Series of the Week: No. 4 Denver at No.13 Western Michigan
With St. Cloud State taking a firm grasp on first place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, No. 13 Western Michigan (13-8-1) and No. 4 Denver (14-4-3) are currently tied for third place just one point behind Minnesota-Duluth.
The Broncos and Pioneers are two teams that are legit NCAA Tournament contenders and this series in Kalamazoo will hold some serious conference tournament and NCAA Tournament seeding implications.
The two sides have already met twice earlier in the season with the Pioneers gaining a sweep by scores of 5-2 and 4-3 respectively at Magness Arena in Denver.
Western has the seventh ranked scoring offense in the country with an average of 3.48 goals and much of that success is due to Josh Passolt.
Passolt, a sophomore forward, leads the team with 14 goals and 23 points. Senior forward Colt Conrad has 22 points on the season, 15 of which are assists.
The quartet of Hugh McGing, Austin Rueschhoff, Cam Lee and Corey Schueneman has proven to be lethal. All four of them have over 10 assists on the season and really know how to share the wealth on an extremely balanced offense.
In the crease, senior Trevor Gorsuch has had himself a sold season, as of now, with a record of 11-4-1.
The senior netminder has allowed 35 goals in 17 appearances, an average of 2.19 goals per contest, and holds a save percentage of .925.
Denver on the other hand is looking to really push past Duluth and be in striking distance of St. Cloud State atop the conference standings.
The Pioneers currently have the ninth best scoring offense in the nation with 3.36 goals per game and there is a plethora of dangerous players on this Denver squad.
Senior forward Jarid Lukosevicius has had quite the career in the crimson and gold as he leads his team with 13 goals, putting him at a career total of 56 thus far.
Junior forward Liam Finlay and freshman forward Emilio Pettersen have been a formidable duo totaling 45 points together.
The Norwegian sensation Pettersen is a 2018 sixth-round selection of the Calgary Flames and is just 18 years old yet leads the team with 16 assists.
Head Coach David Carle has two extremely reliable options when it comes to goaltending. Sophomore Devin Cooley and freshmen Filip Larsson have both been sharp thus far.
Cooley has a record of 8-4-1, a save percentage of .929, a goals against average of 2.08 and has allowed 28 goals.
Larsson on the other hand is 2016 sixth-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings and has made the most of his opportunities. The young Swede has a record of 6-0-2, a save percentage of .919, a goals against average of 2.18 and has allowed 17 goals.
Kalamazoo will be the center of the college hockey world and the anticipation is building for both sides.
Look for both teams to assert their physicality right from the first puck drop. These two games could lead to 120 minutes of old-school smash-mouth hockey.
This will certainly be fun.
Prediction: Denver sweep
Christopher Hess is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in history. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.