Denver hockey series preview: North Dakota

Photo courtesy of NCHC.tv

Denver travels to Grand Forks this weekend for a series with the North Dakota Fighting Hawks

The Denver Pioneers had a week off to prepare for their series with the North Dakota Fighting Hawks, but you never know what you’re going to get when these teams collide.  Last season when Denver played in Grand Forks, both games were settled in overtime ties.  And as tight as the NCHC is again this season, both teams could be closely matched again.  The Pioneers will have to brave the cold as there’s a high temperature of 22 degrees on Friday in Grand Forks.

Denver is entering a stretch in their schedule where they will not play at Magness Arena again until January 11th when they host Omaha.  After this series, they will face Merrimack, UMass Lowell, and Wisconsin on the road which will conclude their non-conference opponents for the season.

In World Junior Tournament news, the Pioneers will potentially be without their top defenseman around New Year’s as Ian Mitchell will possibly join Team Canada in the tournament. Forward Emilio Pettersen will represent Team Norway in the Division I Group A Tournament in Germany. Pettersen will not miss any time with the Pioneers as Norway does not begin play until after this weekend.

North Dakota Fighting Hawks

Much like Boston University in Hockey East, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks who are generally at the top of the conference have found themselves falling behind in the NCHC.  With an overall record of 8-6-1, North Dakota isn’t scoring as much as they usually do, averaging just 2.60 goals per game on 31 shots per game.  But looks can be deceiving, especially in this conference.

Leading the team in goals with eight is senior forward Rhett Gardner. Predators prospect Grant Mismash is providing some offense, but the Hawks’ freshmen haven’t found their groove yet.  Defensively, the Hawks have had some turnover but there is still a lot of talent on the blue line.  The group is led by junior Colton Poolman and now features two freshmen drafted in 2018 by Ottawa in Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jonny Tychonick.  The Pioneers will need to make sure to keep an eye on the two mobile defensemen who will definitely try to jump into the rush.

In net, freshman Adam Scheel is having a great season for North Dakota.  He’s a big goalie at 6’4″ and has beat some pretty good teams this year.  In his last start,  Scheel only allowed one goal and had 28 saves against Minnesota-Duluth.

Who to watch

#29 – Forward – Jordan Kawaguchi – 3G, 8A

#22 – Forward – Rhett Gardner – 8G, 1A (2016 4th, DAL)

#16 – Forward – Grand Mismash – 5G, 4A (2017 2nd, NSH)

#24 – Defenseman – Jacob Bernard-Docker  – 3G, 6A (2018 1st, OTT)

#6 – Defenseman – Colton Poolman  – 3G, 2A

#31 – Goaltender –Adam Scheel – 7-3-1, 1.98 GAA, .910 SV%

Prediction – Pioneers split with Fighting Hawks

Both teams know these conference games mean a lot and it seems like the Fighting Hawks are focused on finding more consistency in their game.  This series will be tight checking with little scoring.  Chances will be few and far between for both teams, but with a bit of road experience under their belt now, Denver’s young guns have the ability to steal a game at The Ralph.

Twitter Follow – @UNDmhockey

Where to Watch/Listen

Friday – 6:37pm MT, NCHC.tv, ESPN DENVER 1600

Saturday – 6:07pm MT, NCHC.tv, 104.3 THE FAN