Denver Hockey Series Preview: Boston College

How sweet it is for Denver to come home after a 10-day road trip with four wins in its back pocket.  The Pioneers also return to another familiar place this week as the top-ranked team in college hockey with 38 first-place votes in the USCHO poll.  The Pioneers showed that they can get scoring from all lines and continue to get production from their freshmen.  One key freshman is goaltender Magnus Chrona who will play his first games at Magness Arena this weekend.  Chrona remains perfect at 4-0 with a GAA of 1.75 and save percentage of .935, quite an impressive debut stretch.  He and the Pioneers will look to give Boston College their first losses of the season when the No. 6 ranked team visits Denver this weekend.

While it wasn’t a cakewalk earning back to back sweeps at Alaska Fairbanks or Lake Superior State, the Pioneers showed why they are one of the best teams in college hockey.  And although Denver is now on tape coming back to win games in the final minutes of the game, opposing teams have to game plan to keep the gas pedal down for a whole 60 minutes against the Pioneers.

Through the first four games, Denver has four players averaging at least a point per game including Liam Finlay, Ian Mitchell, Bobby Brink, and Emilio Pettersen.  It’s also no surprise that senior Michael Davies has a plus/minus of +6 on the season.  Davies is a player that makes sneaky good plays and always finds open space for his teammates.  There are also a handful of players who we haven’t seen produce yet who could break out.  The Pioneers are turning into a team where on any given night, a different player could step up.

It’s unlikely that Denver will sustain a 100% penalty kill rate over the long term, but that is a big reason why they have been able to claw back into games.  Their momentum has given the team a boost when they’re down a skater, and this energy will be amplified with home-ice.  It should be safe to say that we haven’t yet seen the best this Pioneer team has to offer and that may come this weekend against Boston College.

Head coach David Carle met with the media on Thursday before their homecoming series with Boston College.  When asked about what he liked through the first four games, Carle mentioned the Pioneers’ resiliency, their strong penalty kill, and their scoring depth.  On things the team can improve on, Carle pointed out having better starts and playing faster.

Carle said that Boston College doesn’t have many holes in its game which features a strong freshman class and a balanced lineup.  He also touches on the Pioneers’ recent #1 ranking in the USCHO poll, the performance of freshman goaltender Magnus Chrona, as well as the atmosphere this weekend in a sold-out Magness Arena.

In the news

  • Former Pioneers hockey head coach George Gwozdecky will be inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame class of 2020 along with Lindsey Vonn,  Bob Gebhard, Alonzo Babers, Terry Miller, and Erin Popovich
  • David Carle joined NCHC radio to preview their series with Boston College this weekend
  • Ian Mitchell and Bobby Brink shared NCHC honors as defenseman and rookie of the week, respectively
  • Former Pioneer Jarid Lukosevicious scored the first goal of his professional career with the Grand Rapids Griffins

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Boston College Eagles (2-0-0)

The Boston College Eagles are having a strong start to their 2019-20 season with wins against No. 17 Wisconsin and Colgate.  The Eagles have one of the best freshman classes in the country that feature 2019 first-round draft picks Alex Newhook (COL), Spencer Knight (FLA), and Matthew Boldy (MIN).  But as powerful as the newcomers are, the Eagles are driven by their veteran players.  Stacking the first line are seniors David Cotton, Julius Mattila, and junior Logan Hutsko.  That trio has combined for 14 points this season and has been the Eagles top threat offensively.

In net, goaltender Spencer Knight seems to be as advertised.  Knight is a tall goalie but is extremely athletic giving him the ability to make big saves on second-chance opportunities.  Coming out of the US Nation Development Program, Knight is considered by many as the best goalie in the 2019 Draft class.

Several Avalanche fans should be in attendance at Magness Arena this weekend to get a glimpse of their future in forward Alex Newhook and defenseman Drew Helleson.

Eagles head coach Jerry York joined The Perch podcast and spoke about facing Denver this weekend.  When asked about how the altitude could affect his team, York said, ” we’re in and out of there so quickly, we won’t let it affect the mind… We’re going to try and block that out.”

If the Pioneers want to shut down the Eagles, they will have to find a way to neutralize their top line and that won’t be easy.  It will be interesting to see which defensive pair coach Carle sticks on the Cotton line who could do a lot of damage below the goal line.  Players like Erich Fear and Griffin Mendel are likely your best bet.  And on the other side, the Eagles will have to find a way to slow down Liam Finlay and the young guns of Denver.

Prediction – All bets off

I was happy to be wrong about Denver splitting with Lake Superior State last weekend, but this week there isn’t much room for me to lean in either direction.  These are two historic hockey powerhouses colliding when both teams are loaded with top talent.  It should be a fantastic weekend of hockey and an incredible vibe at Magness Arena.  These are speed and skill teams that will wow you with plenty of dazzling plays, but the team that chooses to play a simple game will walk away with wins.  This series will come down to who wants to go get the puck in the corners.

Twitter Follow – @BChockey

Where to Watch/Listen

Friday – 7:07pm MT – tv: radio: 104.3 The Fan

Saturday – 7:07pm MT tv: Altitude 2/ radio: ESPN Denver 1600

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