Tag Archives: College Hockey

Former Pioneer All-American Chris Butler retires as Stanley Cup champ

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Chris Butler skates with the Stanley Cup as a member of the 2019 Champion St. Louis Blues/Photo: Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Chris Butler picked a glorious way to end his 11-year professional hockey career, going out as a Stanley Cup winner.

Wearing the uniform of his hometown team, the St. Louis Blues, the 32-year-old former Pioneer defenseman took his final skate on NHL ice on June 12th, holding aloft the Stanley Cup Trophy that he’d helped his Blues to win, appearing in 13 NHL games last season. Over his career, Butler had appeared in 407 NHL games with St. Louis, Calgary and Buffalo, with the rest of his career spent mostly in the AHL, as well as a short stint in Sweden in 2012-13. Over his NHL career, he’d scored 14 goals and picked-up 72 assists for 86 points. Continue reading Former Pioneer All-American Chris Butler retires as Stanley Cup champ

Puck Swami’s Rapid Reaction: WCHA Upheaval Was Predictable and Money-Driven

While some people were taken by surprise by last Friday’s announcement that seven WCHA schools’ intentions to pull out of the conference to form a more “regionally aligned” conference in 2021-22, it should not be all that surprising given huge influence of money and how it underpins most decisions in college sports. 

On the surface of it, the expensive and time-consuming league trips to regional outliers in Alaska (to play Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska-Fairbanks ) and Alabama-Huntsville are unappealing to most WCHA schools. These schools’ desire to form a more regional ‘bus league” to save money is a huge driver in the decision, especially as WCHA schools are smaller-budget institutions without many sources of revenue beyond the tickets they can sell. The reality is that the WCHA is a third-tier league today in terms of hockey budgets.   

Those money interests have become more acute recently, as both the University of Alaska-Anchorage and University of Alaska-Fairbanks programs had moved onto their own very shaky financial ground of late— the latest news coming this week as Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy vetoed over $400 million from the state’s proposed budget, including over $100 million ear-marked for the state university systems.  This move may financially eliminate all athletics at both schools. Both UAA and UAF were already in the process of moving their hockey team’s game night facilities to their smaller, sub-2,000 seat on-campus practice facilities to spend less money, away from the larger city-owned facilities that each school has played in for many years.

The University of Alabama-Huntsville (coached by former DU player Mike Corbett) is in a bit better shape than UAA or UAF, committing recently to building a new on-campus arena.  But UAH does not subsidize opponent air travel to Alabama as the Alaska schools must to Alaska, and UAH has also had financial concerns in program support in recent years.

Don’t be surprised if the WCHA looks to the AHA to replace the Alaska schools and UAH with more “buss-able” replacements in Pennsylvania, such as Mercyhurst and Robert Morris to backfill the league.

Moreover, there is plenty of historical precedent for this kind of financially-motivated decision in the WCHA.

First, the recent formation of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) that helped break up the WCHA in 2012-2013, led largely by DU and North Dakota, was not only a necessary competitive response to the formation of Big 10 hockey conference (which resulted in the WCHA losing Wisconsin and Minnesota), but an acknowledgement of different financial support philosophies for college hockey.

DU and UND did not like the cost-containment, low-investment mentality of some of the remaining WCHA schools at that time. Moreover, DU and North Dakota did not like being outvoted by these slow-growth, small-market WCHA members who not only would not invest in the future of the league, but who also propped up then-commissioner Bruce MacLeod’s slower, low-investment leadership style with a secret contract extension.  If you remember, the key phrase of the NCHC when it was formed, it was “like-minded schools.”  Given the cost-containment mentality in the WCHA, it is not surprising that schools that cost too much would be eventually pushed out.

Indeed, the entire organizational membership history of the WCHA since its formation in 1960 has been based on defensive reaction to circumstances rather than some grand western strategy to dominate college hockey.

In 1960, the WCHA was formed as a reaction to the predecessor league (WIHL)’s collapse in 1959 over different recruiting practices and a lack of league playoff system.

In 1981, the WCHA almost imploded again when Michigan’s then-athletic director, Don Canham, led a mass defection with Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Notre Dame leaving the WCHA to join the what was then the CCHA as ‘bus league” to avoid air travel to Colorado to play DU and CC, leaving only six WCHA members.  While Michigan Tech eventually came back to the WCHA in 1983, the other schools never did. By the way, Michigan has never played DU in regular season play since 1980-81, the last season Michigan was in the WCHA.

