St. Cloud, MN – As one of the most successful collegiate teams of the last decade, the SCSU Huskies enter the new year and decade with a road trip to Denver to face the #5 Pioneers. In the second half of the season it’ll be nothing but conference games the rest of the way as the Huskies attempt to secure their seventh NCAA berth in the last eight seasons. On the other hand, the Pioneers who have qualified for the NCAA tournament twelve straight seasons will be a stiff challenge. Loaded with experience and talent, the Pioneers are trying to create some separation between themselves and the five teams below them in the league standings. With only a five point spread between third place and the bottom of the conference, the league battles will be intense the rest of the way. With one conference win separating the Huskies and Pioneers this should be a competitive weekend of hockey with a lot on the line.
SCSU Huskies (6-8-4 |3-5-0 NCHC) vs #5 Denver Pioneers (13-4-2 |3-3-2 NCHC)
TV: Altitude Sports 2
Live Stats: Denver Athletics
Live Stream: NCHC.tv ($)
Live Audio Stream: TUNEIN RADIO
Radio: 96.7 FM (St. Cloud)
Tickets: Denver Athletics
Where: Magness Arena, Denver, CO
When: Friday, Jan 10 – 8:07 PM CT | Saturday, Jan 11 – 8:07 PM CT
Last Time Out
The Huskies participated in the Mariucci Classic hosted by the University of Minnesota on December 28/29. SCSU defeated then #2 ranked Minnesota State University, Mankato by a 7-2 score in the first game. First-year forward, Zach Okabe had a career game scoring four goals including a pure hat trick. Line mate Jami Krannila picked up four assists in the win. Another first-year player, Jaxon Castor logged his first career win as a Husky in goal. In the championship game, the Huskies allowed three goals in a 1:38 span of the second period and fell 4-1 to the University of Minnesota. Micah Miller scored the lone goal for the Huskies.
The Pioneers completed a weekend sweep of #9 Massachusetts by scores of 4-2/4-3 in a very physical non-conference series. Denver rallied from a 2-1 deficit to score three times in period three for the 4-2 win. Cole Guttman scored the game-winning goal. On Saturday, in a game marred by 24 penalties Denver again rallied from a 2-0 deficit with three goals in period two for a 4-3 win. Bobby Brink netted the game winner. First-year goaltender, Magnus Chrona stopped 59 shots over the weekend in the sweep.
Head to Head
The Huskies swept the last meeting between these two teams in St. Cloud by identical 4-3 scores on November 9/10 2018. The Huskies are 3-1-1 in the last five, 3-6-1 in the last ten and 8-10-2 in the last twenty games. The all-time series is to the advantage of Denver 50-45-6.
Scouting the Denver University Pioneers:
Despite heavy losses after the 2017-18 season, the Pioneers regrouped and found themselves in the NCAA tournament for the 12th consecutive season in 2018-19. This was also their third Frozen Four appearance in the past four seasons. However, the season ended with a 4-3 loss to Massachusetts in the semi-finals.
The Pioneers return in 2019-20 with a good mix of talent and experience. They are tournament tested, are sound defensively and have added some pop to their offense. Statistically, they are solid in most categories and particularly on the penalty kill at 91 percent, good for 5th in college hockey.
The Pioneers have ten players in double-digit scoring including nine forwards. Overall they have 18 players with at least one goal. An extremely skilled player, Norwegian, Emilion Pettersen leads the squad with 19 points. Cole Guttman, who defected to the Pioneers after committing the the Huskies leads the team in goal scoring with 9 goals. Freshman forward, Bobby Brink from Minnetonka, MN was a member of the USA World Junior Team and has eight goals. Others of significance are senior, Liam Finlay and junior Kohen Olischefski, an energetic and active forward. Their scoring margin is over +1.00 and that equates to wins.
Junior Ian Mitchell, fresh off a gold medal winning Spengler Cup Tournament is the leader on defense. His 14 points lead the defensive unit. Michael Davies who seems like he’s been on the team forever has logged 143 career games and is +66 over that span. The 5’8″ 160 pound defender plays much bigger than his size. Conversely, 6’4″ 225 Griffen Mendel is another veteran with 94 career games and he leads the team at +9.
