DU Hockey Mailbag: Happy New Year and bring on the 2nd half

Photo courtesy of Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports

After a hiatus for the first half of the season, I’ve decided to revive the DU Hockey Mailbag for the second half. I started this last year as a way for fans to be able to find out things that we may not have touched on in recent articles or even on Twitter, as unlikely as that is. I didn’t do the mailbag for the first half for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is I started my job and it’s taken a bit of time to adjust and figure out my schedule. The important thing is that it’s back now.

Last year, I did this feature using questions from a combination of emails and Twitter. This year, I’m changing it up and only taking questions from Twitter. So if you have a question and it didn’t show up here, get on Twitter, follow LetsGoDU and ask away!

Over the weekend, DU went to Providence and came away with a tie and a loss. That’s definitely not the result Jim Montgomery and his team were looking for, but given that they were without Troy Terry and Henrik Borgström for the entire weekend and without Dylan Gambrell on Friday, overall, the weekend wasn’t completely terrible.

Now, without further ado, your questions:

This is a question that I’ve pondered for a little while, especially after the Calgary Flames nearly lured him away before this season started. Before I answer, I want to remind you that Montgomery did sign a 5-year extension with DU before this season started. However, if an NHL team comes calling, there’s a good chance that he’ll be able to take a job without breaching the contract.

Now, let’s say Monty does leave after this year. Who would I want to replace him? My initial reaction is to look at the current staff to see if there’s anyone that DU could promote. Current assistant coach David Carle, brother of DU’s only Hobey Baker Award winner Matt Carle, is the first name I’d throw out there.

When his playing career was cut short due to a medical condition, DU kept him on as an assistant coach under former head coach George Gwozdecky. When Montgomery was hired to replace Gwoz, Carle was retained as an assistant. He’s been absolutely instrumental in the recruiting success DU has had in the last few years and he’s proven himself as a great assistant under Monty.

The only factor working against Carle is his age. He’s only 27 years old and you’d be hard-pressed to find a coach that young. He’s already among the youngest assistants in college hockey. However, he’s learned under both Gwozdecky and Montgomery, so I’d be inclined to give him a shot if Monty is lured away by the NHL.

After the Providence series, this has become exceedingly clear to me. You have to have some combination of Dylan Gambrell, Henrik Borgström, and Troy Terry on the first and second lines. These guys are the offensive leaders for the Pios and they need to be on the ice to score goals. DU’s depth is good, but their scoring depth is lacking when they’re not on the ice.

If I had to pick an ideal top line going forward, though, it would probably be Jarid Lukosevicius on the left wing, Dylan Gambrell at center, and Henrik Borgström on the right wing. I’d also have Troy Terry centering the second line. Gambrell and Borgström have had some incredible chemistry when they’ve been on the ice together. Throw Will Butcher out there on the blue line with those two and you have a downright deadly scoring threat.

Troy Terry’s talent gives DU a lot of flexibility to shuffle up the top two lines as the game goes on, though. I’d generally start with that top line and give Terry some looks on the top line throughout the game. When Gambrell, Terry, and Borgström are all healthy and available, this team is damn near unbeatable. So watch out for Monty to give them as much ice time as possible over the course of the rest of the season.

Speaking of Borgström…yes, he’ll be back this weekend for ASU. If you remember, Borgström missed the last few games of the first half with flu-like symptoms…I’m not sure anyone ever actually figured out what he had. He did travel to Canada to play for Finland in the World Junior Championship and had significant ice time throughout the tournament.

Of course, the Finns didn’t have a good showing and escaped the relegation round with a 4-1 victory over Latvia. That means the tournament is over for Finland and, according to Mike Chambers of The Denver Post, Borgström is expected to be back with the Pios today.

The other Pio participating at the WJC was Troy Terry. The tournament ends tomorrow for the United States, so Terry will likely be back with the team by game time on Friday night. I mentioned on Twitter that there is a chance that Montgomery could decide to give him a night off to rest after playing an incredible tournament for the USA, but given how much DU missed him in Providence, I have a hard time seeing that happen, even against ASU.

Other injury updates? Emil Romig made his return to the line chart at Providence, which is a big deal. He sustained a bad lower body injury at North Dakota in October and was expected to be out 6-8 weeks, if not longer. Romig is a spark plug for the Pios so his return will give the 3rd or 4th line a big boost for the rest of the season.

I’ll end the mailbag with a tough one that isn’t necessarily about DU, but about the NCHC in general. We’re staying on the DU brand by being inclusive, so talking about the rest of the NCHC is always a good idea, right?

That first question is a tough question to answer. I think I have to stick with North Dakota here. While I do think North Dakota has (understandably) regressed from the super-team they were last year, I still think they’re good enough to finish in the top 3. The Fighting Hawks have been without Brock Boeser for a good chunk of the season to this point, so I expect a decent second half rebound.

This isn’t to say that WMU isn’t as good as I think they are (I’ve been hyping Western all season. They’re good). They’ve always had the size, but they’ve finally gotten some speed and talent to go with that size. They’re raw and inexperienced, but I think they have what it takes to finish at #4 ahead of SCSU, Omaha, CC, Miami.

Who do I think will win the Penrose Cup? That’s an unfair question at this point. It’s going to be either DU or UMD. UMD (24 pts) is a point ahead of DU (23) in the standings. The closest team to DU is WMU with 14. Anything can happen, but making up 9 or 10 points over the course of the last part of the season is remarkably difficult to do.

Looking at the comparative remaining schedules, I’d give a very slight edge to DU. UMD has more games against CC and Miamis, but they still have a series at North Dakota left on their conference schedule while DU’s toughest series is a trip to Kalamazoo to take on Western. Again, anything can happen and realistically, it’s a toss-up between DU and UMD at this point.

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