In other words, follow the money.

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

Ian Mitchell Returning to DU for Junior Year

Denver defenseman Ian Mitchell plans to return to Denver for his junior year/ Photo: DU

Denver Pioneer hockey defenseman and alternate captain Ian Mitchell will return for his junior year in the Pioneers’ 70th anniversary season, Mitchell announced on Wednesday. Mitchell’s decision to return ended speculation that second-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks would end his college career early to sign an NHL contract.

“In the past few days since our season ended, I have had the chance to reflect on the year and the season our team had,” Mitchell, a Calahoo, Alberta native, said in a DU  press release. “It became clear to me during that time that I did not feel ready mentally or physically to leave Denver. I believe this is the best place for me to become a better hockey player and as a team we have an opportunity to do something very special next year. I would like to thank the Chicago Blackhawks organization for being so supportive and respectful of my decision to remain in school and continue my development. I am looking forward to next season.”

Mitchell has eight goals, 49 assists and 32 penalty minutes through 80 career games with the Pioneers. The Chicago Blackhawks prospect registered six goals, 21 assists and 18 penalty minutes through 39 games during the 2018-19 season, leading Denver defensemen in points and leading all Pioneer skaters with 12 power-play points and 66 blocked shots to earn Second-Team All-NCHC honors. In January, Mitchell represented Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship where he posted one goal and two assists in five games.

Mitchell is a two-time member of the NCHC Academic All-Conference Team and a two-time NCHC Distinguished Scholar-Athlete. Prior to coming to Denver, Mitchell tallied 14 goals and 50 assists in 109 games with the Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL) from 2015-17. He represented Canada at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, 2015 World U-17 Hockey Challenge and 2015 Winter Games.

DU Goaltending: Filip Larsson Out, Magnus Chrona In

Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Pick Magnus Chrona is expected to join DU Hockey next season. Photo: Emily Rinesse

The University of Denver will deliver perhaps the slick tick-tack-toe goaltending move of the 2019 off-season. Out is Filip Larsson, the outstanding Swedish freshman goaltender for DU, who has signed a three-year entry level NHL contract on Monday, April 15th with the Detroit Red Wings, the team that drafted him in the sixth round  of the 2016 NHL Draft.  At DU, Larsson, 20, teamed with Devin Cooley to form one of the best goaltender tandems in College Hockey, leading Denver to the 2019 NCAA Frozen Four.

Without missing a beat, sources close to the DU program told LetsGoDU that the program anticipated Larsson’s early NHL signing and has lined up a replacement in the pipeline in 2018 5th-round Tampa Bay Lightning draftee, Magnus Chrona. He played in Northern Sweden for Skellefteå AIK J20 in the Swedish SuperElite Junior League. Outside one of the best names in hockey, the Pioneers landed the outstanding 6’4″, 209-lb Chrona, who also attended Tampa Bay’s Development Camp last year.  While  Chrona hasn’t yet officially signed with DU, it appears the Pioneers won’t miss a beat with the transition to next season. Continue reading DU Goaltending: Filip Larsson Out, Magnus Chrona In

DU to Host Free Pre-Game Party in Buffalo + TV Watch Parties Around the USA

The University of Denver is sponsoring a pre-game party in Buffalo, New York prior to Thursday’s NCAA Semi-Final between DU and the University of Massachusetts.  DU is also sponsoring free TV watch Parties in selected large cities around the nation:

Pre-game reception:
Buffalo, NY

TV Watch Parties:
Denver
Chicago
San Francisco
Portland, Ore.
Seattle
Los Angeles
San Diego
Phoenix
New York City
Boston,
Old Greenwich, Conn.
Philadelphia
Washington, D.C.
Atlanta

For more information on party times and city TV party locations, and to register to attend, please follow this link:

Pioneers’ slumping offense threatens postseason hockey hopes

Denver’s Jarid Lukosevicius leads the nation in game-winning goals Photo: Carol Mackay, University of Denver

It’s not a secret.

