All posts by Puck Swami

Longtime University of Denver fan and alumnus.

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.

PUCK SWAMI: HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A BIG (FANTASY) HOLIDAY GIFT TO DU SPORTS?

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Photo: X-Stock

It’s the Holiday Season – the season of giving! If you haven’t done it yet, this is the perfect time for a year-end gift to the University of Denver. Assuming you’re not actually a billionaire, perhaps you like to fantasize about what you would do if your check could be for multi-millions – the kind of gift that could transform Pioneer sports for the next 25 years!

How much would it take for a gift to be “transformational?”  Good question. Since we’re fantasizing here, let’s make the fantasy “gift” about the size of DU’s last real transformational gift to athletics – the $85 million it cost to build the Ritchie Center, which opened in 1999. (I know some of the Ritchie Center was gifted to DU and the rest bonded, but hey, let’s pretend it was all gifted!) Considering we’re fantasy-gifting to DU in 2016, that $85 million would now be about $123 million in 2016 dollars. So, we’ll use that higher amount as our fantasy gift, and here’s how we’d spend it:

First off, we would not spend all the money on restarting a D-I football program or building a new palace-like facility for just one sport, as they did in Grand Forks. While those might be noble goals for some, I believe those kinds of expenditures might rob DU of our unique, multi-sport excellence that has been carefully cultivated over time. Instead, our fantasy gift would be broken into smaller (yet sizable) chunks that would help keep our key teams rising in multiple sports and add to the spectator experience of enjoying them!

Second, there would be a few strings attached to a such a gift, as there always are with big gifts. In return for the gift, DU would agree that the Denver “Pioneer” nickname will never change, and that Denver Boone will return to official status as a school mascot. We would then, in turn, fund $5 million in new scholarships for Native American DU students to show substantive, meaningful support for those students. We would also fund a Native American lacrosse statue on campus as a tribute to the founders of the game. The entire Native American gift program would be named for Zach Miller ‘17, DU’s first Native American lacrosse star player.

Here’s how we’d earmark the rest of the $123 million in gift money:

1) Spend $20 million to upgrade the game-day facilities for lacrosse. The seating should be upgraded to a 6,000-8,000 seat stadium, as the men’s program has clearly outgrown the current 2,000-seat Barton Lacrosse Stadium.  There are several ways to accomplish this stadium upgrade. Perhaps this could be done by adding new seating to the existing Barton Stadium in an upper deck and/or a new north side stadium addition replacing the “hill” on the Ritchie Center. Or perhaps it could be done by upgrading the current Denver Public School Football Stadium at Denver South High School, across the highway from DU. We’d want the new/upgraded lacrosse stadium to have individual padded seating sections, state-of-the-art turf, luxury boxes, a student bleacher section, a new big video scoreboard and upgraded locker rooms.

Part of the same $20 million should also be used to develop a dedicated, retractable/covered outdoor party deck to upgrade student, alumni and fan tailgate events to maintain a great game day atmosphere at the new/upgraded stadium. DU could name the facility stadium after legendary DU coach Bill Tierney and name the new party deck after DU superfan Damien Goddard, who has done more for DU school spirit than anyone in the last 40 years.

The DU soccer teams could choose to still play at Ciber field on campus unless spectator demand for their games grows for additional seating capacity, in which case, some soccer games could be played at the new lacrosse stadium, as long as the turf situation could be worked out. Given DU’s recent rise in NCAA soccer, that program could soon outgrow Ciber field on campus within 5 years.

2) Earmark $20 million to build to build a new dedicated indoor varsity practice facility for DU soccer,  basketball and lacrosse (and perhaps other sports programs) at the South High sports complex, as DU is currently too landlocked a campus to accommodate this size of needed facility. DU could also share it with the Denver School system in return for the land to build it. This would please the DU coaches, keep DU competitive with other schools and take some of the high daily usage load off the Ritchie Center while also allowing more use of the Ritchie Center for recreational and intramural sports. It would also allow select lacrosse/soccer games to be played indoors in bad weather, if needed. DU could add a larger varsity weight room, student athlete lounges, sports science labs, offices, meeting rooms, medical/training rooms, video review room, etc. I’d ask that it be named for current DU AD Peg Bradley-Doppes, who has built DU from a hockey school to a multi-sport NCAA powerhouse since arriving at DU in 2005 and who, in my opinion, is the best athletic director we’ve ever had at DU.

