Photo courtesy of the CBS Denver
The Denver Pioneers ride a seven-game winning streak into the Battle for the Gold Pan
It had been a while since the Pioneers played at home in Denver, but they gave the students and fans plenty to cheer about last weekend against Omaha. After pulling out two close wins against the Mavericks, the #3 Pioneers have picked up some serious momentum winning their last seven games and eight of their last 10.
The Pioneers have proven that they can win non-conference games, but can they finish the season with consistent wins against top NCHC teams? They will have to keep the pressure on against CC this weekend.
Before we get into the preview, there were some more weekly awards that went out to Pioneer players. First off, defenseman Ian Mitchell and forward Jarid Lukosevicius were nominated as Hobey Baker finalists.
You can vote for them here: https://www.hobeybaker.com/vote
Also, goaltender Filip Larsson and forward Cole Guttman earned Goalie and Rookie of the Week honors from the NCHC. Larsson went 2-0 with a shutout last weekend while Guttman had a goal and an assist.
— Denver Hockey (@DU_Hockey) January 14, 2019
One thing that stood out in head coach David Carle’s scrum with the media this week was the team’s ability to continue to play “in the moment.” He praised the leadership group of the Pioneers for keeping the young group focused even when times got tough.
This is the kind of intangible quality that a lot of teams don’t have. Veteran leadership combined with a culture of winning will put the Pioneers over the top if they continue on this track this season.
Here’s David Carle discussing this weekend’s series against Colorado College:
— Denver Hockey (@DU_Hockey) January 16, 2019
Colorado College Tigers (8-12-2)
CC is coming into this home-and-home series losers of their last three games. The Tigers also took a huge loss last week when they lost star forward and top-line anchor Nick Halloran to a season-ending injury. Although things haven’t been able to click this season for the Tigers, there’s nothing they would like to do more than play spoiler with the Pioneers in the NCHC.
In net for CC will be junior Alex Leclerc who is 8-11-2 with a 2.68 GAA and a save percentage of .912. Leclerc has been a mixed bag in his three years with the Tigers, but he seems to be successful when shot attempts for the opponent are down or if he’s playing the Pioneers. He’s improved from years past but has often been on the losing side of close games, despite often Herculean efforts.
One players to watch for on the Tiger’s blue line is Zach Berzolla. Berzolla isn’t going to light up the scoresheet, but he isn’t shy about throwing his body around. He’s very good at clearing the crease and not letting pesky forwards hang around his goaltender. Although Olympic ice gives the Pioneers a skating advantage in Colorado Springs, the level of physicality will still be ramped up led by Berzolla.
Even though Halloran will be out for this season, the Tigers still have the other two players that were part of CC’s three-headed monster last year in Trey Bradley and Mason Bergh. CC is far less one-dimensional this year with some young players contributing, but Bradley and Bergh are still getting their points.
Prediction – Pioneers sweep Tigers
The Pioneers are rolling right now and there’s just too much talent on the ice for CC to compete with them right now. I don’t believe the score will get ugly, but the Pioneers need to come out of this series healthy for a big showdown at Western Michigan next weekend. CC won’t be laying down for two games and they will have a game plan similar to Omaha’s. They will be physical and try to pin the Pioneers in their own end hoping to force miscues. It will be tough to stop the high-octane transition game of the Pioneers though.
Twitter Follow – @CC_Hockey1
Where to Watch/Listen
Friday – 7:30pm MT, NCHC.tv, 104.3 The Fan
Saturday – 7:07pm MT, Altitude 2, 104.3 The Fan