Denver Hockey series preview: University of Minnesota Duluth

Photo courtesy of DuluthNewsTribune.com

The Pioneers are back in action this weekend playing the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs for the first time since the National Championship back in April

With Thanksgiving in the rear-view mirror, let’s hope the Pioneers had plenty to eat because they’re going to need the energy this weekend when they take on the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.  This game has plenty of storylines including a National Championship rematch and Tariq Hammond playing the same team he injured his ankle against.  So for the third week in a row now, Pioneer fans can look forward to another great series of college hockey.

Head coach Jim Montgomery spoke to the media Thursday about seeing this series as an opportunity to improve their record in the NCHC.  The Bulldogs are currently 7-6-2 and are ranked 16th in the USCHO poll.

This will be the Pios’ first road series since Western Michigan so it will be interesting to see if Montgomery will play goaltender Tanner Jaillet both nights or work in freshman Dayton Rasmussen.

In league news, Pioneers forward Henrik Borgström was named the NCHC player of the month.

Strengths

Motivation

The Bulldogs and their fans are most likely going to be looking for some revenge after Denver beat them in last year’s NCAA Championship game.  Similar to St. Cloud State and North Dakota, Duluth is another big rival of the Pioneers so this series cannot be overlooked.  Records go out the window when these two teams face-off against each other.  The Bulldogs have been pretty good at home going 4-2-2 so Coach Montgomery knows this is a great road test for his team.

Distributed Production

The Bulldogs have scoring threats up and down their lineup.  Top scorers Riley Tufte, Peter Krieger, and Nick Swaney all play on different lines.  This will tough for Montgomery to game-plan around with Duluth not having one dominant line.

Denver Pioneers vs Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, NCAA Hockey
Photo courtesy of TheDenverPost.com

Opportunities

Inconsistency

The Bulldogs lost a lot of star power last season and are finding their identity this year with a lot of young players.  They have some nice notable wins against Minnesota and Minnesota State, but they have also been shutout twice in the last six games.

Young Defense

Five of the six starting defenseman are freshman featuring Scott Perunovich, Mikey Anderson, and Dylan Samberg.  The Pioneers need to be aware of their defenseman jumping into rushes and how they’re utilized on the point during the powerplay.  Watch for Montgomery to try and pin the Bulldogs in the own zone behind the net to force them to play in their own end.

Who to Watch

#7 – D – Scott Perunovich – 2G, 10A, +7

#27 – F – Riley Tufte – 6G, 3A (DAL 1st, 2016)

#25 – F – Peter Krieger – 4G, 5A, 43 SOG

#3 – D – Mikey Anderson – 3G, 6A (LAK 4th, 2017)

#4 – D – Dylan Samberg – 4A (WPG 2nd, 2017)

#32 – G – Hunter Shepard – 7-5-0, .903 SV%, 2.44 GAA

Prediction – Pioneers Sweep the Bulldogs

“Back to Work” must have been the mantra at Magness Arena this week.  Hopefully everyone enjoyed their week off, but it’s time to get our hands dirty again.  I anticipate the Pioneers power-play will be too much for goaltender Hunter Shepard and the Bulldogs to handle who have given up 15 powerplay goals on the year.  Troy Terry and Henrik Borgström have been red-hot coming into this series and I expect more of the same.  Montgomery will have his team continue to have their foot on the gas, especially when it comes to division foes.

Twitter Follow – @UMDMensHockey

Where to Watch/Listen 

Friday – 6:07pm MT, MY-9 TV, ESPN Denver 1600

Saturday – 6:07pm MT, MY-9 TV, 104.3 The Fan