Denver Hockey Series Preview: St. Cloud State University

Photo credit: USCHO

The Denver Pioneers host top-ranked St. Cloud State University this weekend at Magness Arena and their top priority should be shutting down defenseman Jimmy Schuldt

After what many would call an “uncharacteristic” series sweep at the hands of the Western Michigan Broncos, the #3 Denver Pioneers are already looking to their next opponent.  The St. Cloud State Huskies come to town for an in-conference matchup featuring the #1 and #3 college hockey teams in the nation.

Led by defenseman Jimmy Schuldt, the Huskies play a tight defensive game and have been very successful with their special teams units.  Their goaltending has been A+ with impressive wins against Minnesota State University and the University of Minnesota Duluth.

The Huskies have four players already drafted to NHL teams featuring centerman Ryan Poehling, the Montreal Canadiens 2017 first-round pick.  The Buffalo Sabres have the rights to 2015 4th round selection Will Borgen as well as 2012 7th rounder Judd PetersonMikey Eyssimont is a Los Angeles Kings 5th rounder from 2016.

There is no question the Pioneers will have their hands full at Magness Arena these next two weekends.  They host the now #1 and #2 teams in college hockey with North Dakota coming in next weekend.

There was some positive news this week when Pioneers captain Tariq Hammond was seen skating with the team in an orange non-contact jersey.  His timetable isn’t determined yet for his return.

Strengths

Goaltending

The Huskies are 7-0-0 and most of the credit belongs to the two-headed monster that is Jeff Smith and David Hrenak.  Both net-minders have a combined goals allowed average of 1.90 and each has recorded a shutout.  The phenomenal goaltending combined with a stout defense has resulted in only 13 goals allowed in seven games.

Goal Differential

Generally, the way you win hockey games is if you are good at putting the put in the net, and are also good at keeping it out.  St. Cloud State is pretty darn good at both.  Scoring 33 goals and just allowing 13, the Huskies have an astounding goal differential of +20.

It’s interesting to note that 45% of the Huskies’ goals have come in the third period.  The Huskies also give up roughly the same percentage of goals in each period to the opposition, further evidence of their strong 60-minute game.

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Photo Courtesy of USCHO.com

Powerplay

The Pioneers face yet another tough test on special teams this week as the Huskies tend to capitalize on their powerplays.  They have 11 powerplay goals and have converted 32% of their opportunities.

The Pioneers will need to keep a close eye on the point during the powerplay considering points leader Jimmy Schuldt leads the team with three powerplay goals.

Opportunities

Shots on Goal

Right now the Huskies are a well-coached, defense-first team.  They are averaging close to 33 shots on goal per game and allowing roughly 30.  This indicates the Pioneers offense will have a hard time getting clean shots through.  Look for coach Jim Montgomery to put a strong emphasis on net-front presence and rebounds against the Huskies.  If the Pios can shoot the puck low and cash in on some rebounds early, it might be the difference in an undoubtedly close series.

Physicality

The Pioneers are a skilled team with top-end work ethic.  This is a series that may require them to muck it up a little bit.  It may have been a blessing that the Pios dropped out of the top ranking this week so they can put new emphasis on getting it back.  When teams are so close in skill, games generally come down to turnovers, essentially who will make the first mistake.  Montgomery will have his boys ready to play this weekend and I bet he plans on having the puck in the Huskies’ zone, a lot.

Who to watch

#22 – D – Jimmy Schuldt – 5G, 7A, +12

#11 – F – Ryan Poehling (MON 1st, 2017) – 3G, 7A, +7

#23– F – Robby Jackson – 4G, 5A, 21 SOG

#34 – G – David Hrenak – 3-0-0, 1.65GAA, .946SV%, 1SO

#1 – G – Jeff Smith – 4-0-0, 2.00GAA, .930SV%, 1SO

Prediction – Pioneers sweep St. Cloud State

I know this prediction seems a little biased, but I truly believe the series loss to Western Michigan was a wakeup call for the Pioneers.  Last year’s championship team wasn’t perfect either, but the earlier a team discovers its flaws the faster they can improve.

This will be the hardest test of the season for the Pios and I believe they will prevail.  Games like these tend to be decided purely by raw talent and the Pioneers have that box checked.  This weekend should be a hard-hitting, intense matchup of a couple teams that have seen a lot of each other.  I’m predicting the Pioneers student section and the DU Whiteboard has a big influence in the series.

Twitter Follow:  @SCSUHUSKIES_MH

How to Watch / Listen:

Friday – 7:05pm, Altitude TV

Saturday – 7:05pm, Altitude 2, ESPN 1600

5 thoughts on “Denver Hockey Series Preview: St. Cloud State University”

  1. IMO a sweep of St. Cloud, though possible, is overly optimistic. It’s very difficult to overcome being shell-shocked last weekend and dealing with the mental realization that you can be soundly beaten…. Twice.
    The Pioneer’s offense definitely has the talent and experience. The defense, on the other hand, is suspect and still needs to prove they are capable of shutting down top teams.
    A split this weekend is more likely.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d be surprised if DU swept. I think last weekend revealed some serious flaws in DU’s d-zone coverage, and perhaps more importantly, flaws in the psychology of the team late in the game. I think we’ll see DU play a more fired up game, but they’ll need to be disciplined, as SCSU has the skill to make them pay. Split.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. NCHC high quality teams like St. Cloud display balance. Time of possession seems to even up in league games. We may have fallen into a trap where we have let some defensive play lapse due to our offensive capabilities. Letting talented players muck the puck around in front of our net leads to disaster as we saw last week. Hopefully home ice matters and we get at least a split.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. After watching the film from both games last weekend, it’s pretty clear to me why DU squandered those leads vs WMU – for the most part, it wasn’t so much a schematic or talent issues as much as it was that WMU’s good players flat out won the puck battles in the Pios’ d-zone and out-competed the Pios when the game was on the line.

    I think you’ll see DU try to return to puck pressure in all three zones, and if the Pios can have success winning those puck battles, they should be in a much better position to win games.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, calling a sweep for DU is a bold prediction but I respect you having the stones to call that. I see split written all over this series. St. Cloud, under coach Motzko is consistently one of the least penalized teams in the Nation. That means DU will likely have to beat the Huskies-twice-five on five. St. Cloud is too talented and too disciplined to let that happen.

    Like

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