Denver Hockey Series Preview: St. Cloud State

Photo courtesy of MinnesotaHockeyMag.com

The Denver Pioneers and St. Cloud State Huskies battle this weekend for early NCHC supremacy

It was all positive vibes last weekend when the Pioneers swept the Western Michigan Broncos.  Jarid Lukosevicious put on a show with five goals which earned him the NCAA’s first star of the week and the NCHC’s offensive player on the week.  Defenseman Ian Mitchell also won NCHC honors as the defenseman of the week.

But that was last weekend.

One of the things Denver needed to do to start this season is gain as much confidence before they start getting tested by other contenders.  And now that DU remains the only unbeaten team in Men’s Division I college hockey, they are coming into this series with St. Cloud with a running start.  But they’re still far from perfect.

Against the Broncos, we started to notice the holes in sophomore goaltender Devin Cooley’s game.  Western Michigan gained momentum with a couple soft goals in the third period and he also continues to have some difficulty playing the puck behind the net.  Cooley has done a tremendous job this season, but he and the Pioneers will need to tighten up and eliminate mental mistakes as the team gets into the heart of their schedule.

St. Cloud State Huskies

The Pioneers are running into a red-hot St. Cloud team that is 7-1 and have only played two home games.  They are coming off a sweep of a good Colorado College team in Colorado Springs and have also beaten a bad Boston College Eagles team.  Although Bob Motzko isn’t behind the St. Cloud bench for the first time since 2005, the Huskies still have an identity of being a hard team to play against with a ton of skill, especially in the offensive zone.

The Pioneers are also running into a scorching-hot goaltender in David Hrenak.  At a perfect 5-0, the LA Kings prospect isn’t letting a whole lot in this season and don’t expect that trend to stop at home.  And with a solid defensive core in front of him led by senior Jimmy Schuldt, not a lot of shots are getting to the net.  In fact, the Huskies are limiting opponents to just 22 shots per game.

The Huskies’ special teams numbers are quite impressive this season too.  Their powerplay is almost 28% and their penalty kill is at 92%.  Denver has struggled early in the season with penalties which will make this a huge challenge for them.  There are a lot of young guys who got their first taste of NCHC hockey last weekend but against a struggling Western Michigan team.  St. Cloud right now is the cream of the crop so David Carle will hopefully come into St. Cloud with a game plan to keep the Pioneers competitive.

Who to watch

#11 – Forward – Ryan Poehling – 8GP, 3G, 5A (2017 1st – MTL)

#14 – Forward – Patrick Newell – 8GP, 6G, 5A

#22 – Defenseman – Jimmy Schuldt –  8GP, 1G, 6A

#12 – Defenseman – Jack Ahcan – 8GP, 1G, 10A

#1 – Goaltender – David Hrenak – 5-0, 1.40GAA, .940 SV%

Prediction – Pioneers drop both games to St. Cloud

The Pioneers have had a strong start and this is not an indictment of who the Pioneers are at this point in the season. Some deficiencies have yet to be exposed and this is the Pios’ first true road trip of the season. The cards are stacked steeply against them. Denver is still a team that lost a ton of top talent playing under a rookie head coach with a backup goaltender. Teams of years past have been able to win games on the road in this division because of elite talent.  But Henrik Borgström isn’t walking out of that locker room this time.  If the Pioneers find a way to win a game, it’s going to be because of veteran leaders like Colin Staub, Jarid Lukosevicius, and Michael Davies.

Twitter Follow – @SCSUHUSKIES_MH

Where to Watch/Listen

Friday – 6:07pm MT, NCHC.tv, ESPN DENVER 1600

Saturday – 5:07pm MT, NCHC.tv, ESPN DENVER 1600