All posts by Puck Swami

Longtime University of Denver fan and alumnus.

Puck Swami: DU Fans Need to Step Up for #Skatefor8!

C79fdAJU8AA6uZoThe United Center in Chicago – Home of the 2017 NCAA Frozen Four – Photo: NCAA

This is a very big week for everyone connected to the University of Denver, as our top-ranked Pioneers skate for NCAA Hockey Title #8 in Chicago. Over 1,000 DU fans will watch the game live at the United Center in Chicago, and thousands more will gather at the at least 13 DU-sponsored watch parties around the country or in front of their personal screens on ESPN around the world to cheer on the Pioneers, celebrating our common emotional bond with our team and school. Continue reading Puck Swami: DU Fans Need to Step Up for #Skatefor8!

Trevor Baptiste Becomes DU’s Greatest Face-off Man, Leads Pios to 20-11 Big East win over Georgetown

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It was the Trevor Baptiste record-setting show, as the junior from Denville, N.J. set a DU career record and tied another to lead the Denver Pioneers to a 20-11 Big East League men’s lacrosse victory over the Georgetown Hoyas before a sellout crowd on a dreary gray day at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium.

Baptiste became the University of Denver’s all-time face-off leader in just his junior year, setting the school record with 736 wins in passing DU legends Chase Carraro and Geoff Snider, going 26-for-30 on the day.  The possession advantage Baptiste created helped the Pioneers to season high 20 goal output, the most DU has scored since 2012.  The Pioneers had a balanced attack behind 11 different goal scorers, but the 4-goal, 5-assist assist performance from senior All American Connor Cannizzaro led the way offensively with nine points, moving him into a tie for 3rd place all time in DU scoring with Todd Dickson (199 points), and behind Mark Matthews (216 points) and Wes Berg’s 255 career points.

Baptiste also tied Ben Wahler’s 2008 school record with his 26 face-off wins on the day and moved into ninth place on the all time NCAA career lacrosse face-off winners list – incredible for a player only two-thirds of his way through his junior season. He also picked up 17 ground balls on the day, and even scored a goal.

“Baptiste was so tenacious,” said DU coach Bill Tierney of his face-off star after the game. “He did so many different moves against five different face off [opponents]…we’re glad he’s on our side.”

Indeed the only way the Hoyas could even slow Baptiste was to put all three long pole players into the face-off play, which Georgetown did in the second half.

The Pioneers (7-2 overall, 1-0 Big East) broke open a close 8-6 halftime lead with an eight goals, including seven unanswered in a dominant 11 minutes of the third quarter to  delight another sellout home crowd and put away the somewhat snakebit Hoyas, who fell to 2-8 on the season, and 0-1 in Big East pay.

“I was little emotional at halftime,” Tierney said, referring to what was likely a paint-peeling halftime address to his Pioneers, who were sloppy and sluggish with too many turnovers and some lazy play in the first half.  “We weren’t playing well in the first half, but we were scoring goals and winning face-offs…We needed to make sure we got a good convincing win and we did that.”

Besides Baptiste’s dominance at the X, Sophomore goalie Alex Ready woke up from a tough 3-save first half to make four third quarter saves to help change the momentum of the game to finish with seven saves on the day.

Daniel Buccaro was the top offensive bright spot for Georgetown, with a three goal hat trick to go with three assists on the day.

The Pioneers stay home in Denver this week to face Big East rival Villanova next Saturday at 12 pm MT.

DU to send Pep Band and Cheer Team to Frozen Four, adds free student tickets

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LetsGoDU has learned from Brandon Macneill, DU Athletics’ Associate Vice Chancellor for External Affairs, that plans are being finalized to send the DU Pioneer Pep Band and DU Cheerleaders to Chicago next week for the NCAA Frozen Four. DU’s band, as the higher-seeded ‘home team,’ will also play the National Anthem before Thursday’s National Semi-Final against Notre Dame. Additionally, DU will provide a limited amount of free tickets for DU students who can get to Chicago for the game(s). Continue reading DU to send Pep Band and Cheer Team to Frozen Four, adds free student tickets

Pioneers roar into NCAAs with five consecutive goals to beat Michigan Tech 5-2.

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Photo: NCAA

The #1 overall seed and top-ranked University of Denver Pioneers roared out to a 5-0 lead on #19th ranked and #16 seeded Michigan Tech University in the first 25 minutes of the game, and then held off the Huskies’ two goal second period run to win the NCAA Midwest Regional quarterfinal, 5-2 at US Bank Arena in Cincinnati. Sophomore forward Colin Staub led the Pioneers with the first two goals, and junior goalie Tanner Jaillet turned away 16 MTU shots to record the victory.

The Pioneers advance to face #9 overall seeded Big Ten Tournament Champion Penn State, as the Nittany Lions were 10-3 victors over Union College in the other Midwest Regional quarterfinal.  DU and Penn State will face off on Sunday, March 26th at 4 pm (MT) on ESPNU, for the Midwest Regional Championship and a berth in the NCAA Frozen Four.

