All posts by Puck Swami

Longtime University of Denver fan and alumnus.

Denver Women’s Basketball is Turning Heads at 6-1, Shoots into Top 40 in RPI

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DU Junior Lauren Loven led the entire nation in three-pointers as of Nov. 30, 2018                  Photo: University of Denver

As Denver Pioneer fans, we’re lucky that we can pop our attention from one successful DU sports program to another. All three fall DU sports (men’s and women’s soccer plus women’s volleyball) earned appearances in their respective NCAA Tournaments this fall.  And DU hockey is now ranked seventh in the nation on this bye week, more successful than almost anyone thought they’d be at this point in the season with a young team. Which brings me to the next DU team worthy of more of our attention, the DU women’s basketball team, who have shot out to a 6-1 start to the season and a current national top 40 RPI (#39) ranking, including a current four-game winning streak, as of Sunday, Dec. 2.  (Note: Early season RPI rankings are subject to volatile swings, as game data comparisons are still somewhat paltry.)

I would venture a guess that perhaps only 10 percent of our readership here at LetsGoDU have ever been to a live DU women’s basketball game before, and it’s hard to blame them. There is a lot to do in Denver, and the DU women’s basketball teams have been pretty terrible in recent memory, known more for single-digit win/last-place seasons, a fired coach and crowds comprised mostly of friends and family members. Apart from a surprise 2001 NCAA appearance in the early years of the Ritchie Center and a period of decent mediocrity (72-52) under former coach Erik Johnson from 2008-2012, there hasn’t been a lot to cheer about with DU women’s hoops in the last 20 years.

But this year’s DU women’s team is starting to change some of that…  

The Pioneers are starting to get noticed in just the second year of the Jim Turgeon coaching era, with home wins over then-#16 RPI Lamar and the latest win, a 29-point win over Loyola Marymount, a top 100 team who had already beaten UCLA and Arizona this year.  Moreover, the Pioneers are a very high-scoring bunch, averaging a stunning 90 points per game to date this season, and sport a victory margin of 16 points per game.

And Turgeon, who came to DU from CSU-Pueblo in NCAA Division II two years ago, is doing all this with many of former DU coach Kerry Cremeans’ recruits, who knew only college basketball failure before Turgeon’s arrival. Moreover, he’s done it with a wholly different philosophy of team speed, running the floor at altitude and sharing the ball, instead of Cremeans’ over-reliance on feeding key players, a coaching practice that reportedly lost the locker room and brought an end to her losing tenure at DU. This year, DU has five players averaging double-digit scoring per game, a depth which makes it harder for opponents to key on any one player, and also makes for a much happier DU locker room.

DU’s high scoring attack has been led by Lauren Loven, a junior holdover recruit from Cremeans, who is now flourishing in the ball-sharing Turgeon era, leading the entire nation in made three-pointers (30 in six games through Nov. 30), and is averaging 21 points per game overall to lead the Pioneers in scoring. Additionally, fellow Junior Madison Nelson has exploded recently, with a 20-rebound performance against Lamar and pumping in 28 points in the win over Loyola Marymount. But it’s not just upperclassmen.

Hard-working associate head coach and recruiting coordinator Kayla Ard and the rest of Turgeon’s Denver staff have also brought in some freshmen who are stepping up right away, including Sydney Mech, a local swing player out of Cherry Creek High School who can play either forward or guard, and who is shooting a scorching 50% from the field, averaging 10 points per game. Additionally, talented freshman guard Tsimba Malonga from the Chicago area, who has averaged over 20 minutes per game in the last two games, is being rewarded with more playing time as her contributions increase.

While the 6-1 early record is outstanding, it has been created with a lot of home games, and we’ll soon see what the Pioneers are really made of in the coming weeks. DU is preparing to go on the road for seven of its next eight games, including visits to Wyoming, the University of Nebraska and Colorado State, before heading into the teeth of Summit League play, where top level programs South Dakota and South Dakota State are projected to lead the Summit League.

 

“Go Denver Pioneers Spirit Fund” at 65% of year-end matching funds goal

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A few weeks ago, back on October 11th, the “Go Denver Pioneers Spirit Fund” was launched publicly, with a $2,500 matching funds challenge for donations made prior to December 31, 2018. Donations to this fund go directly to the University of Denver for school spirit initiatives.

We’re happy to report that the Let’s Go DU blog community has already made $1,615 in donations since then, putting us over halfway to the $2,500 matching funds goal.

We’re appealing to you to raise the remaining $885 before the end of the year! And since today is “Giving Tuesday”, it’s a perfect day to make your tax-deductible donation. You can read more about the fund here, as well as donate online here: Go Denver Pioneers Spirit Fund

We’ll continue to make updates on our progress toward the $2,500 matching challenge. 

