Photo courtesy Aaron Lavinsky, Star Tribune
Well here we are just three weeks into the Denver Pioneers hockey season and they are already headed into the belly of the beast. This weekend the Pios travel to Boston to take on the Boston University Terriers (#6) on Friday and the Boston College Eagles (#19) on Saturday. The Pioneers are still #1 in the USCHO poll after their series with Lake Superior State last weekend where they came away with a tie and a win. The NCHC is well represented in the USCHO poll with St. Cloud State just behind Denver at #2, the University of North Dakota at #4, and the University of Minnesota-Duluth at #10.
The Pioneers played both Boston College and Boston University last year at Magness Arena less than a week apart. The Pioneers fell to the Eagles 3-1 after goaltender Joseph Woll stopped 40/41 shots in the Ice Breaker Tournament. Later that week, the Pioneers hosted the Terriers and won 4-3 in a game that featured current Arizona Coyote Clayton Keller. Denver scored the first three goals of the game, but even after a strong comeback BU wasn’t able to tie it up in the final moments of the game.
This year between BC and BU, they have a combined 17 players drafted to NHL teams, 5 with BC and 12 with BU. And that doesn’t count standout freshman Brady Tkachuk.
Agganis is the place to be this Friday!
— BU Men’s Hockey (@TerrierHockey) October 24, 2017
These two games will be a big test to the Pioneers even though their stars know what it takes to play a good road game. Boston University’s Agganis Arena will be a hostile environment on Friday as BU will be looking to knock the Pios off their #1 seed.
Boston University Record: 3-2-1
Boston College Record: 1-3-1
BU is one of the most prestigious hockey programs in the country, therefore they always get the cream of the crop in terms of prospects. This year they added three defenseman and six forwards to their 2017-18 roster featuring Shane Bowers, David Farrance, and Brady Tkachuk.
Tkachuk has already been turning heads at BU as a freshman who already has four assists. He is projected to be a top first round selection in the 2018 NHL Draft.
The Eagles added six freshman to their roster for the 2017-18 season including one defenseman and five forwards. Forwards Logan Hutsko, Jacob Tortora, and Christopher Grando have already made early contributions this season collecting 4, 3, & 2 points, respectively.
Both Hutsko and Tortora were on the United States Under-17 & Under-18 National Teams. Grando played two seasons in the United States Hockey League for the Green Bay Gamblers where he scored a total of 54 points.
The good thing about Boston University’s hockey team is that when they lose a handful of NHL prospects, they add just as many in next year’s freshman class. Here is what the Terriers lost last season.
- Clayton Keller is with the Arizona Coyotes
- Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson is with the Providence Bruins
- Charlie McAvoy is with the Boston Bruins
- Kieffer Bellows has signed an entry-level contract with the New York Islanders and is currently playing with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks
- Nick Roberto is with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays
- Doyle Somerby is with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters
- Tommy Kelley is with the ECHL’s Manchester Monarchs
It is extremely tough to maintain a good hockey team, especially if you lose your five leading scorers. Austin Cangelosi, Matthew Gaudreau, Colin White, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Scott Savage all graduated or signed pro at the end of last season.
- Cangelosi is with the New Jersey Devils AHL affiliate, the Albany Devils
- Gaudreau is with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers
- White signed an entry-level contract with the Ottawa Senators
- Fitzgerald was a 4th round selection of the Boston Bruins and is with their AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins
- Scott Savage is with the ECHL’s Jacksonville Icemen
This team has a lot of talent on the ice and can score at will. BU currently averages 34.2 shots per game with an average of three goals per game. The Pioneer defenseman will be tested a lot during this game with a focus on a heavy forecheck from the Terriers.
The Pioneers need to stay away from the penalty box in this game because the Terriers power-play is lethal. BU is currently 8-24 executing on 33% of their power-play opportunities. A lot of that has to do with their body position in front of the net, courtesy of 6’5 240-pound Jordan Greenway.
The Eagles have a phenomenal goaltender in Joseph Woll. Although it seems like he’s not getting as much scoring support as last year, he can still take over games. BC is also averaging 27 shots per game so the Pios will need to limit shots from high scoring areas for Tanner Jaillet.
BC captain Michael Kim was on of the most impressive defenseman I saw last year at Magness Arena. He wasn’t the biggest guy but he could skate very well and was great at exiting his zone clean.
It’s hard to find any flaws in this team, but the Pioneers need to get into BU goaltender Jake Oettinger’s head. Drafted in the 1st round of the 2017 NHL draft by the Dallas Stars, Oettinger has all the talent in the word but he has been beatable this year especially on the power-play where he has already allowed 7 goals.
The terriers are also allowing an average of 32 shots from their opponents. The memo from coach Montgonery should be for the Pioneers to get the puck in deep, win board battles, and shoot from anywhere. This is the type of game that will be so close that the winner will most likely come out on top because of a lucky bounce or two.
The Eagles are committing an average of 5.4 penalties per game and giving up an average of 31.2 shots per game to their opponents. If the Pioneers play the way they did against Lake Superior State, Joseph Woll could be in for a long night.
Another weakness to consider is the Eagles power-play. They are just 3-16, converting on just 18% of power-plays. The Pioneers generally play a pretty clean game, but in case they get in penalty trouble their PK unit should be able to stop BC.
Who to watch
#14 – F Bobo Carpenter – 5G, 3A
Congratulations to Bobo Carpenter for being named this week’s Student-Athlete of the Week! pic.twitter.com/PActAgzkWP
— BU Athletics (@BUAthletics) October 24, 2017
#21 – F Shane Bowers – 4G, 4A
#27 – F Brady Tkachuk – 4A
#7 – D Chad Krys – 4A
#29 – G Jake Oettinger – 3-2-1, 2.61 GAA, .916 SV%
#5 – F Casey Fitzgerald – 2G,2A
#27 – F Graham McPhee – 2G, 2A
#4 – D Michael Kim – Team Captain, 11SOG
#31 – G Joseph Woll – 1-2-1, 2.71 GAA, .898 SV%
Prediction – Pioneers lose to BU, beat BC
This is a very difficult series to predict. I think because the Eagles have lost so much talent from last year that it will be difficult for them to keep up with Pioneers. But Friday night, the Terriers will want to make this a statement game. There will be scouts galore at this game that is loaded with NHL talent, making every player wanting to play their best.
Both DU and BU have benefited from their freshman sticking around for another year and getting valuable experience in two very competitive divisions. It’s very possible this could be a Frozen Four preview. The keys for the Pioneers will be to play a simple game, get an A+ performance from Tanner Jaillet, and capitalize on any and all BU mistakes. Henrik Borgstrom has been red hot coming into this series and this is his opportunity to show a huge college hockey market how elite his skills are.
I’m predicting the Pios go 1-1 this weekend, but hopefully we’re pleasantly surprised.