“It was a great start by our group,” DU coach Jim Montgomery said after the game. “You could tell, led by our seniors and juniors that we’ve been here [NCAA Regionals] before. We were very aggressive to start the game.”

Indeed, The Pioneers’ red-hot start overwhelmed the WCHA Champion Huskies, as DU fired 17 first period shots to only 5 for MTU, and the five unanswered DU goals scored were more than enough to win the game early. Staub’s two first period goals set the tone for the game in the first 12 minutes, and Senior Emil Romig scored the eventual game winner after a misplay by Michigan Tech goalie Angus Redmond to send the Pioneers up, 3-0 at 14:51. Freshman Tyson McLellan put the Pios up 5-0 at 4:26 of the second period, and the rout was on..

Michigan Tech scored twice late in the second period to cut Denver’s lead to three on goals by Gavin Gould and Jake Lucchini, but the Huskies would get no closer, as the Pioneers managed the puck well for the last period to close out the victory.

Denver has never played Penn State before, as the Nittany Lions are only in year five as a varsity program, but PSU figures to be a formidable obstacle for the Pioneers in the regional final. The 10 goals PSU scored against Union was a school record, and the most goals scored in an NCAA tournament game since 1990. However, Penn State hasn’t faced the nation’s top defense before, and that is the Pioneers.

Game time is 4 pm Sunday (ESPNU).

Puck Swami: Pioneer Hockey Needs to Win NCAA Title Now

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Like most of you, I can’t wait for Saturday’s game.

I’ve been following the DU Hockey program for more than 35 years, and I’ve seen a lot of great Denver hockey teams. In my opinion, the current Pioneer edition has the potential to walk forever among the best of them, should they find success in the next four games of this memorable season. And while we Pioneer fans hope they win it all every year, if any team has the senior-laden experience, quality and depth to win a NCAA Championship, it is this DU team. Continue reading Puck Swami: Pioneer Hockey Needs to Win NCAA Title Now

Ohio State Buckeyes Thump DU Lax 16-7 in 3rd straight Spring Break Trip Debacle

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Photo: University of Denver

For the last three seasons, the DU men’s lacrosse team has taken a road trip to kick off spring break week in middle of March, often when still in the midst of final exams at DU.

And all to start all three trips every year since 2015, DU has been promptly kicked in the teeth by opponents, the latest one today’s 16-7 pummeling at the hands of the 18th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

It reminds us well of last year’s 15-10 Spring Break beat down DU suffered at the hands of lower-ranked Penn State in Dallas in 2016, and the 13-11 DU loss to the Buckeyes in Columbus back in mid-March of 2015.

This year’s spring break debacle was far worse than the other two, though. Top-ranked DU was never in this game, falling behind 5-1 in the first quarter, and trailed 11-1 in the third quarter. The Pioneers did score some fourth quarter goals in garbage time to make the final 16-7 score seem even more respectable than the game actually was. DU goalie Alex Ready gave up 16 goals and only made six saves on the day, but it wasn’t all his fault, as DU suffered defensive breakdowns and a terribly sputtering offense for most of the day.

The Pioneers travel on to Towson, Md. next weekend, and let’s hope coach Tierney can right the ship.

PUCK SWAMI’S RAPID REACTION: DU WOMENS BASKETBALL COACH KERRY CREMEANS RESIGNS

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Photo: University of Denver

To the surprise of virtually no one, DU women’s basketball coach Kerry Cremeans, who was hired five years ago from Auburn University to take DU women’s basketball to the next level as head coach, “resigned” today after a five-year coaching record of just 42 wins and a staggering 109 losses. Her five year contract was not renewed, and while the school terms it a “resignation,” she was clearly pushed out the door. Continue reading PUCK SWAMI’S RAPID REACTION: DU WOMENS BASKETBALL COACH KERRY CREMEANS RESIGNS

Puck Swami: Denver Pioneer History Being Made Before Our Very Eyes

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At this very moment on Feb. 20, 2017, for the first time in history, our two flagship sports, ice hockey and men’s lacrosse, are both ranked #1 in the country in all the major polls of those two sports.

For our small private school in the Rockies with 5,500 undergrads and a budget 1/10th the size of some of the large D-I football powers, with our opponents spread out all over the country and requiring jet planes to get to 85% of DU away games, this is an astonishing, epic achievement.

Additionally, our men’s soccer team finished #3 in the country this fall. And our women’s gymnastics team is currently ranked #8 in the country, the highest the program has ever been ranked.  And DU women’s lacrosse is undefeated this year and ranked #14/15 in the country. And our nationally ranked swim teams (#20 men’s and #26 women’s) just swept the podium in EVERY EVENT at the Summit League Championships last week.