The #7 University of Denver hockey team’s offensive production has slumped, from scoring 3.5 goals per game in first 18 games of the season to 2.0 goals per game in the last 16 games (all of the last 16 were vs. NCHC opponents).  In short, this is a bad time of year to be slumping, and the recent loss of the Gold Pan to rival Colorado College, getting swept with only a single goal to show for last weekend’s nearly 60 DU shots-on-goal, has brought the current DU offensive problems into high relief. Continue reading Pioneers’ slumping offense threatens postseason hockey hopes

DU Takes Five of Six NCHC Points in Omaha, Clinches Home Ice for NCHC Playoffs

DU’s Colin Staub (#24 at left) battles in the UNO crease during DU’s five-point weekend in Omaha. Photo: Omaha World Herald

The Denver Pioneers got some solid results in the last full road weekend of the NCHC regular season, defeating the University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks 4-1 on Friday night, and tying the Mavericks 3-3 on Saturday night, with a bonus standings point for an NCHC overtime 3-on-3 winning goal at Baxter Arena in Omaha. The win and tie extended DU’s undefeated streak against Omaha to 16 games, dating back to 2015.

The #6-ranked Pioneers (19-8-5 overall, 11-8-3 NCHC) were outshot (and often outplayed) in both games by a more desperate Omaha team (9-20-3), ranked #44 in Pairwise. That said, the Pioneers were able to take more advantage of their higher skill level on scoring chances to secure the five-point weekend, putting seven regulation goals behind Omaha netminder Evan Weninger, plus the extra NCHC overtime winner, over the two games. Continue reading DU Takes Five of Six NCHC Points in Omaha, Clinches Home Ice for NCHC Playoffs

Pioneers Squeeze-Out Road Split With Minnesota-Duluth Behind Cooley’s 1-0 Shutout

UMD  forward Nick Swaney (23) of Minnesota Duluth controls the puck near defenseman Ian Mitchell (15) of Denver during Friday’s game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. — Clint Austin /Duluth News

DULUTH, Minn. — DU Goaltender Devin Cooley returned to the Denver lineup after missing 10 games for an injury, just in time to turn away all 27 shots he faced from the fourth-ranked Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs for a 1-0 shutout in Saturday’s second game of the two-game NCHC series, before over 6,400 fans at Amsoil Arena.

The No. #7 Pioneers were able to get just 16 shots on goal in the game, but were able to ride a single first-period goal from Slava Demin and held on to salvage an important split in a hostile road environment.

The Saturday night DU win over UMD avenged a 5-2 loss to the Bulldogs on Friday night, when DU was badly outplayed in the third period.

With the road victory, the Pioneers vaulted into fourth place in the National Pairwise ranking system, which mimics the process used to select teams for the NCAA tournament next month, and also moved the Pioneers into fourth place in the NCHC standings.

“I’m really proud of our guys’ effort and their resilience to be able to stick together and gut out a tough road win,” said DU Coach David Carle said after the game. “It hasn’t been easy as of late. We’ve been in a lot of wars and a lot of low scoring games. We haven’t had success on the road and to be able to come into this building is a feather in our cap.”

The Pioneers lone marker of the game came at the 8:04 mark of the first period, when DU’s Emilio Peterson passed the puck to Slava Demin, who launched a 50-foot point shot through traffic to beat UMD net minder Hunter Shepard for Demin’s fourth goal of the season.

The Pioneers then survived a furious Minnesota-Duluth comeback when the Bulldogs outshot Denver 13-2 in the third period, but Cooley remained steadfast for his third shutout of the season as the Pioneers won only their second road conference game of the season. Cooley’s shutout was his second over UMD this season, with the first one coming back in November at Magness Arena in Denver.

The Pioneers (16-7-4, 8-7-2-2) will face Miami (Ohio) next weekend in a two game series at Magness Arena.

 

 

 

Fighting Hawks fans begin annual trek to Denver

Photo: Courtesy of Courtyard by Marriott Cherry Creek

North Dakota fans are sure to enjoy their stay in the Mile High City – just like last season. North Dakota fans will be making their annual pilgrimage to Denver next weekend to watch the North Dakota – Denver hockey series.  And, as usual, we are following their stories closely. Continue reading Fighting Hawks fans begin annual trek to Denver

Old North End neighbors fight CC’s new arena plans

A pitched battle is heating up in the Springs. What appeared to be a project to build a small hockey practice facility on the CC campus has morphed into a full-blown on-campus arena. The upscale Old North End Neighborhood is not happy about the sleight of hand by Colorado College leadership.

The announcement of the new Robson Arena was made before consulting with neighbors. Continue reading Old North End neighbors fight CC’s new arena plans