DU Hockey Mailbag: The Battle on Blake is Finally Here

Photo Credit: Brent Lewis, The Denver Post

It’s been a long 9 and a half months since the Battle on Blake was announced last May. The excitement has built since then with various events and announcements. It’s finally going to culminate in, yep, you guessed it, a game. They’re actually going to play hockey at Coors Field this weekend!

If you haven’t been following LetsGoDU on Twitter, you’ve been missing out on a number of announcements regarding this weekend including what DU will be wearing against CC. If you missed that, no worries, just go ahead and click here.

This week’s mailbag will be focused on the Battle on Blake and the Gold Pan Rivalry in general. Don’t forget, this is a rivalry week, after all. So here we go.

Sure the Battle on Blake is this weekend, but more importantly it’s CC week. I wasn’t able to watch the first two games in November. What should I watch for this weekend?
Sharon in Englewood

Great question, Sharon. As you know, DU did come away with the weekend sweep over CC in November with 5-3 and 3-1 victories. CC put forth valiant efforts, but DU was just the better team that weekend. One of the things I noticed that weekend was that DU took CC somewhat lightly at times. DU had a 4-1 lead going into the 3rd period and just 8 minutes into the final frame, that lead had been cut to 4-3. A late Matt Marcinew empty-net goal gave DU some insurance, but DU wasn’t happy with its 3rd period effort.

Saturday’s game at the World Arena was a bit lower stress for DU fans as it was a low-scoring 3-1 final. After a scoreless opening period, the Pioneers took control of the game and there was never a feeling that CC would jump back into the game. Our own Sasha Kandrach also wrote a great preview for this weekend here.

One of the main things to look for tonight and Saturday is DU’s top line, dubbed the “Pacific Rim Line.” Trevor Moore, Dylan Gambrell, and Danton Heinen have paced the Pios in recent weeks including a combined 18 points in the two games against North Dakota last weekend. CC’s defense isn’t exactly at the same level as North Dakota’s so I’m looking to see the Pacific Rim Line take over both games this weekend. This line is good enough to carry this team very far in both the NCHC and NCAA Tournaments. This weekend is likely just another step toward the postseason for this line.

CC has been playing much better of late. They’ve only won twice in 2016, but those victories were AT St. Cloud State and against Omaha. They also tied North Dakota in Grand Forks. Might CC steal one this weekend?
Worried Pio in Denver

CC has indeed been playing much better hockey since the calendar switched from 2015 to 2016, but the fact is, they’re still not very good. They’re young, inexperienced, and they’ve been getting beat up regularly.

That being said, CC always has a chance when the Black & Yellow and Crimson & Gold hit the ice together. It’s been that way since the inception of this rivalry 60+ years ago. In recent years, the Tigers have generally taken this rivalry more seriously than the Pioneers have. They know they can’t compete with most of the big boys, but they also know that weird things happen in this series.

I don’t see the Tigers coming out of this weekend with a W. DU has been playing the best hockey of almost any team in the country in the last month and a half. That 8-1-1 record in their last 10 games is no fluke. That sweep of North Dakota was no fluke. This is a very good team that has really come into its own of late.

I do think both games will be close this weekend, but DU’s talent level is just too high for CC to skate with them for 60 minutes. I could be wrong, but I see DU sweeping the season series and extending their winning streak against CC to 8.

What do you think the atmosphere will be like at Coors Field on Saturday?
Jim in Cherry Hills

Jim, I’m not quite sure what to expect. There have been reports that upwards of 30,000 tickets have already been sold for the Battle on Blake. But that number can be a bit deceiving, at least as it relates to the atmosphere. You’d think that would translate to a loud, exciting atmosphere, but it’s hard to say what kinds of fans will attend.

I know both student sections will be full and raucous as always. They’ll add a lot of energy to the crowd like they usually do. As far as the make up of the rest of the crowd, I think a pretty solid proportion of the stadium will be made of Avalanche fans who got priced out of the Stadium Series weekend. I can’t imagine they’ll be particularly energized for either team. They’re likely going to just want to watch some good hockey at Coors Field.

I hope the atmosphere is good and full of energy, but it’s tough to call right now. This is going to be a good opportunity for DU to extend its brand to more hockey fans in Denver and hopefully boost home attendance numbers at Magness Arena.

Regardless, this is an exciting event for Denver and the state of Colorado. Hockey in Colorado is growing and this weekend is just one example of that. I hope that answers your question as far as Saturday goes!

With that, it’s time to watch some hockey. DU is in Colorado Springs tonight for game one of the series. Remember, regardless of how this weekend turns out, DU has already clinched the 2015-16 Gold Pan by virtue of their two victories in November.

Enjoy this weekend, Pios. This is one of the biggest moments in the history of DU Athletics.

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