photo courtesy of Shannon Valerio
Ian Mitchell is hitting has stride as the University of Denver Pioneers look to turn the corner. From the moment Mitchell stepped on campus he assumed an integral role in the No. 5 -ranked Denver’s lineup. Having graduated core depth within DU’s defensive unit, Mitchell quickly filled an essential role.
Early on, Mitchell established himself as a promising shutdown defenseman that doesn’t hesitate to join the offensive action. Joining the Pioneers’ top powerplay unit, Mitchell developed a wicked slap-shot. From the point, Mitchell has had a hand in many of Denver’s extra-man successes.
Against the No. 15-University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO) Mavericks on Friday, Jan. 19, Mitchell posted a career-high four-point game in Denver’s (13-6-4, 7-4-2 NCHC) 5-0 victory.
Adding three powerplay assists and his second-career goal; Mitchell was critical in shutting out UNO, the NCAA’s fourth highest scoring team, with 3.77 goals per game. Over the last ten games alone, the Mavericks (12-10-1, 5-8-0 NCHC) were averaging 4.2 goals per game.
“Ian Mitchell, I didn’t know he had four points,” Montgomery said. “He’s just so good, but quietly good. He’s not flashy, he’s just a hockey player that makes great decisions.”
Mitchell confidently cruised into the slot before slyly slipping the puck through the legs of UNO goaltender Evan Weninger at the end of the second-period to extend DU’s lead to 2-0.
“It feels pretty good, we got the win too,” Mitchell said. “It’s always nice to contribute and find the back of the net too. If we can carry that into tomorrow then hopefully we can win two games this weekend.”
The Calahoo, Alberta native is frequently paired with fellow Chicago Blackhawks prospect, Blake Hillman. The two have established such a rapport, they appear to be in-synch as a constant, dominant defensive unit throughout the challenges DU faced with injuries early on.
“He’s a hell of hockey player,” Montgomery said. “That being said, he’s doing things naturally now. He has an impact every shift. He doesn’t try and manufacture something every shift like he did previously in the year, he’s just managing the game.”
With the second-half of the season underway, the Pioneers are hopeful to ride the rising momentum and emulate a second-half run to those of recent seasons.
“These last four games we’ve started to play Denver hockey,” Mitchell said. “[Coach] Montgomery has been really happy with how we’ve been playing. We just need to keep building on this momentum and get onto a bit of a streak here.”