Denver Hockey Series Preview: Western Michigan

Photo courtesy of Denver Athletics

It was another difficult weekend for No. 4 Denver who went 0-1-1 against North Dakota.  They averaged almost 30 shots vs sophomore goaltender Adam Scheel who only let in two goals all weekend en route to earning NCHC Goaltender of the Week honors.  Denver wasn’t able to capitalize on the power play and also had issues staying out of the penalty box.  In close games like these with rivals like the Fighting Hawks, it comes down to who makes the most mistakes and the Pioneers did just that.  Following a game in which coach David Carle called “embarrassing for us all around,” the Pioneers host the No. 20 Western Michigan Broncos who have won five of their last seven games.

It’s been a bizarre slowdown for the Pioneers the last couple weeks.  Scoring just twice all weekend was off-brand for a team that had been averaging four goals-per-game this season.  On the bright side, forward Kohen Olischefski scored Friday night marking his fifth point in six games.  Emilio Pettersen also got on the board last weekend but it was just his second goal this season.  Before that, he and Cole Guttman had only one point each in their last four games.  Pettersen, Guttman, and former Pioneer Jarid Lukosevicius were one of Denver’s strongest lines last season.  Hopefully, they can find that chemistry again soon.

When asked about where his hockey team is at after the last four games, head coach David Carle called it “the life in this league.”  He says that there is nothing easy about playing in the NCHC and continues to preach getting better each day.  Carle goes on to say that no team cares what you’re ranked or what you’ve done, and that he’s happy the Pioneers are going through adversity early in the season.  Further, when asked about what the team has learned about itself this season, Carle put it as “it’s not about pointing the finger, it’s about looking in the mirror.”

Last week’s highlights

In the news

Western Michigan Broncos (6-4-2)

After starting the season 1-3-1, the Western Michigan Broncos have hit their stride winning five of their last seven and averaging 4.5 goals per game.  Leading the team in points is junior Paul Washe with 14 points in 12 games, already surpassing his points total of 12 in 33 games as a sophomore.  Washe has three powerplay goals this season and does a great job cleaning up rebounds in front of the net.

The Pioneers will also have to watch Dawson DiPietro and Blues draft pick Hugh McGing.  Both players have nine points this season and have had 30+ point seasons in the NCHC.  Buffalo Sabres second-round pick Mattias Samuelsson leads a big group of defenseman who are giving up less than three goals per game.  And with a solid freshman goaltender in Brandon Bussi who is giving the Broncos a chance to win every night, the Broncos seem like a bad matchup for a Denver team that has limped through the last couple weeks.

The Broncos are dealing with a few injuries.  Last week, Wade Allison, Ronnie Attard, Josh Passolt, and Drew Worrad were all held out of the lineup.

Broncos head coach Andy Murray met with the media this week to talk about the upcoming series with Denver.

On facing Denver

“We look at their talent and they’ve got great players.  They have solid goaltending and real mobile defenseman.  They have some smaller scooters that are tough to contain.  We’re excited about the opportunity.  They’re a national contender every year.  And to find your way into the national tournament, teams like Denver have to be beaten.”

On Denver’s style of play this season

“Denver is real quick.  They have some great forwards.  Their offensive zone cycle is as good as anybody in the league.  If you give them room to maneuver in your zone, they’re going to turn you, twist you and get the puck.  They’ve got great transition.  You cannot afford to turn the pucks over in front of them, you have to make sure you get pucks in behind them.  They’ve got a real solid core of defensemen that move the puck well.  They have a couple of big guys that play physical.  And they have a European goaltender that’s played very well for them so there’s a lot of key ingredients but they work.  They’ve been successful as a program in recent years because they’re never short on work ethic.”

Prediction – Pioneers split

The Broncos are dealing with some key injuries but they are still finding plenty of scoring throughout their lineup.  Andy Murray always seems to coach against Denver really well so I’m thinking they steal at least one of these games.  We’re finding out the parity and depth of the NCHC is yet again alive and well.  It’s on Denver to redeem themselves and prove they belong at the top.

Twitter Follow – @WMUhockey

Where to Watch/Listen

Friday – 7:07pm MT – tv: Altitude 2 / radio: 104.3 The Fan

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

6 thoughts on “Denver Hockey Series Preview: Western Michigan”

  1. After last week’s fiasco, a sweep 🧹 over WMU is in order. When will Cooley play? Magnus not playing all that well.

  2. Last season DU had several ‘ugly’ wins. As a result of their superior work ethic, great goal tending and, at times, a dose of luck (plus better coaching) they were often able to beat teams with superior overall talent.
    Will this season require the same recipe for success?

    I, for one, think so.

  3. I’m sure it was an interesting week of practice for the Pioneers.

    Every team goes through adversity, sometimes multiple instances of it, during a season. Good teams with strong leadership and character rebound and right the ship. I’m fully confident DU will bounce back and have a strong weekend against WMU. I expect to see a DU team that wins more puck battles, has a more sustained forecheck, is better with puck management and puck possession, and puts a lot of rubber on net. Keep things simple on the PP–get some traffic in front and shoot the puck!

    Having said that, it won’t be easy. WMU is typically a very tough opponent.

  4. Aaron, these are top notch previews. I look forward to Friday morning to read your articles. The WMU series is very important to rebuild confidence – especially on the PP. if Denver were just average, they would have split last weekend. If they can just ‘fix’ that part of their game this weekend, that would be great progress. That, and improving their transition offense at mid-ice.

  5. I got to see Western in person three weeks ago at World Arena against CC and to me, the most striking difference between this year’s Broncos team and WMU teams of recent years’ past is goaltending. They are still big, mean, nasty, and physical, have some excellent goal scorers, and does and will continue to take a lot of penalties (this is in their DNA).

    However, finally, if you’re a Broncos fan, you feel comfortable thus far with the guy in between the pipes-Brandon Bussi. He’s not quite as physically intimidating as your guy, Magnus Chrona, but Bussi takes up a lot of net in his own right at 6’5”, 210 lbs. More importantly, he’s not playing like a freshman, he’s playing very steady.

    Porous defense and unreliable goaltending have always been the Broncos Achilles but so far this year, they’ve made marked improvement in those areas which should make them a contender IMO this year. At the beginning of the season, I picked them to finish 2nd in my pre-season NCHC team profile and predictions write up on the CC Facebook discussion page. The Broncos, to me this season, are for real.

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