Denver Hockey Series Preview: University of North Dakota

Photo courtesy of The Denver Post

The No. 4 Pioneers travel to Grand Forks North Dakota to take on the No. 11 Fighting Hawks in their second series of the season

After a sweep of the Nebraska Omaha Mavericks last weekend, it looks as though Denver is back to playing Pioneer hockey.  Goaltender Tanner Jaillet put the team on his back and recorded two consecutive shutouts earning himself the NCAA’s second star of the week.  Freshman Ian Mitchell scored a goal and four assists making him the NCHC’s player of the week.  And Mr. Borgström made the highlight reel once again.

In their current three-game win streak, the Pioneers have only given up one goal as they head into this weekend’s series against North Dakota.  Last time these two teams met, North Dakota starting goalie Cam Johnson was out with an injury, but he’s back for the Fighting Hawks.  This past weekend, North Dakota was swept by the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs 5-3 and 5-2, respectively.

One thing Denver did a great job of last weekend against Omaha was possess the puck well.  There were few turnovers and they kept their opponent’s scoring chances to a minimum.  And when the Mavericks tried to mix it up towards the end of the game, the Pioneers kept their composure and answered with goals.

Good hockey teams tend to tighten up on the road and play a simple game, which is exactly what the Pioneers need to do against a North Dakota team that is looking to rebound.  The Pios need to chip and chase in order to get behind the Fighting Hawks defensemen and keep it away from their talented forward group.  Look for grinders like Logan O’Connor and Colin Staub to play a big role this weekend.  The Pioneers know they gave up a three-goal lead to this team earlier in the year and will be sure to lock down any lead they get.

Strengths

Second Wind

The Fighting Hawks haven’t been quick out of the gate this year but have shown the ability to turn it on later in the game in terms of shot count.  It’s possible they start slow then start looking for chances in the second. Of their 803 total shots, 304 have come in the second accounting for 29 of their 76 goals.  This means the Pioneers can’t let up.  They will have to watch Christian Wolanin and Shane Gersich who have over 75 shots each on the season.

Top D Pairing

Many teams would be thankful to have just one top defenseman and the Fighting Hawks have two.  This season, Christian Wolanin and Colton Poolman have been impressive on both sides of the ice.  Both players have a fantastic +/-, are producing offensively, and have over 30 blocked shots.  The Pioneers have to do their best to clog up the lanes or clear the net so Tanner Jaillet can see pucks all the way.

Opportunities

Down and Out

The Fighting Hawks have had a tough go this season with conference opponents posting a record of 6-6-2 on the season.  They are coming off a hard series against Duluth where they got swept, whereas the Pioneers have momentum after sweeping Omaha.  It’s an opportunity to continue a great start to their second half of the season.  Wins against an archrival also seem to count a little more.

Make Them Pay

Last weekend the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs came away with two wins against the Fighting Hawks because they executed on several power plays.  The Pioneers need to do the same.  Top line players like Borgström, Troy Terry, Gambrell, Jarid Lukosevicius, and Ian Mitchell have been hard to stop all year, but they can’t get too fancy.  Entries haven’t been a problem, it’s really been corner battles.  Ian Mitchell has been noticeably more active finding lanes quickly from the point and causing chaos in front with rebounds.  The Pioneers need those kinds of dirty goals in this series.

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Photo courtesy of undsports.com

Who to Watch:

#16 – F – Grant Mismash – 6G, 9A (NSH 2nd, 2017)

#24 – D – Christian Wolanin – 7G, 14A (OTT 4th, 2015)

#8 – F – Nick Jones – 9G, 12A

#19 – F – Shane Gersich – 7G, 10A (WSH 5th, 2014)

#6 – D – Colton Poolman – 6G, 10A

#33 – G – Cam Johnson – 8-6-3, 2.17 GAA, .906SV%

Prediction – Push

As the season continues to be full of highs and lows, it gets harder to predict which Denver team is going to show up.  You either get a blue-collar working team or a group that can forget to play sixty minutes.  Regardless, they’re going to put up goals.  If they do find a way to keep a lid on North Dakota, it will be huge for the team’s confidence.

Don’t miss this series, especially if you like physical hockey.

Twitter Follow:  @UNDmhockey , @SchlossmanGF

Where to Watch:  

Friday – 6:37pm MT, CBS Sports Network, 104.3 The Fan

Saturday – 6:37pm MT, 104.3 The Fan

Notes

Four DU players/prospects named to NHL’s Scouting Mid-Term Rankings