3) Set aside $15 million for upgrades to the current Ritchie Center. (The RC is now pushing 20 years old and could use some new tweaks). While we don’t need more seating, it is time to add some new, revenue-producing luxury boxes on the east side. We also need: a new DU Hall of Fame/Museum space to replace the currently underwhelming HOF plaques in the West concourse; a new bar/restaurant deck space on the east side; a much better DU merchandise store; and new concourse graphics/banners to enhance our sense of DU sports tradition. DU should also consider adding some solar panels on the Gates Field House roof to reduce Ritchie Center energy costs. DU should also retrofit the current DU student section into bleacher seating for better student section identity and easier general admission/standing room and also erect a pep band/cheer squad platform into that section to better accommodate spirit squad integration without blocking fan views. The naming opportunity here would be designated for Murray Armstrong, DU’s legendary hockey coach who won 5 NCAA titles at DU from the late 1950s to the late 1960s, and established our hockey program as one of the nation’s elite. He deserves a more fitting public tribute than his current statue, which is squeezed beside the Bavarian Nut cart on game nights. (The current hockey locker room is also named after Armstrong, but few members of the public see that tribute either.)

4) Let’s spend $15 million to upgrade the current (and quite spartan) Denver Public School baseball and softball fields at Denver South High to NCAA D-I standards and then add those two varsity sports to DU. This would make DU even more attractive for an overall multi-sport conference upgrade, which is something that other higher conferences want DU to do to be considered for admission. DU should include appropriate locker rooms, some luxury seating, a party deck between (and overlooking) both stadium fields and new video scoreboards. Once again, DU would share the facilities with Denver Public Schools in return for the upgrades of their existing facilities. DU could name the complex after former Major Leaguer Dan Schatzeder, the most famous DU baseball player of all time, and Jack Rose, the longtime DU baseball coach who built the program from the 1960s until it was dropped in 1999.

5) Spend $7 million to upgrade the tennis complex at South High to indoor/outdoor courts (as has already been envisioned among high-level donors) which DU would then share with Denver Public Schools and the Denver community. Then, remove the six current DU Stapleton Tennis Pavilion tennis courts and convert the site to a new beach volleyball facility (with seating for 1,000 fans and a party deck) and start a NCAA beach volleyball program at DU. The sport is growing in popularity with over 50 NCAA D-I women’s programs already, and could also make us more appealing to other western conferences. Since DU has never produced a super well-known tennis or volleyball player, we’ll name it after the most famous DU alumnus, former US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice, BA’74, PhD ’81, just for fun.

6) Spend $5 million to build the “Boone Bridge” a covered, solar-heated, glassed-in bridge over I-25 that would connect the new DU facilities at South High to the current DU campus and to the RTD light rail station. We’d outfit the new bridge with a giant electronic billboard to promote DU events to the thousands of cars passing underneath each day on I-25, and DU could also sell advertising to others to help pay for it. The Bridge would become a beacon for DU and part of a memorable, safe and climate-controlled game-day march to the new facilities for DU students and fans. This bridge would be named after Denver Boone, the mascot of the Pioneers.

7) $5 million should be set aside for new league entry/old league exit fees and opponent travel incentives to facilitate a new conference home for DU — West Coast Conference, Missouri Valley Conference, Big East (longshot, I know) — or to build a new conference with other disgruntled private schools. DU needs money for this purpose so that the school can easily make the move when the timing and invitation is right. Until then, we’re okay with the Summit League, especially if North Dakota is added to the conference.

8) Spend $4 million to help upgrade the hockey locker room complex at Magness Arena to be even more state-of-the-art, well beyond the current $2 million new locker room project already underway in the fundraising phase. DU should make this a fund for DU Coach Jim Montgomery to do what he needs to do to keep DU at the forefront of college hockey recruiting. And this fund should be named for Ron Grahame ’73, DU’s all-American goalie and current Deputy Athletic Director.

9) Earmark $3 million to endow major head and assistant coaching positions in perpetuity for key sports, so that DU can afford to keep our great coaches here, and attract new great coaches through the years. I would name this fund after Former DU Hockey Coach George Gwozdecky, who restored the pride to DU with his NCAA titles in 2004 and 2005, as well as other hardware and achievements with the DU program. In my view, that would be both ironic (given Gwozdecky’s contract dispute which ended his DU career) and iconic at the same time.