Thank you for your support of this DU Pioneer spirit initiative! Go Pioneers!

Denver Men’s Soccer Upset by Air Force, 2-1 in NCAA Second Round Soccer Match

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DU’s Stefan DeLeone reacts to DU’s 2-1 Upset Loss to Air  Force in the NCAA Tournament. Photo Credit: Jason Evans

This one hurt.

The Denver Pioneers men’s soccer season came to a crashing halt in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, as the host #15 seeded Pioneers were upset by unseeded Air Force, 2-1 (#25 RPI) at the University of Denver Soccer Stadium on Nov. 18.

The Summit League Champion Pioneers (15-3-2) came out of the gate uncharacteristically  jittery and unsure of themselves on this sunny, cool afternoon. The mood led to two rare DU defensive miscues in the first 29 minutes that led directly to a pair of Air Force goals that would be all the Falcons would need for the upset victory. Continue reading Denver Men’s Soccer Upset by Air Force, 2-1 in NCAA Second Round Soccer Match

Pios push #11th ranked K-State into last minute, falling 64-56 in gutty road effort

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Denver gave #11th ranked K-State all they wanted in Manhattan, Kansas. Photo: Tim Thompson

The Denver Pioneers, going in as 19-point underdogs, played their hearts out in 64-56 road loss at 11th-ranked Kansas State before 9,412 fans at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas. Denver held the Wildcats to only 38% shooting, but could not contain KSU senior guard Barry Brown, whose 25 points led all scorers.

Video highlights here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCSach7GrHA

The Pioneers had cut KSU’s lead to just four points, 60-56, with 1:21 to play on a pair of free throws by DU junior Ade Murkey, but the Wildcats made some key plays down the stretch, including a Kamau Stokes steal and a Xavier Sneed dunk to escape the upset bid by the Pioneers. K-State was an NCAA final eight team last season, with all of the Cats’ key players returning for this season.

The Pioneers were led by senior Joe Rosga’s 18 points, while senior Ronnie Harrell, Jr. and Murkey both chipped in with 14 points apiece. The Pioneers last led the game 38-37 with 13 minutes to go, and with the Wildcats shooting just 12-27 at the free throw line, DU was able to keep the game close down the stretch, out-rebounding KSU on the defensive glass, 30-29, although DU did give up 17 turnovers in the game.

The Pioneers are now 1-1 on the young season, and will face Abilene Christian on Thursday.

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DU Men’s Soccer Selected to Host NCAA Tourney Pod, will face Air Force or Central Arkansas this Sunday

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Andre Shinyashiki (#9), who leads the nation in goals with 28, will lead DU into the 2018 NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament.

The University of Denver Men’s Soccer team has been not only selected for the NCAA tournament, but rewarded with a #15 seed, a bye in the first round, and will host the winner of Air Force and Central Arkansas at DU on Sunday, Nov. 18 at 3 pm MT. 

If the Pioneers should win that home game, they will face the winner of #2 seed Indiana University’s pod of Indiana, University of Connecticut or the University of Rhode Island in the third round.   The full NCAA bracket is here: http://www.ncaa.com/brackets/soccer-men/d1/2018

There was certainly some concern last night that DU might not get to host an NCAA tourney game this season, as its RPI had fallen to #17 on the evening of tournament selection (only 16 teams are seeded, the other 32 at-large teams play each other for the right to advance to one of the 16 seeded home sites), but fortunately for DU, the NCAA tournament committee did not use straight RPI to seed the tournament.

In looking ahead, Air Force, with an at large bid, is the far better of the two teams (RPI#26) when compared with Central Arkansas (#67). However, Air Force is not playing well right now, having lost its last two games to Grand Canyon (#53 RPI).  That said, Air Force being only an hour from the DU campus would likely bring more fans to DU for the game than Central Arkansas, the Champion of the Missouri Valley Conference.

For the Pioneers, it is likely that Sunday’s game will be the last home field opportunity to watch Senior Andre Shinyashiki play for DU.  Shinyashiki’s 28 goals this season leads the nation by wide margin, and he may be enjoying the finest season ever for a DU athlete in any sport.  He is one of the favorites for the Hermann Trophy, college soccer’s national equivalent of the Heisman Trophy in football or the Hobey Baker award in college hockey.  Should Andre win that award, he could be considered DU’s finest athlete in the modern era, given that there are only 60 teams playing D-I hockey, where DU has two Hobey Baker Winners, Matt Carle in 2006 and Will Butcher in 2017, the only two DU team sports athletes to win a national MVP trophy. Since there are 206 teams playing D-I soccer, Shinyshiki’s achievement would be arguably greater than Carle or Butcher.  DU has also had individual NCAA D-I champions in gymnastics (Nina McGee in 2016), swimming (Jack Kelso in 1962) and many in skiing over the years, but it could be argued that individual national MVP awards in team sports are greater achievements, since there are opponents directly trying to physically stop an athlete from achieving them, versus individual sports where the clock or judges’ scoring determines win or loss status.

