Photo Credit: NCHC
I landed in Minneapolis at 4:30 PM local time yesterday and I immediately swung into high gear. The NCHC Awards Ceremony started at 5:15 (I arrived late…rush hour traffic, man). I had to make sure I saw some Pioneers get honored.
In the end, Gabe Levin (Scholar Athlete of the Year) and Danton Heinen (Forward of the Year) were the only Pioneer honorees on the night. There were probably a few snubs, namely Jim Montgomery losing out to UND’s Brad Berry for Coach of the Year, but hey that comes with the territory.
It was clear last night that no one was here for an awards ceremony. Everyone wanted to get to the Target Center and get this weekend of hockey going. And I’m sure you want your questions answered before you sit down to watch this evening, yourself. So without further ado, lets get the mailbag started:
DU got simply outclassed by St. Cloud State at home in December. Do you see that being any different this weekend? What do you see happening on the ice between the Pios and the Huskies?
Mike in Denver
Great question, Mike. You’re right. DU got run out of their own building by the Huskies in December. It was disappointing for everyone in attendance. The holiday break couldn’t have come at a better time for Denver. They needed to recharge and hit the reset button.
I don’t need to tell anyone anything more about what the Pios have done since that SCSU series. 16-1-3 speaks for itself. It’s fair to say that this DU team will be completely different than the one we saw at Magness on December 11th and 12th.
Montgomery has said repeatedly that revenge isn’t on his or his team’s minds. They want to come into this weekend and focus on paying relentless Pioneer hockey. That’s all well and good, but it’s only human to want to give it right back to a team that embarrassed you at home if you got that chance.
Denver has been playing with more purpose and more awareness since those two nightmare weeks of hockey. The Pacific Rim Line woke up, the fourth line is giving this team the energy it needs at the right times, and they’re playing smart hockey.
I think we’re going to see a much different matchup tonight between the Pioneers and Huskies. Both teams are motivated. Both teams want to win this championship. I think it’s going to be a very close, high-scoring game. I think we could see a 5-4 or 6-5 game tonight. Even though both teams can play good defense, I think the offense will have the better play tonight.
Regardless of who wins, this is a game you don’t want to miss. It is going to be broadcast on NCHC.tv and I will be livetweeting from the Target Center press box on the LetsGoDU Twitter account. Don’t miss this game!!
Denver didn’t look like their normal selves against UNO last weekend. They looked sluggish and Omaha seemed to have a step on DU all weekend, with the exception of a few Pioneer bursts. Is this a concerning sign of things to come?
Bill in Castle Rock
Bill, I had the same reaction last weekend. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of DU’s lackluster performance. Omaha was absolutely the better team for the duration of both games. If I remember correctly, they hit ~7 posts over the course of the weekend and Tanner Jaillet had to come up with some mind-bending saves to keep Denver from snapping their winning streak. In short, I was scratching my head after last weekend.
However, there might be an explanation for that. DU had Finals Week leading up to last weekend. No matter who who are, whether you’re an athlete, or if you’re the smartest guy in the room (aka Gabe Levin), Finals Week is mentally and physically draining. Montgomery even said as much after game one.
I think that had a lot to do with their inconsistent performance on the ice. I can imagine practice that week wasn’t great either. I also think things are different this week. There aren’t many distractions this week. The Pioneers seem focused and ready to get back to work and keep winning.
So in short, I don’t think last weekend was a sign of things to come. This team has great leadership both on the coaching staff and on the roster. They’ll be focused and ready to get back to playing Pioneer hockey tonight.
You’re in Minneapolis for the Frozen Faceoff. What are you most looking forward to while you’re there?
Mary in Denver
Oh man that’s a great question. I could go on and on with what I’m looking forward to this weekend. If I had to pick one thing, it’d probably be just finally getting to watch DU play outside of Colorado. I’ve been to plenty away games in Colorado Springs to see DU vs CC and DU vs Air Force, but I’ve never been to a hockey hotbed like Minnesota, so I really think this is going to be a treat.
Of course this isn’t exactly a typical “road series” for DU, but it very well might play like one. North Dakota is here, so obviously their fans have come out in force. But the fans of the other two teams, St. Cloud State and Minnesota-Duluth, will likely be here in force as well. St. Cloud is just an hour’s drive northwest of Minneapolis while Duluth is a bit over two hours away.
In contrast, Denver is an hour and a half flight away. I’m sure I’ll see a few fellow Pioneers around the Target Center this weekend, but green, red, black, and maroon will likely be dominating the sights this weekend.
These three other teams have some of the most passionate college hockey fans I’ve ever seen, so I’m really looking forward to seeing that passion in person.
There you have it. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask me via Twitter throughout the weekend. I’ll answer them as I get them. This is a great weekend and already I can see this is going to be a great event with some fun hockey.
Remember, you can catch 3 of the 4 games this weekend on CBS Sports. Both games tonight and the championship game tomorrow night will be broadcast live on that channel. Be sure to check out the DU Spirit Facebook page to find the locations of various watch party locations around campus.