Photo courtesy of the Denver Post
Welcome back Pioneer fans! We hope everybody had a great thanksgiving with their families this past week. Your pumpkin pie probably tasted much sweeter after Denver defeated Western Michigan 6-1, earning their ninth win of the season. After some time off to recollect, the No. 4 Pioneers hit the road again and will play No. 20 Arizona State for the first time on the Sun Devils home ice. And if the competition is anything like the social media battle that led up to this weekend, we should expect a high-intensity series.
November was a tough month for the Pioneers who went 1-3-2 against NCHC opponents. Denver currently has six points in the NCHC standings, putting them in sixth place only ahead of St. Cloud State and Omaha. It was frustrating scoring only one goal per game against North Dakota and in the first game against Western Michigan, but the Pioneers erupted for six goals in their second game against the Broncos. Hopefully, Denver has gotten this slump out of its system considering more tough opponents still remain on the schedule. After Arizona State, the Pioneers see Colorado College for the first time this season before their Frozen Four rematch against UMass-Amherst to kick-off 2020.
On a positive note, it was nice to see goaltender Devin Cooley back between the pipes. Cooley had been out of the lineup dealing with an injury that moved freshman Magnus Chrona into the starting goaltender role. The Swedish netminder did a great job going 7-3-2 in his first 12 games in the NCAA. With Cooley healthy again, it’s uncertain who the net belongs to but this certainly alleviates some of the pressure from Chrona.
Last week’s highlights
In the news
- USCHO.com writers predict a Denver road sweep
- USCHO Game of the Week Podcast previewed No. 4 Denver visiting No. 20 Arizona State (16:15)
- “Denver should come in and understand the seriousness of this series. This cannot be a team you take lightly. It’s been proven over and over again that if you take Arizona State lightly, you’re going to walk away with losses. Denver needs to play two of their better games to come away with victories.”
- 2020 Frozen Faceoff tickets are on sale until Sunday using the promo code FLASH
- Forward Jake Durflinger was a runner-up for the NCHC’s 2019 Best Movember Mustache
- Senior Tyson McLellan commented recently in the LA Times on the recent hot topic of player abuse by coaches
- “The line between pushing a player — I’m not talking physical — but getting the player to maximize his physical talents and to get a team to pull together and go further into their toolbox than they ever have, is delicate,” he said. “Sometimes feelings are hurt. There’s never an intention behind it, but there are feelings that get hurt.”
- Former Pioneer Logan O’Connor scored his first NHL goal with the Colorado Avalanche
- Pioneers Defenseman Erich Fear was featured as one of Denver’s top student-athletes
Erich Fear is playing with options. Through his classwork and internship over the offseason, last year's recipient of the NCAA Elite 90 Award has set up for a bright future #PioneerTogether pic.twitter.com/2J8qeSUFtN
— Denver Hockey (@DU_Hockey) December 4, 2019
Arizona State Sun Devils (7-4-1)
In their five years of existence (don’t mess that up. They get really upset when you do), the Sun Devils have made some significant progress as an independent college hockey program. Head coach Greg Powers has been able to attract some good young talent and they continue to build their program in an unconventional hockey environment in Arizona. But with the support of Arizona-native Auston Matthews and some early success against good teams, the Sun Devils have already gotten a taste of the NCAA Tournament and have the potential to do more.
As a new program, Arizona State has done everything they can for exposure and that includes traveling across the country to play the best competition that there is. They have already been to Minnesota, Colorado, and Alaska this season and are scheduled to play in Michigan, Nebraska, Rhode Island, New York, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin. But it doesn’t seem to bother them considering they are 6-1-1 in their last eight games against Air Force, Quinnipiac, Alaska Fairbanks, and Vermont.
When previewing Arizona State, you have to start with forward Johnny Walker (not to be confused with the brand of Scotch whiskey). The junior from Phoenix has been one of college hockey’s top scorers the past couple seasons and this year is no different tallying 13 points in 12 games. Walker plays on the top line with points leader James Sanchez and Calgary Flames prospect Demetrios Koumontzis.
— Sun Devil Hockey (@SunDevilHockey) November 30, 2019
The Sun Devils also feature a couple of swift offensive defenseman who can really hurt you from the blue line. Sophomore Joshua Maniscalco already has three powerplay goals this season and senior Brinson Pasichnuk is fourth in scoring with 11 points. Arizona State also got more offensive support with the return of senior centerman Brett Gruber.
The Sun Devils made some roster moves before their series with Vermont when they released freshman forwards Logan Jenuwine and Carson Brière from the team. It’s been reported that the reason was for violating team rules. In nine games this season, Jenuwine scored four points while Briere (son of former NHL star forward Danny Briere) had not played this season. Briere later signed with the Trail Smoke Eaters of the BCHL. Head coach Greg Powers confirmed the team will not add another skater to the roster this season.
The Pioneers aren’t the only ones sporting alternate jerseys. Arizona State will be featuring its 45th* new uniform combination of the season on Friday.
— Jon Laughner (@JonLaughnerEM) December 3, 2019
Sun Devils head coach Greg Powers met with the media this week to discuss the upcoming matchup with the Pioneers:
On facing Denver this weekend
“They’re blue blood in every way. They’ve won a ton of national championships, they’ve been to some Frozen Fours recently. They’re a really good team. It’s exciting to be able to host such a great program and it’s exciting for our fans here to be able to watch us play such a good program. Hopefully people come out in abundance and enjoy it.”
On preparing for competing with Denver’s depth
“They’re deep and balanced, but we are too. It’s going to be a great challenge and we’re excited to take it on… we’ve built our program to the point where it’s not every weekend that we’re not considered the underdog. Our guys get excited when the perception is that we are an underdog, like when we were against Quinnipiac and how we will be this weekend against Denver. I think we’re going to have a lot in the tank on Friday.”
On how the Sun Devils can improve vs Denver
“What we can do to get better against a more skilled and offensive team like Denver is manage the puck. We can’t give them transition by mismanaging the puck at the blue lines or the neutral zone like we did against Vermont, or anybody. We think if we manage the puck the best that we have all year, we think we’ll have a good chance to win this weekend. But if we mismanage the puck, those mistakes against a team like Denver, with the talent and skill that they have, will end up in the back of our net.”
Prediction – Pioneers split
It seems that even though Denver didn’t win the National Championship last year, teams still put a target on their backs as if they did. Arizona State has played with an “us against the world” mentality and that could earn them a victory against the No. 4 ranked team in the country. David Carle needs more 60-minute performances by his team – the kind they in game two against Western Michigan – otherwise it will be a tough hill to climb in the desert if Denver falls behind. The Pioneers can get to sophomore goaltender Evan Debrouwer, especially on the rush. How the Pios start each game will be key.
Twitter Follow – @SunDevilHockey
Where to Watch/Listen
Friday – 7:05pm MT – stream: ASU Live Stream radio: 104.3 The Fan
Saturday – 4:30pm MT tv: PAC-12 Network radio: 104.3 The Fan