10) Spend $5 million to upgrade and endow DU spirit squads (a better and bigger recruited pep band, cheer teams, dance team, Boone mascot program, etc.) and make sure these groups are of large enough size, quality and funding levels so that they can always travel to key NCAA Championships events, etc.  We’d call this the “Puck and Mrs. Swami School Spirit Fund”, because we are the “gifters” in this fantasy, after all.

11) Spend $5 million fund to brand, advertise and promote DU sports events in the Denver community to help sell more game tickets and help make DU more relevant to the oversaturated Denver sports market. Part of this gift would also be used to organize special Denver sports events (e.g. Battle on Blake, NCAA lacrosse at Mile High,) and bring in some concert entertainers to turn some of these games into large events, etc.

12)  Spend $4 million for fan and team transport. This would include charter jet flight time credits and a high-end team sleeper bus for team sport transport and a permanent fleet of DU buses that could be used to transport groups of DU fans to events, including ski meets. We’re 23-time and current National Ski Champs and 99% of DU fans have never been to a DU ski meet! When they aren’t being used for ski meets, DU could use the buses to take DU fans to regional away games such as Colorado College, CU, CSU, Wyoming, Air Force, Omaha, UNM, Front Range or to NCAA tournaments, etc.  Some of that money could also be used to buy a big RV decked out in DU colors as a centerpiece and meeting point for away-game tailgate parties, too. We’d name this fund the Fisher Fund, after 40-year DU fan Steve Fisher, who rarely misses a DU home game in any sport.

13) Create a $4 million endowment to help with guarantees and start tournament events to upgrade schedules in those sports where it is difficult to bring in brand name, non-league opponents to Denver. We’re looking at you, men’s basketball. This fund gets named for LetsGoDU bloggers Tim Thompson and Nick Tremaroli, because well, they put their hearts and souls into DU sports, too.

14) We would set aside $2 million to upgrade the DU Soccer fan experience, as it has big growth potential as a spectator sport at DU, with both the men’s and women’s programs. The DU soccer stadium could use a new video screen, and it would be fun to build a rowdy student section behind the south goal with a tailgate/party facility to give the students their own area for the games. Get the band and cheer teams at these games, too!

15) We haven’t forgotten gymnastics, either. We’ve set aside $2 million to help the Pioneers break into the top 5 in the country in gymnastics, which is the next level for the program. The coaches could use the money any way they wish, although a stipulation of the gift would be to set aside $100 per meet for earplugs for adult fans wishing to mitigate the shrieking from all the 9-year-old girls who attend DU gymnastics meets!

16) Finally, we’d give $2 million to DU’s swimming program to add some better seating beyond the five rows of current cement bleachers, as well as a party deck at the El Pomar Natatorium in the Ritchie Center to help increase meet attendance.

Well, there you have it. How would you spend some fantasy money for DU sports? Let us know in the comments below!

Puck Swami is the Internet moniker of a long-time DU sports fan and alumnus. He shares his views periodically here at LetsGoDU.

 

 

Puck Swami: A Pioneer Fan in Houston’s thoughts on the College Cup

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HOUSTON – It’s not even 48 hours after the Denver Pioneers’ undefeated soccer season ended on a double-overtime goal by Wake Forest’s Ian Harkes in NCAA semifinal in the College Cup at BBVA Compass Stadium.

The Pioneers fell straight down to the field on the spots where they had just arrived after chasing the Deacons’ 2-on-1 game-winner, as Harkes’ goal nestled into the corner of the Pioneer net. Yes, they were drained of physical energy after over 100 minutes of soccer, but also suddenly relieved of the mental stress and relentless focus of pushing through an a second consecutive undefeated season and taking their teammates, coaches, families, university and fans to a place it had never been before in this sport. Continue reading Puck Swami: A Pioneer Fan in Houston’s thoughts on the College Cup

Puck Swami: Is the men’s soccer team making the 2016 College Cup DU’s greatest sporting achievement?

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When Denver centerback  Kortne Ford (above/Photo by David Grooms) carved open the Clemson backline to convert Alex Underwood’s cross to score the game-winning goal in Dec.2’s NCAA Soccer Quarterfinal with a minute left in the game to book a first-ever DU berth in the College Cup, it set off a big celebration for every Pioneer fan.

I would argue that it may have been one of DU’s greatest collegiate sporting achievements of all time.  Here’s why: Continue reading Puck Swami: Is the men’s soccer team making the 2016 College Cup DU’s greatest sporting achievement?