DU Hockey Mailbag: What’s Wrong With the Top Line?

Just a few days ago, I came up with the idea to put together a weekly mailbag about DU hockey. Eventually, this idea may extend to a DU Athletics mailbag, but I’m going to start smaller with just hockey and let it go from there.

The whole point behind this idea is that it’s difficult to cover everything that readers want to know and answering every single question isn’t easy with only reader comments. As a reminder, if you have any questions about DU hockey, email me at letsgodu@gmail.com. The cutoff for every week’s mailbag is going to be at 6 PM MT each Wednesday.

I’ve been to a number of games this year and watched as much of DU’s away games as possible. I’ve noticed that the top line of Heinen-Gambrell-Moore have struggled to get themselves on the scoreboard consistently. What the heck is going on with them and what’s it going to take to get them going?
-Chuck in Denver

Chuck, this is the most baffling thing about the 2015-16 Denver hockey team. Trevor Moore and Danton Heinen combined for 89 points and 38 goals last year on the team that led the NCHC in goals per game. This year, through 22 games, they’ve combined for 31 points and 9 goals. Something is wrong and DU needs to solve the problem ASAP.

In the conversations that I’ve had with Coach Montgomery, it sounds like the high scoring players from a year ago are struggling with confidence this year for whatever reason. It’s hard to win games when your top players aren’t producing and DU is finding ways to win key games and keep within striking distance of one of the top 3 seeds in the NCHC Tournament

Luckily for the Pioneers, freshman Dylan Gambrell has carried the top line with 21 points and 6 goals. Denver has also gotten some contributions from the third and fourth lines at key times. In fact fourth line center Matt Marcinew is leading the team in goals with 7, 2 of which have been game-winners.

The fact that DU is sitting at 10-7-5 and in 3rd place in the NCHC with such low production from the top line is a testament to the depth of scoring DU has gotten from all 4 lines. That being said, the rest of the schedule isn’t easy (Duluth this weekend, North Dakota in a few weeks, and Omaha in early March) and the Pios will need the top line to get going if they are to make a run and solidify their position in the top 16 in the PairWise Rankings. You can rest assured that Moore and Heinen will get going soon and once they do, watch out. They can carry DU pretty far when they’re playing well.

What’s the deal with Tanner Jaillet starting every game now? Didn’t Monty say that he’d platoon the goalie position with Jaillet and Evan Cowley?
Joyce, Thornton

Joyce, good question and I think I failed to mention this a few weeks ago. Heading into the Notre Dame series (over winter break), Montgomery made the choice to make Jaillet the starting goalie and have Cowley back him up.

The reasoning for it was pretty simple: Cowley had struggled through the first part of the season and Jaillet was playing better. In 9 games, Cowley posted a poor .888 SV% and a worrisome 2.99 GAA. He got a good look this year and he just didn’t deliver the results Coach Montgomery was looking for.

In contrast, in 16 games, Jaillet has a much better .922 SV% and a decent 2.37 GAA. On top of that, he’s shut out DU’s opponents twice this year. Since he was named the starter, DU hasn’t lost as they’ve gone 3-0-3 against Notre Dame, Nebraska-Omaha, and Western Michigan.

I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Cowley this year, though. I could see him playing against CC in Colorado Springs on Feb. 18th potentially, or even earlier. Despite his tough year, he’s still a good goalie with a high upside.

Minnesota-Duluth is in town this weekend. Any predictions?
Tom, Centennial

This one is a tough one to call. As every college hockey analyst and writer has said since the beginning of the NCHC 3 years ago, weekend sweeps in this conference are extremely difficult to earn, even when playing CC (just ask St. Cloud).

In mid-November, before the Pios’ rough patch against North Dakota and St. Cloud, DU went to Duluth and emerged with a win and a tie (loss in the shootout). In game 1, DU dominated. The final score was 3-0, but it might as well have been 9-0. Denver only outshot UMD 29-27, but the Bulldogs didn’t play well at all. DU even scored 2 goals on the power play. Denver was just clicking on all cylinders that night.

Game 2 was a completely different story. UMD outshot DU 46-20 and after Adam Plant scored at the 14:40 mark of the 1st period, nothing went DU’s way. The Pios could barely put together any significant possessions. If it wasn’t for Jaillet’s outstanding play that night, DU would have lost big that night. Instead, DU salvaged a tie and held onto a bit of early momentum.

UMD was the preseason favorite to win the NCHC (followed closely by DU). To say the Bulldogs stumbled out of the gate would be an understatement. They’ve skated to an underwhelming 8-8-5 record (5-6-3-1 NCHC). However, don’t let their underachieving record fool you. This is still a talented team who can skate with any team in the country.

The two players DU’s blueliners need to key in on are Austin Farley and Tony Cameranesi. They’re leading UMD in scoring with 20 and 19 points, respectively. No one else on the roster has posted more than 11 points.

Goals this weekend are going to be tough to come by as well. Magness Arena might be hosting the goaltender matchup of the week with Jaillet and Kasimir Kaskisuo (say that 10 times fast). Kaskisuo has posted a .923 SV% and an outstanding 1.87 GAA. If DU scores 4 goals in either game, it will be worth talking about the next day.

So with that preview, here’s my prediction:
Friday: 3-1 DU
Saturday: 2-1 UMD in OT.

If you want to submit your own question for next week’s DU Hockey mailbag, be sure to email me at letsgodu@gmail.com by Wednesday at 6 PM MT.