The No. 6 Pioneers rebounded last weekend with a pair of wins against the Miami University RedHawks. Denver’s offense exploded for 14 goals while the tandem of Magnus Chrona and Devin Cooley gave up three goals on 45 shots all weekend. While Cole Guttman and Ian Mitchell received forward and defenseman of the week honors from the NCHC, it was Tyler Ward to stood out, netting a hat trick in Friday’s game and adding a couple more assists in Saturday’s game. After Saturday’s game, head coach David Carle said the Pioneers were doing the right things they needed to do to win, and they kept their foot on the gas. Now, Denver battles St. Cloud State with the fourth and final home-ice berth on the line. Denver sits in fourth, one point behind Western Michigan for third-place and four points ahead of SCSU.
It was an encouraging weekend for the Pioneers who got some confidence back after sweeping Miami. We saw just how dangerous the Pioneers power play can be with Ian Mitchell and Emilio Pettersen constantly being deceptive with the puck. Pettersen has especially gotten really good at faking the one-timers from the right circle and finding Cole Guttman in the slot with a shot-pass. It worked twice against Miami.
It was also interesting to see the Denver players continuing to play the body against the RedHawks even though the game may have been out of reach for them. With the playoffs around the corner, everybody knows it’s a different game when your season is at stake. David Carle has probably been in the Pioneers’ ears this week about putting pressure on the puck and keeping their legs moving.
All four are #NHL draft picks as well
— The NCHC (@TheNCHC) February 24, 2020
In NHL news, the Chicago Blackhawks sent a package of players to the Vegas Golden Knights and in return they received the rights to Pioneers defenseman Slava Demin. Demin will join fellow blueliner Ian Mitchell in the Blackhawks organization.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) February 24, 2020
St. Cloud State Huskies (12-12-6)
Last time the Pioneers and Huskies met in mid-January, Denver was on a roll. They finished 2019 with a sweep of Colorado College, followed by a hard-fought sweep of the UMass-Amherst Minutemen. Denver put up 11 goals over the weekend against St. Cloud who had lost a lot of key players from last year’s team. But in their last six games, the Huskies are 4-0-2 and are coming off a very strong series against No. 1 North Dakota in which they earned five of the six points at stake.
— NCAA Ice Hockey (@NCAAIceHockey) February 23, 2020
One of the reasons for St. Cloud’s success of late has been the Poehling Brothers. Nick and Jack Poehling saw their brother Ryan depart for the NHL last season but they’re continuing to help the Huskies program in a big way. With 19 combined points in their last seven games, their line with Micah Miller is one of the best in the NCHC.
The Huskies are quite polarizing when it comes to their games going into the third period. They are 8-0-2 if they lead going into the third period and are 0-10-3 if they are trailing heading into the third. So St. Cloud isn’t really coming from behind this season, but they’re also not giving up many crucial leads.
A major reason for the Huskies’ late-game success is junior goaltender David Hrenak. The LA Kings prospect has been doing a lot of heavy lifting for the Huskies playing 28 games this season. Hrenak generally sees about 30 shots a night and has seen a combined 308 shots this season in the third period. His goals-against average is a little above 2.50, but he has done a great job keeping the Huskies in close games.
The challenge this weekend for the Huskies will be trying to slow down the Pioneers offense. One observation from last weekend’s series with Miami was that Denver worked really hard for their goals. They went to difficult areas and forced Miami to defend deep into their zone. The Huskies can’t afford to put the Pioneers on the powerplay this weekend, especially with Emilio Pettersen playing the way he has lately.
Prediction – Denver splits
I would generally have the Pioneers sweeping here because they’ve rebounded but it’s senior weekend for SCSUand that always seems to have some weight. Both teams are also playing for home ice in the first round of the NCHC Tournament and this could be the first matchup we see. Miami let the Pioneers skate and that was a huge mistake. I see St. Cloud clogging the neutral zone a little more and forcing the Pioneers to go 200 feet more often. But if Bobby Brink is back in the lineup, things could change. It is important to note that if Denver claims just four of the six points this weekend, they will clinch home ice.
Twitter Follow – @SCSUHUSKIES_MH
Where to Watch/Listen
Friday – 6:37pm MT – tv: CBS Sports Network radio: ESPN DENVER 1600
Saturday – 5:07pm MT tv: Fox Sports North Plus / NCHC.tv radio: 104.3 The Fan