No. 6 Denver travels to Omaha to face the Mavericks as they continue to chase Western Michigan and Minnesota Duluth in the standings
The Pioneers split their series with the Miami RedHawks last weekend before winning their rescheduled game at Colorado College on Tuesday 1-0. Now that they’re caught up with the rest of the NCHC in games played, Denver now sits just one point behind Western Michigan for the 3rd seed in the conference. With just four games remaining in the regular season, the Pioneers are fighting to host a game at Magness Arena in the NCHC playoffs this month.
Head coach David Carle best described the Pioneers situation when he said this week, “it’s all right in front of us.” Denver had an opportunity last weekend to catch Western Michigan in the standings, but they lost Friday night’s game to the Miami RedHawks 3-1 in a game that just slipped away from the Pioneers. The RedHawks featured a few big defenseman that gave Pioneer forwards a difficult time in the offensive zone, but Denver solved the Miami defense Saturday night defeating the RedHawks 5-2.
It was good to see the Pioneers break out for some goals Saturday night as the offense has struggled since late January. Jarid Lukosevicius had a pair of goals, as did Jack Doremus who scored both of his goals in a span of 17 seconds. The Pioneers showed they can be an explosive team offensively, and that showed when they continued to cycle in the offensive zone against CC.
This weekend will be huge as Denver takes on last place Omaha and Western Michigan hosts first-place St. Cloud State. While there are several scenarios that could play out and the final series with Colorado College that could be very meaningful, the reality is, if Denver gets some help from the Tigers against North Dakota this weekend and take care of business in Omaha, they could clinch home ice advantage for the first round of the NCHC Tournament this weekend. The Tigers put up eight goals against Western Michigan last Saturday, but were also shutout by Devin Cooley on Tuesday night.
With four games remaining in the regular season, we're two wins away from our 18th consecutive 20-win season
— Denver Hockey (@DU_Hockey) February 28, 2019
Omaha Mavericks (9-19-2)
Omaha has had a disappointing season in the NCHC going 5-14-1 against conference opponents. In head coach Mike Gabinet’s second year with the Mavs, it looked like the team would maybe take a step forward after a .500 season in 2017-18, but slow starts and an inability to score early hindered Omaha from turning a corner.
At Baxter Arena, the Mavericks are 7-8-1 but they have struggled in close games. They are 1-5 in one-goal games and 0-1-2 in overtime this season. Had some of those games gone their way, they may have had a different season, but giving up almost four goals a game and nearly 40 shots isn’t a recipe for winning hockey games.
Despite their overall record, the Mavericks still have some playmakers on their roster capable of lighting up the scoreboard. Seniors Frederik Olofsson and Mason Morelli are both point-per-game players and will be playing their last home games in front of the Omaha crowd. Same goes for senior goaltender Evan Weninger. The Saskatoon-native has played over 100 games for Omaha and has a career save percentage of .907.
Denver losing to Miami may have cracked the door open for Omaha to examine what made them successful against a top-10 team. Tape from last weekend’s series will probably show Miami defenseman Grant Hutton being very physical with Pioneer forwards and also being very dominant in his own zone by controlling the puck. The Pioneers have to know what other teams can see and know that physicality is coming.
Prediction – Pioneers split with Omaha
Intangibles are nothing to mess with in hockey, especially a phenomenon like senior weekend. Motivation comes in all shapes and sizes, and the Mavericks’ seniors may have a couple more tricks up their sleeves before they ride off into the sunset. Regardless of whether the Pios sweep or split, they should open the door to be right there with Western Michigan for the #3 spot in the NCHC. Hopefully, Denver can continue to get great goaltending this weekend from Cooley and/or Filip Larsson.
Twitter Follow – @OmahaHKY
Where to Watch/Listen
Friday – 6:07pm MT, NCHC.tv, ESPN DENVER 1600
Saturday – 6:07pm MT, NCHC.tv, 104.3 The Fan