The good news? February 9th to February 25th, we will be watching the USA vie for an Olympic medal in hockey. The bad news? The team will be absent NHL stars and may have some current Pioneers on their roster. Should USA Hockey select any of the Pioneers for their roster, the Olympic schedule would leave the Pioneers at least a bit shorthanded for the Colorado College (home & home) and St Cloud (away) series. Still, not a major blow if the Pioneers lose a few players – but each regular season game is critical to the eventual NCHC Standings.
USA head coach Tony Granato told College Hockey News that the team could include 5 or more US college hockey players for the Olympic tournament.
According to multiple sources, DU’s Troy Terry and Dylan Gambrell are on the Olympic ‘watch list’ for the USA team. And Finland is likely to take Henrik Borgstrom to fill out their Olympic roster. So, Denver may be playing shorthanded and that does not include possible injuries. Add camps and exhibition games and participants will be missing a chunk of their college regular season. Then, there is the international travel (Pyeongchang, South Korea) and the ‘hangover’ from expending energy during an Olympic tournament.
To make things even more interesting, Granato has big expectations for the US squad. “We expect to compete for a medal, and this will be no different,” Granato said to the LA Times. But that will take coaching, camps, and practices to meet those expectations. So, expect Granato to go after the best college talent – which means he’ll be looking hard at the Pioneers.
And surely, there will be camps and practices leading up to the Olympics which might take players away from their teams’ league games and practices as well.
And what about the NCHC regular season race? Remember, in the 2016-2017 season, Denver was 18-3-3 with 59 points and second place Duluth finished 15-5-4 with 52 points. The margin was still relatively thin – and that was with Denver at full strength led by former Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher. Now, take away some of Denver’s strongest players for 3-4 series (or maybe more) and the NCHC could turn into a real dogfight.
And the same goes for DU star Henrik Borgstrom who will have the same time demands for the Olympics but, potentially, additional dates to prepare with the Finnish squad.
It will take a very deep team, focus and great coaching from Jim Montgomery and the Pioneers this season to match last season’s win total with the potential absence of key stars during the heart of the conference play.