While Shinyashiki’s achievements are spectacular this year, detractors argue that most of his goals have come against lower level opponents, and that against top-25 teams, Andre’s goal scoring is much rarer. Let’s hope Andre and DU score more goals in the coming weeks, and that DU can advance deep into the tournament.

In any event, all DU fans should come to the soccer game this Sunday to cheer on Andre and the Pioneers in the NCAA tournament.

Pios Roar Back from 3-0 Deficit to Tie UAF 3-3, on Lancaster’s goal in Final Minute

44442114_1967476963290813_3960080458183606272_oIn college hockey, fans should never leave a game early, as you just never know what you might miss. Denver graduate transfer Les Lancaster’s blast from the top of the left face-off circle found its way through traffic and into the Alaska Fairbanks net with just 35 seconds left in regulation time to complete a three-goal comeback for #9 Denver to tie the UAF Nanooks, 3-3.

While the tie kept DU undefeated at 3-0-1 on the young season, it was game where UAF probably deserved a better fate, as the Nanooks had mostly out-worked, out-hustled and outscored the Pioneers for most of the first two periods of the game, building a 3-0 lead on DU’s ice.

“Our guys didn’t give up in the third period,” said DU Coach David Carle in the postgame release. “It was nice to see them not give up. It was a gutsy effort to get the tie and get it to overtime. We’re certainly not happy with the result, but Fairbanks played a really good game and we were fortunate to get it tied up and get it to overtime.”

Indeed, the final two goals of the DU comeback were scored in the final two minutes of regulation with the goalie pulled for the extra skater, as DU’s Cole Guttman camped out down low to score on a cross-crease feed to make the game 3-2 with 1:52 left, setting the stage for Lancaster’s game-tying goal, as the ensuing five-minute overtime ended scoreless.

Quite honestly, DU came out painfully flat for the first 35 minutes of the game as the Nanooks built a 3-0 lead that lasted well into the second period, on goals by Kylar Hope, Ryker Leer, and Colton Leiter, the latter two coming on the power play.

The Pioneers were able to cut the UAF lead to 3-1 on a Jarid Lukosevicius rebound goal at 6:45 of the second, but after that, Tyson’s McLellan’s five-minute major and game misconduct for boarding stalled DU’s momentum. DU had also suffered an additional five minute major penalty in the first when Ryan Barrow was sent off for boarding, emblematic of a young team taking too many penalties.

DU will have the next week off, and will open NCHC league play against Western Michigan on Nov. 2.

NOTES: The game was played before 4, 314 fans at Magness Arena, one of whom was Golden State Warrior star Steph Curry, who was in town to play the Denver Nuggets on Sunday. Curry had earlier addressed the DU basketball team after the Warriors had practiced at DU on Saturday afternoon….DU has added a third goalie to the roster while projected starter Filip Larsson rehabs a lower-body injury that may keep him out until Christmas or longer. Bryan Sharp, a freshman from British Columbia, who came to DU to play on the DU Club Hockey team, will wear #40.  He played junior hockey in the NAHL.

 

 

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Analysis: DU’s New Partnership with FC Bayern Munich is Very, Very Exciting

blobid2_1539351798930The exciting news of the University of Denver’s new partnership with FC Bayern Munich, one of the truly premier powerhouse professional soccer teams in the world, represents an unbelievable opportunity for not only the DU soccer program, but for the entire DU community.

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DU Provost Jeremy Haefner (far left) and DU Chancellor Rebecca Chopp (center) celebrate DU’s new partnership with management team members of world-famous soccer powerhouse FC Bayern Munich (photo credit: University of Denver)

Continue reading Analysis: DU’s New Partnership with FC Bayern Munich is Very, Very Exciting

Denver opens 2018-2019 with a sloppy 6-4 exhibition win over Alberta Golden Bears

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Sophomore Ryan Barrow (#18) had a key third-period goal for Denver to send the Pioneers ahead 5-3 en route to a 6-4 exhibition win over the University of Alberta (Photo: University of Denver)

In an exhibition game that featured 10 goals, 15 power plays and 74 shots on goal between Denver and the University of Alberta, it’s pretty hard to draw many meaningful conclusions beyond the 6-4 Pioneer victory in a scrambling and at times, very sloppy exhibition opener.