Last years starter, Filip Larsson who logged 22 games and had a 1.95 GAA and .932 SV% bolted after one season signing with the Detroit Red Wings. However, with junior Devan Cooley as a backup they appeared to be in good hands. After all, he saw time in 20 games last season. Surprisingly, it’s been first-year goaltender Magnus Chrona that’s taken hold of the position. The 6’6″ Swede has a 10-4-2 record and excelent numbers with a GAA of 2.18 and save percentage of .920.
Team Offense: 3.20 (14th)
Team Defense: 2.05 (9th)
Power Play: 19.78% (23rd)
Penalty Kill: 91.14% (5th)
Penalties (Average Min. Per Game): 12.60 (21st)
Scouting the SCSU Huskies:
The Work in progress continues as the Huskies have injected four first-year players at forward and one at defense. Jack Ahcan is the undisputed leader of the defensive crew and is third on the team in points with 4-11-15. Also Nick Perbix and Spencer Meier are contributing to the offense with a combined six goals between them. The season plus/minus of tandem Perbix and Ahcan at -20 is not good. However, the rest of the unit is +11.
The Huskies record of 4-2-0 in the month of December included an overtime loss. During that successful span, they’ve had surprisingly balanced scoring with the breakdown by class as follows:
- Seniors (5) – N Poehling (2), J Poehling (1), Wahlin (1), Ahcan (1)
- Juniors (5) – Brodzinski (2), Fitzgerald (2), Jaycox (1),
- Sophomores (6) – Miller (3), Hentges (1), Perbix (1), Meier (1)
- Freshman (6) – Okabe (4) Krannila (2)
Micah Miller, who has been platooned on the “fourth” line has led the Huskies over that stretch if you discount the four goals in a single game by Okabe. He’s beginning to take advantage of his outstanding straight-out speed and has two breakaway goals in that stretch. Sam Hentges, who leads the squad in points with 22 had a blistering start to the season with six goals in eight games. However, he’s only scored once in the following ten games. The team will need Hentges to get back on track along with linemate Nolan Walker who has yet to notch a goal after netting eight last season. However, in Walker’s defense, he’s had four assists in the past four games. Trends are important and the youngsters are beginning to score.
Just as significant is over that stretch of six games, the team has allowed 2.50 goals per game while scoring 3.66 goals per game. Those numbers are much better than their season marks of 3.22 allowed and 3.00 average goals per game.
Jaxon Castor emerged as the starter in both games in the Mariucci Classic. He picked up his first collegiate win vs Mankato and stopped 16 of 18 shots in a solid defensive effort by the Huskies. In the championship game, he allowed two goals on 13 shots including a power play goal. Currently, his numbers are 2.41 GAA and .896 SV%.
David Hrenak, who has started 17 games currently carries a 3.00 GAA and .890 SV%. He’s had an inconsistent season but has been much more on his game since the North Dakota series in late November.
Expect to see more rotation as the season progresses.
Offense: 3.00 (20th)
Defense: 3.22 (44th)
Power Play: 19.12% (8th) 8/29
Penalty Kill: 75.86% (52nd) 34/37
Penalties (Average Min. Per Game): 11.00 (30th)
This will be a huge road challenge for the Huskies. Denver has been tough on home ice and the Huskies have been reasonably successful on the road with a 4-3-3 record. SCSU has lost four straight at Magness Arena but are 6-7-2 in the last fifteen games. The Pioneers have some highly effective forwards and unless the Huskies contain players like Pettersen, Brink and Guttman, it could be a long weekend. Guttman scored three times vs the Huskies last season and they’ll need to put a string on him.
Junior forward, Jake Durflinger will miss the Friday contest due to a one-game suspension by the league for actions late in the game vs Massachusetts last Saturday.
Discipline continues to haunt the Huskies at key moments. They need to play five on five and roll all four lines. Goaltending needs to be north of 90% in the series.
Coaches Comments: “Denver is an extremely good and well-coached team.” said assistant coach Nick Oliver. “They are very well structured and strong defensively. They have a very good goalie and difference makers in Mitchell, Brink, Pettersen, Guttman and Finlay. They are a tight checking defensive team but they make you pay on the front side. We are excited to get out there and get on the road and looking forward to taking this team forward.”