College Hockey Series of the Week: Denver vs. North Dakota

Story posted February 12, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Christopher Hess

The NCHC is a conference that boasts some of the top teams in the country, and two of the best teams in the polls will be going at it two more times in Grand Forks as No. 1 North Dakota (21-3-3) welcomes No. 5 Denver (17-6-5) to Ralph Engalstad Arena.

The Fighting Hawks took five of the six possible points at Magness Arena in Denver back in November with a 3-on-3 overtime win and a regulation win. However, late season hockey tends to bring out the extra fire in teams jockeying for conference titles.

North Dakota brings the most lethal offense in the country to the table, averaging 4.13 goals per clip, and Hobey Baker Award candidate, Jordan Kawaguchi, is the ring-leader of that attack.

In 27 games, Kawaguchi has 15 goals, 26 assists, 41 points and a plus-minus rating of plus-19. His ability to take control of a game and cater it to his speed is something that not many players can do.

Long Island native and freshman forward, Shane Pinto, is another player that has a knack for finding the back of the net. The Ottawa Senators draft pick is second on the team in goals with 13. Colorado College grad transfer, Westin Michaud, is right behind him with 12.

Sophomore defensemen Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jonny Tychonick are two extremely strong forces on the back end for this North Dakota team. Like Pinto, both are Senators prospects and contribute on the offensive side as the two have combined for 28 points.

Netminder Adam Scheel has also contributed greatly to the sustained success of this North Dakota team. In 23 games, Scheel has a goals against average of 2.08, a record of 17-3-2 and a save percentage of .903.

For the Pioneers, they are virtual locks for the NCAA Tournament. However, they are tied for third place in the conference with Western Michigan and 10 points behind second place Minnesota Duluth.

The season is far from over, but this is an uphill climb for this Denver team and two wins against the No. 1 team would surely boost its morale  down the stretch.

Denver presents one of the most balanced teams in regards to offense, defense and goaltending. In all three of those categories, the Pioneers rank inside the top 20.

The offense has only two double-digit goal scorers in Bobby Brink and Cole Guttman. However, if you were to exclude Brink and Guttman, there are still four other players with over 20 points.

The offensive attack averages 3.13 goals per clip and it especially helps when players like Emilio Pettersen, Ian Mitchell and Liam Finlay can spread out the defense with their crisp passes.

Mitchell contributes on the offensive end as a defenseman and junior defensemen, Griffin Mendel, is more of the old-school caliber defenseman that clamps down on opposing offenses.

In net, Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Magnus Chrona has had himself a solid 2019-2020 campaign through 28 games. In 21 games played, Chrona has tallied a record of 13-5-3, a goals against average of 2.23 and a save percentage of .918.

This series will create a playoff atmosphere at one of the crowned jewels of the College Hockey world with two of the sport’s most well-known and successful teams.

Look for both teams to come out with a smash-mouth approach as we could see two games that are very similar to the first two times these giants met. 

North Dakota will be able to score against Denver’s defense. The question that persists, however, is whether Denver can outscore North Dakota. Quite frankly, it may be a bit of a stretch.

Prediction: North Dakota wins the series 1-0-1

Game 1: North Dakota 3, Denver 3 (North Dakota wins in the 3-on-3 overtime period)

Game 2: North Dakota 3, Denver 2

 

Christopher Hess is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email christopherhess22@gmail.com.