DU head coach David Carle used the game as true tuneup, with all 27 DU players dressing, some major players taking the whole third period off and playing a wide variety of line combinations and defensive pairings to see what players had some chemistry together.

Alberta, the defending Canadian Champions, with six former minor league pros in its lineup with ECHL and AHL experience (legal in Canada since there are no scholarships) presented an older, bigger and stronger opponent for the Pios. Alberta has already been playing together for a month, while the Pios have only had a handful of practices coming into the exhibition.

The game was really three games in one.  In the first period of the game, DU was the better team and shut out Alberta behind goals by Michael Davies and Freshman Emilio Petterson, as the Pios looked to be largely in control, pleasing the large student turnout. 

But in the second period, DU took a number of bad penalties, and the tables quickly turned as the Golden Bears vaulted ahead to take a 3-2 lead behind a pair of power play goals, until DU senior Jarid Lukosevicius tied the game 3-3 on a walk-in with about a minute left in the second.

In the third period, DU took over the game again with a pair of early goals to essentially seal the win, making the score 5-3, with Ryan Barrow roofing a PPG in the crease, and Emilio Petterson picking a corner for his second goal of the game (the eventual game winner).  DU and and Alberta traded a couple of meaningless goals late in the game to make the final 6-4.

Here’s what we learned:

  • Emilio Petterson is a highly skilled freshman, whose two goals led the Pioneers, and whose game winner was big time shot into the corner of the net after he stole the puck from an Alberta defenseman.  He will likely be a first line forward for DU this season.
  • Cole Guttman and defensemen Slava Demin also stood out with a pair of assists each. These freshmen can clearly play.
  • DU didn’t play Ian Mitchell or Jarid Lukosevicius in the third period
  • DU, one of the least penalized teams in the country last year, took nine penalties in the game, with five of the nine taken by freshmen. DU will need to clean that up in the coming weeks.
  • DU’s inexperienced and lightly recruited goalies were surprisingly adequate – Sophomore Devin Cooley played well, holding Alberta scoreless into the second period, until DU hung him out to dry with poor penalty killing in the second period.  None of the three goals scored on him were his fault. Michael Corson came on to play the third period and only let in one goal to get the win, not bad for a third-stringer freshman.
  • DU gave up 40 shots in the contest to Alberta, so defense will need to tighten in the coming weeks.

Puck Swami’s Guide to 2018-2019 DU Sports Fan Road Trips

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Traveling to watch Pioneer Sports is one of the great joys of life.  Photo: Aviation Stackexchange

While not all of DU’s teams have announced their 2018-2019 schedules yet, we know just enough to start planning potential road trips to see our beloved Pioneers play in some of America’s most iconic destinations. If you’ve never travelled to see the Pioneers play, you are missing out on some amazing experiences.  There is a special “us against the world” feeling that comes from watching DU on the road as Pio fan, and when the team gets a road win, it can feel even more special than a home win, because the team just needs you more on the road. Here are some possibilities to help get you started, with DU men’s  hockey, basketball, soccer and lacrosse road trips, in alphabetical order by area:

Continue reading Puck Swami’s Guide to 2018-2019 DU Sports Fan Road Trips

Another Shinyashiki Hat Trick Vaults #5 Pioneers over #22 San Francisco Dons, 3-0

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Senior Striker Andre Shinyashiki put on another goal scoring show with his third hat trick in just seven games as #5 DU beat #22 USF, 3-0 Sunday. Photo: University of Denver

Senior Striker Andre Shinyashiki continued his torrid scoring pace, producing all three DU goals in the fifth-ranked Pioneer men’s 3-0 sun-baked soccer shut-out demolition of the #22nd-ranked University of San Francisco Dons at DU Soccer Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 16.

The hat trick was his third such three-goal performance in this young season, as the Brazilian continues to lead the nation in goal scoring, with 13 goals in just seven games, which is already the second-most season goals in DU’s Division I history.  He also had scored twice in Friday’s 3-1 win over Harvard, and set-up the game-winner with an assist, and today notched his third-straight multi-goal game to keep the Pioneers undefeated at 6-0-1 on the season.  All three of Shinyashiki’s goals today came in the second half to blow open a 0-0 halftime tie in 92 degree heat, after the first half had seen Shinyashiki create a number of near misses. Continue reading Another Shinyashiki Hat Trick Vaults #5 Pioneers over #22 San Francisco Dons, 3-0