Denver Hockey Series Preview: Lake Superior State University

Photo courtesy John Leyba, The Denver Post

On Friday night at Magness Arena, the University of Denver Pioneers and their fans will raise the school’s eighth National Championship banner putting some closure on a historic season.  Although there were a few individual awards handed out to Pioneers by the NCAA at the end of the year, coach Jim Montgomery and company know last season was a team effort.

Last week the Pioneers kicked off the 2017-18 season on the road in South Bend when they took on the Fighting Irish, a team Denver knocked out of the Frozen Four last year.  There’s no question revenge was on the minds of the Notre Dame players as the series was physical from the get-go.  In the end, the Pios won the first game in a shootout, though it will officially go down as a tie, and won the second game 4-2.

It was clear after the weekend was over that coach Jim Montgomery has his team firing on all cylinders again as the Pioneers return to Denver for their home opener ranked #1 overall in both the USCHO and USA Hockey/USA Today polls.  But the Pioneers need to focus on the task at hand, which is the Lake Superior State Lakers.

Many times when a team raises a banner celebrating a successful season, they are vulnerable to a trap game.  The visiting team has extra motivation to spoil the party and catch their opponents by surprise.  This may be the approach the Lakers will try to impose on the Pioneers, but being caught unprepared isn’t part of the culture of DU hockey.  In front of a packed house, Magness will be rocking all weekend with fans celebrating last year’s team, and demanding more of the same from this year’s.

Who’s In?

The Lakers currently have just one player that has been drafted to an NHL team.  Sophomore defenseman Steven Ruggiero was a 6th round selection of the Anaheim Ducks in 2015.

Their freshman class features forwards Hampus Erikkson, Max Humitz, and defenseman Lukas Kaelble.  The total class included two goaltenders, two forwards, and four defensemen.

Who’s Out?

Last season, the Lakers finished with a record of 8-13-7 in the WCHA and 11-18-7 overall.  One of the brights spots of last year was forward Mitch Hults who led the team in scoring with 34 points.  Hults was going to be a senior at Lake Superior State but he decided to sign an entry-level contract with the Anaheim Ducks after his sophomore season.  He is playing his first year of pro hockey with the Ducks’ AHL affiliate the San Diego Gulls.

Another loss for the Lakers was junior goaltender Gordon Defiel.  Defiel started three seasons for the Lakers but decided to go pro and signed with the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL.

LSSU Strengths

The Lakers take an average of 12 penalty minutes per game but have been successful killing them off going 13/17 this season.  My guess is that they will try to muck up this game as much as possible to keep it a low scoring series.

There is some talent on this team up front that the Pioneers should also to be aware of.

LSSU Weaknesses

In their first four games, the Lakers have allowed 13 goals and have scored 11.  They are also averaging 24 shots per game.  Last season they had a road record of 3-13-4, and are 0-1 this season.

The key for the Pioneers will be to get in their rhythm early and get on the board.  The Lakers aren’t a great road team and were not successful last season coming back from deficits.

Who to watch

#7 – Forward J.T. Henke – 2G, 4A

#17 – Forward Anthony Nellis – 3G, 1A

#6  – Defenseman Lukas Kaelble – 3A

#22 – Defenseman Aiden Wright – Team Captain

#33 – Goaltender Nick Kossoff – 3PG, 1-2-0, 3.37GAA, .894 SV%

Prediction – Denver Sweeps LSSU

Last season the Pioneers were very good at home posting an overall record of 16-3-2 and a 7-2-0 home record against non-conference opponents.  Lake Superior State has some nice players, but it will take a lot of things to go right for them to come away with a road win.

Last weekend in South Bend when Henrik Borgström scored on an odd-man rush on a beautiful setup by Adam Plant, he and his teammates celebrated a perfectly executed play.  But there was something special about their celebration.  It wasn’t the kind of celebration that you have after something goes your way or happens accidentally in your favor.  The Pioneers celebrated their commitment to hard work instilled by their head coach Jim Montgomery who believes teamwork comes first, followed by everything else.

This Pioneers team has talent, skill, and the experience to steamroll their way to another successful season.  The challenge they face now is focus and determination.  As they continue defending their National Championship, the Lake Superior State Lakers are just one of many opposing teams with their sights set on an upset.


10 thoughts on “Denver Hockey Series Preview: Lake Superior State University”

  1. Thanks for mentioning the Banner Raising on Friday night…at least some did… no publicity on it from DU. I called the ticket office to see if it was pregame or between periods. A young lady said they were opening the doors at 5:30 and were encouraging everyone to get there early, but not sure exactly when. Really? Great hockey program, once again poor communication with the fans.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Seems to be a common trend on many of the posts on here….DU’s Athletic Marketing does not seem to care or there is a buffoon running the show!


  3. OK, there is a lot of positive to focus on. Seems like there are some nice events planned for homecoming weekend, and the pregame homecoming event looks great.

    However, the handling of the banner ceremony kind of sucks. Yes, I see that DU is stating in some of their publicity that the banner raising is at 6:45 in a pre game ceremony. (Someone correct me if I’m wrong.) Problems: 1) People should not have to dig for this information. This is a major event for a program–those banners are the visual evidence in the arena of DU’s amazing hockey history. It’s a big event to see those rise to the rafters, where they will stay for 50 years or whatever. This deserves more publicity than being buried in an article about homecoming. A lot of DU fans will miss this event, because of how DU is handling it. 2) Why the eff are they doing this before the game??? When many people have not yet arrived, when people are scrambling for beer, still parking, perhaps filtering in from the pre-game event. Ridiculous. Do it between periods, when you have people’s attention, and when everyone is in the arena. Or do they have some puck shooting contest in between periods that is more important than this? Sometimes, I just scratch my head about how DU handles such things.


    1. What hockey program has ever not raised a banner pre-game? Would love to know how intermission would be a better option given the NCHC time restrictions that require the zambonis on the ice at intermission with at least 10 minutes remaining. Seriously looking forward to this response and all of your wisdom regarding DU Athletics.


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