Huskies Face Huge Road Test vs #3 Denver Pioneers

Ryan Poehling vs Denver in January 2017 (Photo Prout)

#1 St. Cloud State University Huskies (7-0-0 | 2-0-0 NCHC) vs #3 Denver University Pioneers (4-2-2 | 0-2-0 NCHC)

 

TV: Fri: Altitude Sports (Denver) | Direct TV 681 Dish Network 410

TV: Sat: Altitude Sports 2 | Direct TV 682

Live Stats: Denver Athletics

Live Stream: NCHC.TV($)

Radio: 96.7 FM  | 104.3 (Denver) 

Tickets: Denver Athletics

Where: Magness Arena – Denver, Colorado

When: Friday, November 10 – 8:07 PM CT | Saturday, November 11 – 8:07 PM CT

Last Time Out:

The #1 ranked  Pioneers traveled to Kalamazoo, MI to face the Western Michigan Broncos and suffered a weekend sweep in their NCHC opening series. On Friday, Denver yielded three third period goals to Broncos in a 6-5 loss. Dayton Rasmussen got the start in goal for the Pioneers and stopped 31/37 shots on goal. On Saturday, Denver carried a 4-2 lead with 12:12 left in regulation but once again, the Broncos rallied with 3 goals in a 86 second span for an eventual 7-4 win. Tanner Jaillet stopped 28/34 shots on goal in the Saturday loss.

The #2 ranked Huskies hosted #8 UMD at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center and earned a tough 5-3 win on Friday. The third period found the Huskies rallying once again with two goals in the first nine minutes of the period. First, Kevin Fitzgerald ( R Poehling | Eyssimont) scored at 6:33 for a 3-2 SCSU lead. Next, Easton Brodzinski (Ahcan | Newell ) got into the act with his first career goal as a Husky on the power play. The Huskies nailed down the win with a 180 foot shot into an empty UMD goal by Jimmy Schuldt at 19:23 for the 5-3 final. SCSU outshot the Bulldogs 34-28 for the contest and were 2/7 on the man-advantage.The Huskies Jeff Smith improved his record to 4-0-0 turning aside 25 of 28 shots on goal.

After the 5-3 win Friday, the undermanned Bulldogs had little in the tank in the rematch and were unable to solve first-year goaltender David Hrenak who earned his first collegiate shutout. The banged up Bulldogs who were missing three key forwards and two defenseman lacked the horses to sustain three periods of play with the undefeated Huskies and ultimately fell victim to the relentless attack of the SCSU squad by a 5-0 score. First-year goaltender David Hrenak had an outstanding game in goal stopping all 29 shots he faced in earning the shutout and his third win of the season. Multi-point games for the Huskies included Mikey Eyssimont (1-1-2), Jack Ahcan (0-2-2), Blake Winiecki (1-1-2), Jacob Benson (1-1-2) and Patrick Newell (0-2-2).

 

Last Time They Met:

The Huskies faced Denver four times in 2016-17 and went 1-3-0 vs the Pioneers. On January 20th in St. Cloud, Ryan Poehling scored the game winner in overtime in a 3-2 win. Jeff Smith stopped 24/26 SOG to earn the win. In the Saturday rematch, the Pioneers rallied for two goals in period two and held on for a 3-1 win. Jake Wahlin scored the lone goal for SCSU and Jeff Smith took the loss in goal.

In February in Denver, SCSU suffered a tough 4-3 loss on Friday at Magness Arena. The game was tied 3-3 through two periods on goals by the Huskies  Jon Lizzotte, Mikey Eyssimont and Judd Peterson. Denver got the game winning goal in overtime by Henrik Borgstrom at 3:44 of the session. The following night, the Huskies were crushed 7-2 by the Pioneers. Once again, Henrik Borgstrom scored the game-winning goal for Denver. Goals for the Huskies were scored by Mikey Eyssimont, his second of the weekend, and Blake Winiecki late in the third period. Jeff Smith took the loss in goal.

SCSU is 5-5-0 in the last 10 games vs Denver. Coach Motzko is 19-17-1 all-time vs the Pioneers.

 

Scouting the Denver Pioneers:

With a strong returning glass of 10 upperclassmen, , a high-octane offense and outstanding goaltending, the Denver Pioneers are the early favorite to make a serious run at their 9th national title in 2017-18. Certainly the Pioneers who had a 33-7-4 record last season will have a target on their back in every series they play this season. A repeat national title hasn’t been accomplished since the 2004-05 season and despite all the talent on this Denver squad it’ll still be difficult to pull off. The Pioneers return 70% of ther points from last season and 75% of their goals. Top offensive returnees Troy Terry (5-11-16), Henrik Borgstrom (9-4-13) and Dylan Gambrell (4-8-12) had an impressive 57 goals and 73 assists for 130 points in 2016-17. And, returning netminder Tanner Jaillet , a senior returns after an outstanding 2016-17 compiling 28 wins, a 1.84 GAA and .929 SV%.

A second tier of forwards including, Colin Staub (2-6-8), Jarid Lukosevicius (1-6-7), Liam Finlay (2-4-6) and first-year player Jaako Heikkinen (3-0-3) add additional depth to supplement the scoring of Gambrell, Terry and Borgstrom.

Obviously, the departure of senior and Hobey winner Will Butcher is a huge loss to the defensive unit. However, the defense is still  rich with depth although captain and senior Tariq Hammond has been sidelined with an ankle injury. Add to that senior Adam Plant, Michael Davies and Blake Hillman and newcomer Ian Mitchell and it’s a well-rounded  defense that can play both ends of the rink.

