Denver Hockey series preview: Colorado College

Photo courtesy of DenverPioneers.com

The Battle for the Gold Pan should be less about history and more about progression for this year’s Pioneers

Winning an NCAA Championship can do a lot for a college hockey program.  It can put them on the map, it can make their team a bigger threat, and it can give the team’s players reason to walk with their heads held high.  But when you’re the University of Denver and you’re running out of fingers for championship rings, no championship is worth more than this year’s.

With a record of 9-3-2 and the #1 ranking in college hockey, head coach Jim Montgomery still seems to never be satisfied.  He preaches playing a “team-game” constantly and harps on constant improvement.

This weekend, Montgomery’s Pioneers take on Colorado College, a storied rivalry that means a lot to a lot of people.  But like the last couple series against tough NCHC opponents, the Pioneers have to view the Tigers as just another test.  Last season, the Pioneers faced the Tigers a total of six times and held them to under one goal in every game.  But with a much-improved team, coach Mike Haviland probably has something in store for the Pioneers.

Rivalry games like these tend to get quite heated but the Pioneers have shown good composure this season.  The series with St. Cloud State and North Dakota have prepared them well for another physical series with CC.  Hopefully, the scoreboard can do most of the talking for the Pioneers this weekend.

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Photo courtesy of the Colorado Springs Gazette

Strengths

Experience

The Tigers have a handful of leading scorers that are upperclassmen who were all there last season when Denver swept them.  Hockey players tend to remember what happens in their games, especially from the previous season.  There is no question Mike Haviland has his boys watching the film from Western Michigan series trying to expose any flaws in the Pioneers system, but how opportunistic they can actually be will be the question.  Denver doesn’t make too many mistakes, and CC has to do their best to play a clean game.

Top Line

The CC top line of Halloran, Bergh, and Bradley can be deadly.  They will be getting all of the scoring chances in the offensive zone and the Pioneers defense will have to do their best to contain them.  They did a great job with Ryan Poehling of St. Cloud State and Grand Mismash of North Dakota, but this is a three-headed monster.

Opportunities

Swept

The Tigers are coming into Denver after being beaten up pretty badly by the St. Cloud State Huskies.  Losing games 6-1 then 5-1, it can’t be easy going from the No. 2 ranked college hockey team to the No. 1.  The Pioneers have a mental edge on the Tigers, but that will give even more reason for CC to make it hard for Denver this weekend.  The last thing the Pioneers need though is an injury.

Late Game Shots

The Tigers are getting edged slightly by opponents in goals and shots, but no stat is more glaring than their 3rd period shot differential of -32.  The Pios will need to take advantage and take hard shots to the net late in the game.  It will be key for the Pioneers to score some even-strength goals too, especially if the refs aren’t allowing any funny business.

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Mason Bergh, Photo courtesy of USCHO

Who to Watch

#13 – F – Nick Halloran – 5G, 14A, 41SOG

#15 – F – Mason Bergh – 9G, 9A, 40SOG

#14 – F – Trey Bradley – 3G, 9A

#27 – D – Ben Israel – 1G, 5A, +4

#1 – G – Alex Leclerc – 7-7-0, 2.88GAA, .909SV%

Prediction – Pioneers win Friday, tie Saturday

There are just some teams that know how to push your buttons and push you to the brink of insanity.  Colorado College will forever be that thorn in the side of the University of Denver, and vise versa.  This weekend as Denver continues to experience defensive depth issues, it’s possible their biggest rival takes them to OT one of the two nights they play.

Twitter Follow – @CC_Hockey1

Where to Watch/Listen 

Friday @ Magness Arena – 7:05pm MT, Altitude 2, 104.3 The Fan

Saturday @ Broadmoor World Arena – 6:07pm MT, 104.3 The Fan