Denver Hockey Series Preview: Minnesota Duluth

Last weekend’s celebration of the 70th Anniversary of Denver Hockey was quite the spectacle.  Having generations of players on the ice together celebrating the program was something really special to witness.  If you missed it, make sure you check out Puck Swami’s recap of the celebration.  The Pioneers improved to 8-0 after the sweep of Niagara and now begin their conference slate starting with the back-to-back national champion Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs.

There was one brief scare last weekend against Niagara when the Purple Eagles went up 2-1 in the first period of Friday’s game, but the Pioneers stormed back in the second and third periods with five straight goals to win the game.  Now through eight games, Denver has combined to score 33 goals.  They are getting scoring throughout the lineup and, in David Carle’s own words, are starting to “dictate the pace for extended durations.”

Players that have stood out are captain Ian Mitchell, Brett Stapley, Bobby Brink, Ryan Barrow, and obviously freshman goaltender Magnus Chrona.  The Pioneers are doing a lot of good things away from the puck and are playing a really solid team game right now.

As Denver begins its NCHC matchups, it’s important to use their momentum but they have to remember who they are playing over the next few weeks. They’re going to Minnesota Duluth before hosting archrival North Dakota and Western Michigan. All three teams are playing great hockey right now and present a significant challenge for top-ranked Denver and its unblemished record.

Last week’s highlights

In the news

Photo courtesy of MPR News

Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs (3-3-0)

It’s been a mixed bag this season for the Bulldogs who have gone .500 so far in nonconference matchups against UMass-Lowell, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.  Their strength continues to be their defensive core led by veterans Nick Wolff, Scott Perunovich, and Dylan Samberg.  But it’s been a different story offensively.  Scoring 2.3 goals per game, their forward group hasn’t found the production that the Bulldogs are used to seeing.

But just because UMD is having a slow start doesn’t mean they can’t turn it on when they host one of their bigger rivals.  Noah and Jackson Cates are coming off strong freshman seasons and currently lead the forward group with 9 points combined.  Junior Nick Swaney, who broke out for 15 goals last season, is also a threat to watch for the Pioneers.

In net, the Pioneers are all too familiar with Hunter Shepard.  The senior is coming a very strong junior year where he won 24 games with an impressive 1.74 goals against average.  This season, Shepard is 3-3 with an .899 save percentage.

Bulldog’s head coach Scott Sandelin met with the media on Wednesday and commented on the upcoming series against the Pioneers:

On facing the Pioneers

“They’re the best team in the country.  They have a little bit of everything.  They lost a quality goaltender and they brought in a guy that has played very well for them in Chrona.  Their back end, like we always see, are mobile.  They’re good defenders, they get up in the play.  Mitchell is the lead guy back there but guys like Davies and Mendel are veteran guys that play a lot and bring a lot of experience, consistency, and good demeanor.  Their forward group is four lines deep with high-end skill.  Pettersen is back and he’s has had a really good start.  They brought in a couple freshman like Bobby Brink that can score so they’re a dangerous team.  Offensively they’re good off the rush, they control pucks, and play as five-man units all over the rink… They’re a real good faceoff team, their special teams are at the top of the country so it’s a big challenge.  To me it’s a good measuring stick to see where we’re at.”

How much respect do these teams have for each other?

“I think a lot.  We’re very similar in the way both teams want to play.  It seems like we’ve played a lot of hockey against each other over the last five years… a lot of one-goal games and they’ve had the upper hand.  It was nice for us last year to get the last one in the tournament.  Again, two very similar teams in how they play.  Teams that are hard to play against usually have good depth and are good defensively.  I think they’re a little better offensively this year than maybe they have been and they’re probably better than us offensively, but it doesn’t matter.  When we play we both settle in to a certain style.  We’re going to have to keep up.  They’re going to push the pace big time and we’re going to have to defend well and take care of pucks.  Conversely we’ll have to make it hard on them defensively too.  We’ll try to play in their end a little bit more.”   

On David Carle & DU’s coaching staff

“David may be a young coach but he’s been there for almost ten years.  They’ve got a great culture there.  They’re used to winning.  It goes back to George, then Monty comes in.  They recruit well and I like the way they do things.  They recruit for the way they play and they get the players that can play that way.  They don’t seem to miss a beat.  Look at last year getting to the Frozen Four with a young team… They would’ve been my pick as a coach to win the league and a front-running to win the whole thing just based on what they did last year and who they have returning.  Now you look at eight games in at what they filled in with and they might be a better team if they continue to get goaltending like they’ve been getting.”

Prediction – Pioneers sweep

Let’s face it–Denver was a goal away from facing Minnesota Duluth in the national championship last year but a few early mistakes, a missed call with a subsequent suspension, and a lack of late bounces in their favor kept it from happening.  But this year they’re coming back stronger and deeper.  As for the Bulldogs, it’s difficult to get to the top of the mountain and stay there.  They aren’t getting the offensive production from their forward group and the other teams in the NCHC aren’t waiting around for them to figure it out.  This is a very focused Pioneer team that has shown they can steal games on the road.

Twitter Follow – @UMDMensHockey

Where to Watch/Listen

Friday – 6:07pm MT – tv: Channel 2 KWGN / radio: 104.3 The Fan

Saturday – 6:07pm MT tv: Channel 2 KWGN / radio: 104.3 The Fan

One thought on “Denver Hockey Series Preview: Minnesota Duluth”

  1. Pios kicking off a 6-game stretch against some tough conference opponents starting with Duluth tonight. If the Pios can use their speed and stay disciplined, I like their chances to get a couple of Ws this weekend.

    Go Pios!!

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