Series Preview: No.6 Denver vs. No.20 North Dakota
For this weekend’s series of the week, the sixth ranked Denver Pioneers (14-6-3, 6-6-1) will host the 20th ranked North Dakota Fighting Hawks (13-11-1, 7-7-1). Both contests will take place at Magness Arena on the University of Denver campus.
The Pioneers enter riding on the coattails of a two game losing streak at the hands of Western Michigan. They were outscored 8-2 by an offensive juggernaut, yet the Pioneers will look to return to their winning ways as they had previously won seven straight contests.
If they’re going to emerge with a victory on home ice, undersized junior forward Liam Finlay will need to be huge. Finlay leads the team in points and stands at fourth in plus minus, despite a relatively small stature at 5’7”.
Not to mention, goal leader Jarid Lukosevicius, from Squamish, British Columbia, will have to be on top of his game as well.
Scoring has been relatively average for the Pioneers, as they are averaging just a tick above three goals per game. Defense, however, is their key to success.
Splitting time between Devin Cooley and Filip Larsson has given the team two fresh goaltender options each night, and by letting in only 2.30 goals per game, it’s safe to say the strategy has worked off so far for head coach David Carle.
Regardless of who starts in goal for the Pioneers, it should be extremely difficult for any member of the North Dakota Fighting Hawks to score against the 12th best scoring defense in the country.
Conversely, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks will arrive in Colorado sporting a win over St. Cloud State in their last time out. A school known primarily for their hockey, the Fighting Hawks have struggled to get more than a game or two above .500. Their offensive and defensive performances have been relatively average, not cracking the top-25 in either scoring offense or defense.
A team led by their youth, the Fighting Hawks will need sophomore forward Jordan Kawaguchi playing on his best. The Abbotsford, British Columbia native has led the team in both assists and points, as well as being second on the team in goals.
In goal, Freshman Adam Scheel has taken the reigns, posting a 2.08 goals against average in 22 games. His strong play has helped drive this team as of recently, but he’ll need to be at his best if North Dakota is to travel across time zones and steal a huge road series victory.
Overall, the Denver Pioneers are ranked higher for a reason—they're more consistent, more veteran laden, and they rely less on their goaltenders to bail them out, even if they have two great ones to choose from.
North Dakota will need the youngsters to show their strength in a hostile environment on both Friday and Saturday night. Otherwise, the Fighting Hawks will prove to be the next victims in a line of many for the Denver Pioneers.
Andrew Destin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.