a pretty good job of bouncing back.”
He also played a big factor in the series. While the score sheets show that he had two goals, the first one on Saturday was into an empty net. The big goal came on Sunday, with his team trailing.
“Drew (Shore, his older brother) made a great pass to (Jason) Zucker, who was coming back door, and he was able to get a pretty good shot off,” Nick said when describing the play. “It hit the post and I was able to get a piece of it before the goalie ended up knocking it in when he fell back on it. It was a good bounce for us. Our power play hadn’t scored a goal the entire weekend. So, it was big to get one.”
Tying the deciding game of a playoff a series in the third period – yeah, that’s pretty big. Was it the biggest of his career so far?
“It’s certainly one of them,” Shore said. “Being down 2-1 in the third period right there, as a team, we definitely needed a goal. Like I said, the power play had been struggling. So, I think it was good for the unit to get one.”
Last year, Shore had 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) over 33 games during his freshman campaign. He’s already more than doubled that to 39 points (13g, 26a) this season.
“Coming in your freshman year, there’s a lot to get adjusted to. It gives you experience though and it’s a good stepping stone. Then, your sophomore year, I think you just get a lot more comfortable. My role this year on the team has definitely increased too. And that has me playing with a lot more confidence.”
Away from the rink, hockey seems to still be front and present on his mind. When asked which class has been his favorite this year, Shore didn’t hesitate in selecting a sports pyschology class from the fall quarter.
“Some of the concepts we talked about were pretty interesting,” he explained. “I was able to apply it to something I do every day, which is hockey. That made it a lot more interesting and I learned a lot from it.”
When it comes to travel, a necessary part of any hockey players life, he clearly has his least favorite part already identified too.
“The plane ride. I don’t think anybody really looks forward to traveling. But, once you get there it’s fun and you’re ready to play some games.”
Later, admitting it isn’t all bad, he also noted something that can make flying a little less tedious – “The freshman tend to sing the fight song on all the flights. That can be pretty funny.”
Speaking of freshman, one of his two younger brothers (Quentin) has already committed to Denver as well. As for the plan to have three Shore boys in the line-up next season, Nick said – “I’m really excited, just the possibility of that happening is awesome. I think whatever happens it’s going to be a good opportunity for all three of us.”
The ‘whatever happens’ at the end of that could mean that Quentin is still a year away and won’t arrive on campus until 2013. However, it most likely means that older brother Drew may not be returning for his senior season (he was drafted by the Florida Panthers in 2009). We’ll have to wait and see.
There’s also a fourth Shore brother, Baker – who’s only 12 years old. Still no word on his plans. Yet, the poor kid is probably asked all the time if he’ll be following his three older siblings into a Pioneers hockey jersey.
As for Nick, what’s he thinking? Is the 6-foot center 100% sure he’s staying in school for all four years or is he is just taking it year by year?
“I’m taking it one year at a time,” he claimed. “Right now we have a lot of important games coming up with the Final Five and then hopefully the National Tournament. So, I think that’s everybody’s main focus right now is putting our best effort into the game (vs. Michigan Tech) and the rest of the playoffs.”
Last year’s Final Five championship was a fantastic game between Denver and North Dakota. And wouldn’t you know it, the brackets are lined up for a possible rematch this year too. Like most athletes though, Shore doesn’t want to look too far ahead.
“If we had to have an ideal scenario, just getting to the finals and playing anyone would be what we have in mind. I don’t think we’re really focused on what anybody else is doing. We’re focused on the first game for now. It’s a day game too, so it’s going to be a little different. We’re all pretty excited though. After that, we’ll just take it day by day.”
So, first things first. It will be Denver vs. Michigan Tech this afternoon and the winner moves on to play Minnesota Duluth tomorrow.
Of course, as noted above - if Shore scores a goal, Denver’s all but a lock to win the game. His magic hasn’t only been this season either. If you go back to last year, he scored in six different games and they lost only one of them.
Thus, if you play for Denver, the game plan should be simple today. Get the puck to Nick Shore, do it early and do it often.