Here we are, Pioneers fans. We have finally arrived at the end of the regular season and the only thing standing in the way of the #6 University of Denver Pioneers and the NCHC Tournament is the hated Colorado College Tigers. Having won the first two games against CC this year, the Pioneers are just one NCHC point away from bringing home the Gold Pan this season which would be important to the seniors. Michael Davies, Erich Fear, Liam Finlay, and Tyson McLellan leave behind a legacy as leaders and champions. Saturday night’s “white-out” will be their final game skating on Magness Arena ice in a Pioneers sweater and it will be an emotional one.
The No. 6 Pioneers returned from St. Cloud this weekend with three points and are now in third place in the NCHC with 37 points. Just one win this weekend clinch home ice for the best-of-three first-round series next weekend. The Pioneers will still have to keep their eye on the scoreboard as Western Michigan trails them in the standings by just two points, though a sweep would earn them third place, regardless of WMU’s results. The Broncos host the Miami RedHawks this weekend.
In their series with SCSU, the Pioneers let the game slip in the second period of Friday night’s game when the Huskies scored three straight goals to take the lead 4-1. However, Saturday night the Pios returned the favor with a convincing 5-2 victory. Twelve different Denver players registered points led by Ian Mitchell who had a goal and an assist. With Saturday night’s win, the Pioneers reached a 20 win season for the 19th year in a row, keeping the Tenzer Streak alive.
— Denver Hockey (@DU_Hockey) March 1, 2020
Forward Emilio Pettersen continued his great season adding two more goals to his total of 12 on the year. Pettersen has a four-game point streak and a three-game goal streak heading into this weekend. Captain Ian Mitchell has also picked up his offensive game scoring seven points in his last five games. Freshman Bobby Brink missed more time as he recovers from injury, but he will provide a big boost to the Pioneers offense when he returns to the lineup. He’s said to be week-to-week, though he is expected to play this weekend.
Head coach David Carle met with the media this week and discussed the Battle for the Gold Pan, playoff hockey, the offense, and the importance of scoring first.
— Denver Hockey (@DU_Hockey) March 4, 2020
In other Pioneers news, the team released their 2020-21 non-conference opponents. Denver will travel to Wisconsin, Boston College, and Providence while they play a home-and-home with Air Force and host Arizona State and Alaska-Anchorage.
Colorado College Tigers (11-19-2)
It’s been another tough year in what has become a rough era for the Tigers who looked like they were heading in the right direction last season. Since head coach Mike Haviland took over, they had a five-year high of 17 wins and upset third-place Western Michigan to face St. Cloud in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff semi-final a year ago.
It was difficult losing forward Westin Michaud who transferred to North Dakota, but an even bigger loss has been goaltender Alex Leclerc. This season, goaltenders Matt Vernon – a freshman – and Northeastern transfer Ryan Ruck have both allowed an average of over three goals per game. But when you see 35 shots every night, it’s difficult to not blame overall team defense.
The two players the Pioneers need to watch out for are senior forwards Chris Wilke and Nick Halloran. Despite coming back from season-ending injury last year, Halloran is back at the top of the stat sheet for the Tigers with 11 goals and 17 assists. Wilke is having a career year with 29 points and leading the team in shots with 163. On the blue line Bryan Yoon has proven he is a very good puck-moving defenseman, complimented by hard-nosed Zach Berzolla who leads the team in penalty minutes with 56.
Prediction – Denver splits
The Pioneers find themselves playing another senior night and the Tigers’ two best players happen to be playing their last game in front of their home fans. Mike Haviland will tell his team to forget the season and focus on the here and now. I think that will be enough for the Tigers to really muck up at least one game and force overtime. As for the Pioneers, they will send off a few national champions Saturday night who have been very impactful for the program and beating CC would be the perfect cherry on top. The key will be outshooting the Tigers and creating opportunities with traffic in front of the net. Colorado College has just four wins against NCHC opponents this season and DU needs to keep it that way.
Twitter Follow – @CC_Hockey1
Where to Watch/Listen
Friday – 7:37pm MT – tv: NCHC.tv radio: 104.3 The Fan
Saturday – 8:07pm MT tv: CBS Sports Network radio: 104.3 The Fan
Note: take another peek at the Saturday start time. As the game is on CBS Sports, puck drop is pushed back to 8:07 rather than the normal 7:07 time. If you do show up at Magness Arena for the normal start time, you’ll have an hour to kill.