The Pioneers schedule has been an ambitious one early with road games at Notre Dame, Boston University and Boston College. They’ve gone 3-0-1 in those games but were derailed by being swept in their opening NCHC series of the season by Western Michigan. Both games were marked by late game rallies by the Broncos suggesting some defensive concerns for the Pioneers.

Currently, the Pioneers are 4th in the country in offense at 4.17 GPG, 40th in defense allowing 3.12 GPG, 16th on the power play at 24.32% and 54th on the penalty kill at 72%. They’ve stayed out of the penalty box currently ranked 58 out of 60 teams.

Scouting the SCSU Huskies:

The Huskies have had a strong start to the 2017-18 season going 7-0-0 and currently ranked as the top offense in the country. Impressive sweeps of Boston College, UMD and a single game win over ranked MSU-Mankato have earned SCSU college hockey’s #1 ranking this week.,

Led by junior and captain, Jimmy Schuldt, a preseason NCHC All-Conference team pick, the Huskies will have an impressive top four unit that is solid defensively, strong from an offensive standpoint and logs a lot of ice time. Schuldt, was named the Hockey Commissioners Association Division I Player of the month after leading the NCAA in points per game and plus-minus in October. Schuldt currently sits with  5 goals and 12 points to lead the squad in scoring. The top four unit of Schuldt, Ahcan, Borgen and Lizotte have combined for 28 points and are a combined +25 in plus-minus.

At forward, the Poehling brothers have been nothing short of outstanding thus far with  a combined 12 goals, 8 assists for 20 points and a combined +15. Ryan, still one of the youngest players in college hockey and a first-round draft choice of the Montreal Canadians is off to a highly productive start with 3 goals  and 7 assists for 10 points. Twin brothers Nick and Jack have a combined 9 goals. Junior forward Robby Jackson finally seems to be coming into his own and is playing with confidence and he’s currently third on the squad in scoring with 4-5-9. He’s been a key component of the power play and has one power play goal and one short-handed goal thus far. Senior Judd Peterson, has yet to register his first goal of the season but has 6 assists and is +6. Jacob Benson has two consecutive multi-point games.

Mikey Eyssimont missed a few games early due to illness and has had a slow start offensively but has rebounded nicely with 2 goals and 3 assists in the last three games. The Littleton, CO native has been productive vs Denver with 3 goals and 4 assists for 7 points over the past two seasons. Senior, Blake Winiecki came out of his scoring slump last weekend with a goal and an assist.

At goaltender, Jeff Smith’s hard work in the off-season has certainly paid off posting a 4-0-0 record, 2.00 GAA and .930 SV%. First-year goaltender, David Hrenak has made the best of his opportunities with a 3-0-0 record, 1.85 GAA and .946 SV%.. Hrenak was named NCHC Rookie of the Week after a 5-0 shutout performance vs UMD last weekend. He is currently ranked third in college hockey in save percentage.

Statistically, the Huskies are 1st in offense in college hockey scoring 4.71 GPG. Defensively, they are 6th allowing 1.86 GPG. The power play is performing well ranked third at 32.35%. The penalty kill at 86.7% and ranked 11th. The normally penalty-free Huskies took 15 penalties for 33 minutes vs UMD last weekend dropping them to 40th our 60 teams in average penalty minutes per game.

Game Prospectus:

This should be a dandy of a series between two of the top teams in the NCHC and the country. I’m sure the Pioneers had a heated week of practice after an upsetting sweep at the hands of the Western Michigan Broncos last weekend in Kalamazoo. This will be the Huskies first road extended road trip of the season as they head to Denver. The Huskies earlier had a same day road trip to Mankato to start the season.

The Huskies were torched by the Pioneers in their last meeting in Denver by a 7-2 score. That still has to be in the back of the mind of the Huskies as they prepare for this crucial series. However, historically, the Huskies have fared well at Magness Arena compiling a 7-9-0 record vs the Pioneers in the last 16 games.

Denver had some uncharacteristic defensive  breakdowns vs WMU last weekend. Some statistics of interest had the Broncos having a 89-54 total shot attempt advantage over the weekend. In other words the Broncos were firing at all angles  and it paid off with five even strength goals on Friday including 3 third period goals. On Saturday, they scored 6 even strength goals and 5 third period goals. They victimized the normally solid  DU goaltender Tanner Jaillet with 6 goals on 35 shots on goal in Saturdays contest.

I wouldn’t expect much of a change in strategy for the Huskies. As a matter of fact, these will be two teams playing a lot of north/south hockey over the weekend. The ability of the Huskies to contain Henrik Borgstrom who scored two GWG vs the Huskies in Denver last weekend will be a key. Also, despite the two losses to WMU Borgstrom was still dominant with 4 goals in the series. The Huskies will attack with a strong transition game and four line depth and test the Denver defensive unit much like WMU did last weekend. With both SCSU goaltenders currently at the top of their game, expect to see the rotation of Smith on Friday and Hrenak on Saturday, It’ll be interesting to see if Denver rotates Jaillet and Rasmussen again this weekend.

The Huskies have not faced snipers on offense like they will face this weekend vs the Pioneers. Staying out of the penalty box will be a key for the Huskies. Things got out of hand with 15 penalties accessed on the Huskies last weekend vs UMD and they need to get back to their usual low number of penalty minutes per game.

SCSU’s Mikey Eyssimont always plays a strong series returning to his home turf in Colorado. Expect Eyssimont to be effective in this weekends series.

 

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