Denver Hockey Series Preview: Colorado College

Photo courtesy of the University of Denver

After the #8 Denver Pioneers failed to earn a win last weekend on the road against Arizona State, the Pioneers are now 1-4-3 in their last eight games following an 8-0-0 start to the season.  But with the unranked rival Colorado College Tigers up next on the schedule, Denver has a prime opportunity to get back on track with a couple of NCHC wins.  The Tigers return to Denver on Friday as keepers of the Gold Pan trophy for the first time since 2014.

Pioneers head coach David Carle met with the media this week and stressed the importance of urgency and work ethic leading into their series with Colorado College.  Carle said he liked the Pioneers game last Saturday against Arizona State where sophomore Cole Guttman scored twice and Sun Devils forward Johnny Walker was held without a goal after recording a hat-trick the night before.

It’s hard to understand why the Pioneers offense has gone dry but here are just a few offensive droughts:

  • Liam Finlay has just one point in his last six games
  • After starting the season with a seven-game point streak, captain Ian Mitchell has just two points in his last nine games
  • Hank Crone has one point in his last seven games
  • The Pioneers no longer have any point-per-game players

Denver has lost games early in the season before, but it’s probably in their best interest to at least close 2019 with a win.  The Pioneers have now dropped from the No. 1 team in college hockey to No. 8 but we all know rankings don’t mean everything.  Historically, Denver has a habit of losing games against teams that, well, they shouldn’t. This means the weekend against ASU is not a cause for panic. Even before the 2017 run to the national title, Denver endured a winless December trip to Providence against the rebuilding Friars.

In the news

Colorado College Tigers (6-5-1)

The Tigers are coming off a nice road series sweep against the lowly Princeton Tigers (#54 of 60 in the current Pairwise) where forward Chris Wilkie earned the NCAA’s number one star of the week honors after scoring four goals and an assist.  Wilkie leads the team in scoring with 16 points and has the most shots on the team by far with 49 in 12 games.  He and senior Nick Halloran, whose 2018-2019 season was cut short due to injury, are the two upperclassmen who drive the Tigers team.  Halloran is an elite skater and can make plays out of nothing.

Colorado College is still a very young team, especially with sophomore Grant Cruikshank leading the team as captain.  The Tigers also feature defenseman Bryan Yoon who looked very good last season quarterbacking the powerplay as a freshman.  Blackhawks prospect Josiah Slavin and Edina, Minnesota-native Ben Copeland bring more size and skill to a Tigers team that looks like they could be finally turning the corner after what can only be characterized as a brutal past five-plus years.

Freshman goaltender Matt Vernon’s stats won’t do justice to how good he’s been in net for the Tigers.  At 4-2-1, Vernon gives up a little over three goals per game but he has been victimized by an at-times porous CC defense that has allowed more than 35 shots per game.  If Colorado College can clean up their team defense, Vernon can definitely give them a chance to win games.  He and senior Ryan Ruck have split time between the pipes for the Tigers, but neither netminder has been particularly spectacular.


Here’s Tigers’ head coach Mike Haviland on facing Denver:

“I think both teams can skate.  I’m watching film already on them and they can skate.  They’re deep, they’ve got good goaltending.  I look at them as a great rival.  This is what you play for.  We love playing against them and they love playing against us.  We have the Gold Pan now, it took a lot to get it, we don’t want to give it up, and I’m sure they want it back.  It’s a great rivalry in college hockey, but they’re a very good hockey team and so are we.  I expect an intense game that’s going to be pretty quick.  Both teams are pretty deep so it’s going to be a good hockey game.  It’s about who can stay more disciplined and who can execute when it really comes down to it.”

Prediction – Pioneers sweep

This may be a little aggressive but I think this is the weekend Denver turns things around.  They’ve played really well on the big ice in Colorado Springs the last few years and there will be plenty of motivation at Magness Arena to win their game on Friday in front of a friendly home crowd.  The Tigers are a simple team to figure out.  They need to stop Chris Wilke and Nick Halloran, and stay out of the box.  I’m predicting a big weekend for the Pioneers power play.

Twitter Follow – @CC-Hockey1

Where to Watch/Listen

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

Saturday – 7:07pm MT tv: AT&T Sportsnet / radio: 104.3 The Fan

6 thoughts on “Denver Hockey Series Preview: Colorado College”

  1. We need our 3 best skaters/stick controllers of puck for a long stretch to keep moving the puck in our offensive end. (Mitchell, Stapley, Haikenen) Who am I missing? No more fanning on shots. We miss Barrows in many ways but everyone has injuries. Dunker picks Split with home teams winning.

    1. I agree anon…got to control the puck and make smart shots in traffic. Don’t mind Dunker – he picked the Browns for the Super Bowl. BTW, the Kiz interview with Carle is good, DU is in great hands.

  2. Against DU, CC has, ironically, seemed to have more success and have played better on the road at Magness than at home on the big ice (this is anecdotally speaking as I don’t know what their record is at home vs. on the road). If CC can find a way to win tonight, I’d predict a split with DU winning tomorrow on the big ice. If DU wins tonight, the. I think DU will sweep.

    CC may have only swept lowly Princeton but two road wins are still a big confidence booster. I expect (and hope) CC comes out with a lot of intensity to match that of DU’s. The Pios should also come out hungry, a little desperate, and also feeling good about themselves given how they outplayed the Sun Devils last Saturday.

  3. I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but I think this is a hugely important weekend. Since the Duluth series, DU has been scuffling. The results speak for themselves–1 win in their last 8 games. This is a big series to build momentum going into the break and the second half of the season. It’s an opportunity for the Pios to improve their position in the NCHC–DU is currently in 6th place with only 6 points, 1 point behind CC. It’s a rivalry series. And it’s step 1 in DU’s quest to reclaim the Gold Pan. Lots of implications.

    I think Haviland deserves a lot of credit. CC may not have the same top-end talent as other teams in the NCHC, but they are tough, hard-working, balanced, and seem to get the most out of what they have. They rightfully earned the Gold Pan last year. DU will have to battle hard to try and get it back. I expect two close, hard-fought games this weeken.

  4. I am with Twister. I think both teams are inconsistent this year, and you just don’t know what you are going to get on a given night. Denver has more high-end talent than CC does, but I think CC has the higher work ethic, especially vs Denver. This series is a toss up, and I think a split is the likely result.

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