The No. 7 Denver Pioneers return home to host Miami University after an impressive split at Minnesota Duluth
With less than a month left in the regular season, the Pioneers proved they’re already ready for playoff hockey. This past weekend, Denver split their series with Minnesota-Duluth after a great 27-save shutout from goaltender Devin Cooley. Freshman Slava Demin had the lone goal in a tight game featuring the last two national champions. And with that pivotal road win, the Pioneers aren’t just a team that can give opponents a run for their money. They’re a team that can steal a big game on the big stage.
Before we get into the preview, the Pioneers announced their 2019-2020 non-conference opponents and they’re pretty good. Denver will host Boston College, Niagara, and UMass-Amherst. It’s doubtful that Avalanche top prospect Cale Makar will still be at UMass but they will still be good next season. Same goes for Boston College who features Islanders’ prospect Oliver Wahlstrom. The Pios will travel to Alaska-Fairbanks, Lake Superior State, and Arizona State.
Head coach David Carle speaks to the media before every series and he always has the same demeanor. He’s not overly emotional and he gives the same “we know what we have to do to win,” answers. In a lot of ways, Carle is a great role model for his young players who experience highs and lows every weekend. But Carle keeps an even-keeled attitude that promotes learning and a trend towards progress. He mentioned in this week’s interview that the Pioneers “played a full sixty minutes and got rewarded for it.” Hopefully Denver can put together a pair of wins this weekend in the last home series of the season before the playoffs.
— Denver Hockey (@DU_Hockey) February 21, 2019
This week, the NCHC did a special feature on the Pioneers freshman class and how they’re thriving in a program that has forced them to mature quickly as a group.
After losing 5 players early to NHL contracts after last season, @DU_Hockey didn't rebuild. They reloaded…
— The NCHC (@TheNCHC) February 20, 2019
Miami University RedHawks (10-16-4)
It’s been a tough season for the Miami RedHawks. They had some success early against non-conference teams but are just 4-12-2 against NCHC opponents. They did however have two impressive ties against St. Cloud State at the end of November, but 2019 hasn’t been kind to them. Until their February 9th win at home against Omaha, they had not won a game in 2019. They went 0-10-1 in their first eleven games of the new year.
Miami scores about two goals a game and currently has only one player with double-digit goals in junior Gordie Green (10). Junior goaltender Ryan Larkin has taken the bulk of the starts for Miami and is 9-10-2 with a goals against average of 2.66 and a save percentage of .915. Larkin’s starts aren’t bad, the scoring isn’t there for the RedHawks.
The Pioneers are facing the RedHawks who have been off since February 9th. They are likely to see a team who is willing to take some chances knowing they have nothing to lose. Coming off their first win in quite some time, the RedHawks will bring a lot of desperation to Magness Arena this weekend, hoping to spark a fire just in time for the post season to start.
A few players to watch are forward Karch Bachman and defensemen Derek Daschke and Grant Hutton. These three players make up for the majority of the shots for Miami. One other player to watch on the powerplay is senior Josh Melnick. He has four power play goals this year, but also leads the team in penalty minutes with 41. The RedHawks could play with nothing to lose and that could pose problems for Denver, but I don’t see the Pioneers falling behind early.
Here is Miami head coach Enrico Blasi on what the RedHawks need to do to be successful against Denver:
“You have to play well away from the puck. You have to defend well….and you have to limit your turnovers. Every little detail and play of the game is magnified this time of year. You have to focus on those things and play every shift like its your last.”
— The Brotherhood® (@MiamiOH_Hockey) February 18, 2019
Prediction – Pioneers sweep RedHawks
I ate my words from last week’s prediction where I had the Pioneers getting swept. They continue to prove me wrong and win in tough environments on the road. And they’re even better at home, that’s why they will come away with six points this weekend against Miami. The RedHawks have lost ten of their last twelve games, struggling against NCHC opponents. The trend will continue as Denver hopes to catch Western Michigan in the NCHC standings and solidify their spot in the top four of the Pairwise this weekend.
Twitter Follow – @MiamiOH_Hockey
Where to Watch/Listen
Friday – 7:07pm MT, NCHC.tv, 104.3 The Fan
Saturday – 6:07pm MT, Altitude, 104.3 The Fan