DU Hockey Mailbag: The Real March Madness

Ain’t playoff hockey great? We’ve had two weeks of it already and there is more coming this weekend in Albany, NY; Worcester, MA; Cincinnati, OH; and St. Paul, MN. Of course, the regional the matters most to us here at LetsGoDU is the West region in St. Paul where the No. 7 University of Denver Pioneers will face the No. 12 Boston University Terriers on Saturday. The winner of that game will play the winner of the St. Cloud vs Ferris State matchup.

It’s been over a decade since Denver went to the Frozen Four. For a program with as much tradition as DU, an 11-year drought is pretty serious. That was part of the reason for George Gwozdecky’s firing and is the reason Jim Montgomery is so focused on earning a free flight to Tampa.

Of course, last weekend didn’t go quite according to Monty’s plan as the Pios lost to St. Cloud State and then tied North Dakota in the 3rd place game, but the ultimate goal is still within reach for Denver. “Skate for 8” isn’t just a cheesy hashtag for this year’s team. It’s a legitimate goal and expectation.

Onto the questions:

Is Danton Heinen staying or is he leaving after this year? This is killing me!
Chris in Denver

This is a question I’ve been both asking and getting pretty frequently over the past couple of weeks. Heinen speculation really came to a head this week since there are, at most, 4 games left for DU.

I received a tip early in the week about an article claiming that Heinen had already announced to DU that he was planning to leave the program. Through conversations I had after I read it, I learned that this simply wasn’t true.

Then the Denver Post’s Terry Frei wrote an article today about Heinen and his potential departure. Frei quoted both Montgomery and Heinen saying that no decision had been made and no decision will be made until the season is over.

Montgomery told Frei, “All I know is that we’re in the business of moving players on. If the Boston Bruins tell Danton Heinen that he’s ready to have an opportunity to make the NHL team, I think he should go sign a contract. But if they want him to play in the American Hockey League, he may as well get close to his degree and play his junior season. That’s just what I believe for any player, not just Danton Heinen.”

Heinen further explained to Frei, “I haven’t thought too much about it. I’m focusing on the playoffs and trying to win a championship here. After the season, if the opportunity comes, I’ll cross that bridge.”

What I gleaned from both my conversations and what I’ve read, these rumors have been overblown (I’ll take some responsibility for that with some of my Tweets). The sources for the original article that I read clearly weren’t reliable and at the moment, Heinen still hasn’t made a decision.

I have heard from my own reputable sources that the Bruins will push hard to sign him after this season. Whether that’s to an AHL or NHL contract remains to be seen, but understandably so, Heinen is a wanted asset and I’m sure the Bruins would like to see him contribute in Boston rather than in Denver.

Obviously the NCAA Tournament is upon us. What are your predictions and what does your bracket look like?
Holly in Oregon

Oregon! Thanks for reading, Holly! Your question is a good one. I struggled with most of the matchups in this year’s tournament. There is so much parity at this stage of the season that picking the higher seeds isn’t always the smart pick. Hell, just last year Providence, one of the last teams in, won it all. I am 100% confident that my bracket will be busted this weekend, but I went ahead and filled out two brackets, one biased bracket, and one unbiased bracket. They’re just below:

Biased Bracket
This is my “biased bracket” based on the teams I want to win each matchup.
Legit Bracket
This is my unbiased bracket. All of these predictions are based on what I actually think will happen.

You’ll notice that I didn’t pick the Frozen Four matchups. I chose not to pick those because you just never know what might happen in Tampa. If Denver does indeed make it to Tampa, I believe they’ll win it all, but I could probably be easily be convinced that they won’t.

In short, I have my ideas of what I think will happen, but I’m not confident in many of my picks.

Do you think Denver has a real shot at making it to Tampa this year?
Tim in Colorado Springs

Tim, I do think DU has a real chance this year.  The more I’ve thought and talked about it, December seems to be more of an aberration than something too concerning. The factors that played into those terrible four games against North Dakota and St. Cloud just seem to be so abnormal that I truly believe this weekend will be different.

Yes, Denver has already lost 4 games to two of the other three teams in their region (0-3 against SCSU and 0-1 against BU), but if it weren’t for a few bad bounces in two of those games (Frozen Faceoff against SCSU and OT loss to BU), those results could be completely different.

When he talked to Sandy Clough on the radio this morning, Montgomery said that DU’s only Hobey Baker winner and two-time national champion, Matt Carle called his brother, DU assistant David Carle and told him that this was the best team DU has seen since the 2005 NCAA Championship team. That is extremely high praise coming from a guy like Matt Carle and I think he’s absolutely right.

I believe we’re going to see a very focused and energized Denver on Saturday afternoon against the Terriers. I believe Denver will be the team that gets out of St. Paul and will be one of the final four teams alive.

We’re going to see some awesome hockey this weekend and you’re not going to want to miss any of it. Every tournament game will be broadcast on ESPN’s family of networks. DU-BU is at 4:30 PM MT on Saturday and will be on ESPNU.

We’ll be covering all of DU’s action this weekend, so be sure to follow LetsGoDU on Twitter.