I say all this because we need to take a moment to realize just how frickin’ good our athletics program is right now.  No program in the country gets better performance for the buck than DU does.  And now is the time to tell your friends from bigger schools that the Pioneers are on top of the country in two sports.  Let’s hope both can end their seasons with a National Championship.

For those of us oldsters who remember the days when DU played hockey in a decrepit old WWII surplus naval drill hall and DU lacrosse played mostly clubs and small colleges on muddy fields in front of 50 people, we can only say how proud we are to see just how far DU has come as a national sports power.

Go Pios!

 

 

Puck Swami: Pioneer Points To Boost DU Student Attendance

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Photo Credit: Denver Post

We’ve written several articles here at LetsGoDU about the ongoing need for better game attendance at DU sports events, as low attendance erodes the relevance of DU sports in our community. Without spectators, our games slip into obscurity and are only relevant to participants, friends and family. Spectators are also crucial to winning more games due to crowd support, recruiting better players and coaches, the development of school spirit and shared DU experiences, exposure and reputation gains, as well as a better financial reward for our sports programs.

Student attendance is the core metric that matters most, in our view. Students are the ones who drive the atmosphere at most DU sporting events, and they create the noise, support and whatever home advantage they can.

So it’s good to see DU taking the next step in rewarding students for attending sporting events by developing the Pioneer Points program. You can read a good article about it here from the Clarion, DU’s student newspaper.

After reading the article, I have a few more suggestions to take the points program to the next level:

1. Reward those who stay for the whole game: I’m glad to see DU rewarding early arrivals with bonus points for swipes an hour before game time. DU should also reward bonus points for game exit swipes 5-20 minutes after the game ends to encourage students to stay for the duration of games. Far too many students leave games early, and by rewarding them for staying, some will stay and cheer to the end.

2. Award points for expressing great fan behavior: Have roving scanners in the student section to reward those students who go out of their way to bring noise or school spirit to the games. Reward the sign-makers, noise-makers, DU regalia-wearers, and others who start successful cheers or who bring extra effort to the spectator experience.

3. Award extra points for those who bring groups of 3 or more friends to the game. We want more fans to come, so reward those fans who generate more fans. DU would need to figure out a way to track this, but it could be done.

4. Award those fans who display knowledge of DU sports with extra points through quizzes, socreboard contests, social media and for answering questions (correctly) from in-game hosts, as we try to grow more engagement and emotional attachment to our sports programs.

5. Award major prizes to the points winners at the end of each quarter and the end of the year, too. Showering the best fans with the best prizes will make others want to earn them too.

Please share your other ideas below, in the comments section. Go Pios!

Puck Swami is the Internet moniker of a long-time DU fan and alumnus.

Dunk and Hamilton are latest (rare) members of DU first round draft club

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For the first time in Denver Pioneer soccer history, an MLS team selected a graduating  Denver soccer senior in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft, not once, but twice. Right back Reagan Dunk, a two-time all-American and the most decorated player in Denver history, was selected 13th overall by Real Salt Lake, and two picks later at #15, Denver midfielder Sam Hamilton, an native of Evergreen, Colo., was selected by the hometown Colorado Rapids.

These draft picks mark a high water mark in player development for the Denver soccer program. The Pioneers had six players selected in previous MLS drafts, but none of them were first round selections.  A first round pick is validation that players produced at DU were not only good enough to be selected in the top 15 of all college seniors this year, but also shows prospective recruits that Denver is a now a truly elite place to develop as a player. This should really help DU in recruiting top players with professional aspirations.

First round draft picks from the five major professional sports at DU are quite rare. Dunk and Hamilton are the latest members in a very elite club of only six DU athletes in all of major American professional sports to be first round draft selections.

DU Hockey has 112 players drafted by the NHL over the years, but has had only four first round NHL draft picks in its 65+ year history. Craig Redmond was first at #6 in 1984, Joe Colborne next at #16 in 2008, Beau Bennett was selected at #20 in 2010 and current Pioneer Henrik Borgström, was selected 23rd in the 2016 NHL Draft.

DU has never had a first round pick in the NBA draft, although some 15 DU players have been selected over the years, the highest of whom was Byron Beck, a second round draft pick in the 1967 draft who had his number retired after a long and productive career with the Denver Nuggets in the ABA and NBA.

DU has also never had a first rounder in the NFL Draft, either, although seven Pioneers were drafted by NFL teams prior to DU dropping the sport in 1961. The highest DU football draft pick was Greg Browning, who was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 6th round of the 1945 NFL draft.

Pioneer baseball, which ceased at the varsity level in 1998, also has 16 overall players drafted by Major League Baseball teams back in the day, but no first round selections. The highest regular-drafted player in DU history was Dan Schatzeder, a third round pick in 1976, who went on to a 15-year Major League pitching career, whose career highlight was being the winning pitcher in Game 6 of the 1987 World Series with the Minnesota Twins.

Welcome to the club, Reagan and Sam.

Go Pios.