Photo Credit: Sasha Kandrach
The No. 7 Denver Pioneers are scheduled to host the No. 15 Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks on Friday, March 4 and Saturday, March 5th. The second meeting of 2016 between the Pioneers and Mavericks occurs with notable differences thanks to the discrepancy in recent results from both teams.
January 2016 Meetings
Following a much-needed winter break to regroup, the Pioneers returned to Magness Arena on the first of the New Year, where the Pioneers tied the Fighting Irish in both games of the series. Denver then, traveled to Baxter Arena to face UNO.
The Pioneers swept the Mavericks and delivered UNO’s first ever losses at their newly constructed Baxter Arena. Denver received a much needed boost of confidence, and ultimately, started their incredible second half run.
In the first game of the series on Friday, January 8th, sophomore goaltender Tanner Jaillet registered 35 saves to secure the 3-0 shutout. Denver’s blueliners dominated the scoreboard as Colorado Avalanche prospect Will Butcher finished the night with two tallies, while freshman Blake Hillman netted his first-career goal.
Saturday’s matchup resulted in a 4-3 victory for the Crimson & Gold, with contributions from four different Denver forwards and 25 saves for Jaillet. After a scoreless opening period, Evan Janssen was the first to get on the scoreboard for Denver thanks to a wraparound effort with 12:19 left in the second period. Just 35 seconds later, assistant captain Gabe Levin doubled the Pios lead 2-0. Early in the third period, Boston Bruins prospect Danton Heinen wired home a wrist-shot to extend the visitors’ lead 3-0.
The Mavericks countered quickly and tallied two goals to cut the three goal deficit down to one. Freshman forward Dylan Gambrell secured the victory for the Pios as he buried a loose puck on Denver’s power play. UNO found the back of the net once more, but the Pios held the Mavericks off to seal the sweep.
What To Watch For This Weekend
The Mavericks, now 8-13-1 in conference and 4-10 in the second half of the season dropped to 13th in the PairWise Rankings and will be looking to sweep or split the weekend with DU in hopes of keeping a tournament run in the picture. The Mavericks travel to Magness Arena following series losses to NCHC standings leaders, St. Cloud State and North Dakota.
UNO’s top line consists of; junior captain Jake Guentzel centers Austin Ortega (junior) and Fredrik Olofsson (freshman). Guentzel leads the Mavericks in points with 42 (17 G – 25 A) while Ortega comes in second with 31 points (19 G – 12 A).
Similar to DU, the Mavericks roster is youthful with ten freshmen, seven sophomores, four juniors, and just three seniors.
Freshman goalie Evan Weninger is 13-6 in net for the Mavericks and has a save percentage of .924.
Young and tenacious, the Mavericks still have a great deal to fight for and surely won’t spare the Pioneers the battle this weekend.
The Pioneers, now 15-5-2 in conference play and 12-1-3 in the second half of the season, have earned a seven-game winning streak for the first time this decade and climbed their way to seventh in the PairWise Rankings.
After an electric weekend playing in the first-ever outdoor hockey game in Colorado hosted at Coors Field in front of over 35,000 people two weeks ago, the Pioneers still have a lot to play for this weekend.
As the last home games of the regular season, Denver’s four seniors, Grant Arnold, Gabe Levin, Quentin Shore, and Nolan Zajac will be honored prior to puck drop on Saturday as they finish out their collegiate careers. Arnold, Levin, and Shore each lead their own lines, while Zajac typically starts with his defensive-pair, Tariq Hammond. An emotional night for each of the seniors will surely feed into their desire to earn two important victories.
The team’s strengths have emerged brilliantly during the second half of the season, as has their confidence and aspirations to make a deep tournament run; leaving no game or opponent behind.
The Pacific Rim Line consisting of Trevor Moore, Dylan Gambrell, and Danton Heinen have combined for 110 points this season and extended their point streak to seven games with all three skaters present and 18 games where at least one of the three was involved. In February, the Pacific Rim Line was the highest-scoring line in the NCHC. Individually, freshman standout Dylan Gambrell has generated at least one point in eleven consecutive games.
Denver’s talent extends far-past their top line providing a variety of threats, especially on the third line. Gabe Levin centers this line with Emil Romig and Colin Staub on his wings, both of whom have broken out in recent performances to provide the speed and high-pressure Coach Montgomery tends to send out for puck-drop.
Senior captain, Grant Arnold skates alongside junior center Matt Marcinew and right wing Jarid Lukosevicius. This fourth line bears a serious resemblance to the famed MASH line (Matt Tabrum, Larkin Jacobson, and Grant Arnold) from the high-flying 2014-15 outfit. The current fourth line trio provides elements of physicality and intensity that pick up and energize the team during lags.
Defensively, Will Butcher and Matt VanVoorhis asserted themselves as strong transitional blueliners. Both defensemen, of smaller stature, don’t allow size to intimidate them as they excel in eliminating space and working every inch of the ice. Additionally, Butcher and VanVoorhis fire shots almost every opportunity they get, increasing Denver’s threats on net.
Puck-drop is scheduled for 7:36 p.m. on Friday March 4 , as Denver celebrates the contributions made by the senior class and prepares to clash against the Mavericks sporting the throwback Battle on Blake jersey’s again.