Photo credit: Karl Gehring, The Denver Post
The No. 13 ranked Denver Pioneers prepare to clash with the No. 2 North Dakota for their second time this season this weekend at Magness Arena.
Since the first series when Denver was swept by UND and again the following weekend against St. Cloud State, the Pios returned from winter break refreshed and energized. In 2016, Denver has recorded just one loss in their ten games since the ball dropped on 2015. The Pios’ 6-1-3 record has comfortably positioned them in 3rd place in the NCHC, 4 points ahead of Minnesota-Duluth with 2 games in hand.
Take Me Back
Denver and North Dakota’s first meeting of the season on Dec. 4 at Ralph Englestad Arena resulted in a 5-1 victory for the Fighting Hawks. Denver split goaltending duties that weekend between Evan Cowley and Tanner Jaillet. Junior defenseman Matt VanVoorhis returned for his first game after suffering a concussion against CC on Nov. 6.
After a scoreless opening frame, senior captain Grant Arnold tallied Denver’s first (and only goal of the weekend) on an even-strength goal. Arnold converted on a one-timer from Tariq Hammond in the 22nd minute.
By the second intermission, the Hawks countered with three unanswered goals on Denver’s goaltender Evan Cowley. North Dakota’s “CBS” line combined for six points during the night to sweep the Three Stars of the game. Drake Caggiula finished with 1G-2A-2P, Nick Schmaltz totaled 1G-0A- 1P, and Brock Boeser tallied 2G-0A-2P.
The second game of the series marked the first (and only) shutout of the year for DU. North Dakota’s Austin Poganski scored the first goal of the game on a shorthanded breakaway opportunity in the closing seconds of the first period.
Early into the second period the Ottawa Senators prospect Quentin Shore generated a promising chance for Denver. Shore beat UND goalie Cam Johnson with a wrist shot, but was denied by the post.
At the midway point, the Fighting Hawks doubled their lead as Poganski netted his second of the night on a UND power play.
Denver star forward and Boston Bruins prospect Danton Heinen’s individual effort created a great look that was denied by a sensational save from UND’s goalie Cam Johnson and in the end, DU was shut out 4-0 to complete the sweep.
What To Expect This Weekend
With several adjustments made since December, Denver returns this weekend a different team than their first meeting with North Dakota.
Denver’s top line of Trevor Moore, Dylan Gambrell, Danton Heinen have combined for 70 points this season. Moore registered his 100th career point against Miami (OH) on Jan. 30.
Junior forward Matt Marcinew leads Denver in goals scored at home. Seven of his nine tallies were converted at Magness. Marcinew’s linemates Grant Arnold and Logan O’Connor have developed into a physical, energetic line which Head Coach Jim Montgomery relies on to continue momentum.
Freshmen wings Jarid Lukosevicius and Colin Staub have also stepped up to earn recent spots on the line chart. Defenseman Matt VanVoorhis also worked his way back into the lineup. The tenacious junior’s contributions have aided in Denver’s recent success.
Colorado Avalanche blue line prospect Will Butcher trails the top line with 19 points from five goals and 14 assists.
Evan Cowley and Tanner Jaillet will continue to split time in net as Montgomery has been going with the hot hand.
Despite UND’s successes this season, the team has struggled with injuries. 13 players have missed roughly 62 games due to injuries, which makes it even more remarkable that the Fighting Hawks have continued to win and maintain their status in the top 5. For the first time this season North Dakota will have a full lineup available against Denver.
The CBS line which has scored in every game together this season. They’ve combined for 88 points and a plus/minus rating of 82 and will be reunited this weekend after Schmaltz and Caggiula missed 4 games due to injury.
Caggiula returns healthy from a shoulder injury he received issuing a check during the game against Nebraska Omaha on Jan. 6. Schmaltz injured his lower body in practice three days after Caggiula’s injury, but is expected to play against DU.
Freshman forward Chris Wilkie missed five games after suffering a hand injury, but will play on Friday night.
While the CBS line will suit up, Austin Poganski and Luke Johnson are threats to be aware of as both forwards stepped up in the absence of Caggiula and Schmaltz.
Puck drop between the two conference rivals is set for 8:06 p.m. on Friday Feb. 12 and 7:06 p.m. on Saturday Feb. 13; a series well-worth watching.