Preview: Huskies Conclude “Pod Play” vs Denver

 

(Photo Prout)

Omaha, NE- The #9 SCSU Huskies wrap up NCHC Pod play vs #8 Denver on Sunday, December 20 at 4:05 PM CT at Baxter Arena in Omaha, NE. This will be the 9th and final contest for the Huskies who arrived in Omaha in late November for their four-week stay to complete the first half of the NCHC conference season. The Huskies look to improve on their 15 conference points placing them three points shy of the UMD Bulldogs who have concluded their play in the Pod.

#9 SCSU Huskies (5-3-0 NCHC) vs #8 Denver Pioneers (3-5-1 NCHC) 

TV: Midco SN (Select Areas) | Altitude Sports (Colorado)
Live Stream: NCHC.tv ($)    
Radio: 96.7 FM (St. Cloud) 88.1 FM KVSC (St. Cloud)
Where: Baxter Arena – Omaha, NE (NCHC Pod)
When: Sunday, Dec., 20, 2020 4:05 PM CT

Last Time Out

The Huskies completed a thrilling game on Friday, December 18th defeating the Colorado College Tigers in an overtime session. The Huskies had to rally from a 3-0 first-period deficit to tie the game with 1:27 remaining in regulation on a goal by Nick Perbix and win it 3:23 in overtime by Sam Hentges who netted his second goal of the game. First-year forward Veeti Miettinen scored the other goal for SCSU. Jaxon Castor logged the win in goal.

The Pioneers, winless in their last two games, skated to a 3-3 overtime tie with Western Michigan on Saturday, December 19th. They had to rally after falling behind by a 2-0 score to earn a tie behind a third-period goal by Cole Guttman. They also captured the additional league point in the shootout.

Head to Head

The Huskies defeated the Pioneers by a score of 4-3 in their second game in the Pod on December 5th. The all-time series is to the advantage of Denver 53-47-6.  The Huskies are 2-3-0 in the last five, 5-4-1 in the last ten, and 10-9-1 in the last twenty games.

Cole Guttman (Photo Courtesy MarkKuhlmann @coolmancreative)

Scouting the Denver University Pioneers

Denver is one win away from its 1,500th program victory with a 1,499-966-168 all-time record. Only five other programs have reached 1,500 victories: Minnesota (1,834), Michigan (1,715), Boston College (1,645),Boston University (1,581) & North Dakota (1,558)

The Pioneers who were picked to finish 2nd in the 2020 preseason conference poll, have had their struggles in the NCHC Pod with a less than .500 record and winning one of the last three games. Here’s a quick look at the Pioneers:

Goaltending
In goal, the Pioneers lose Devin Cooley who signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Nashville Predators in September. However, they return 6’6″ Swede, Magnus Chrona who took over for Cooley after he sustained an injury early in the 2019-20 season. Chrona, who was selected to the 2019-20 NCHC All-Rookie Team was also recently selected to the 2020-21 NCHC preseason all-conference team. He had sparkling numbers last season with a 16-6-4 record, 2.15 GAA and .92 SV%. He’s had his struggles thus far in the Pod with a .897 SV% and 2.80 GAA.

They also added solid depth in senior graduate transfer from Yale University, Corbin Kaczperski who combined for a 29-22-4 record with a 2.53 GAA, .911 save percentage and three shutouts from 2017-20. He started 29 of 30 games for the Bulldogs last season. He’s appeared in three games so far and carries a 2.29 GAA and .857 SV%

Defense
A huge loss from last year’s squad is Ian Mitchell, an NCHC First All-Star Team and First All-America Team selection following the 2019-20 season. Mitchell was second on the team in scoring with 10-22-32. Also lost to graduation was Michael Davies, a four-year starter who played in 159 career games for the Pioneers.

They do return quality defenders in Slava DeminGriffin Mendel and Justin Lee but none are a replacement for the offense of Mitchell as all three had less than 10 points last season.

It is their hope that two incoming freshmen can fill the void opened by the departure of Mitchell. Mike Benning had 136 points (114-22-1336) in 114 games for the Sherwood Park Crusaders where he led the AJHL defensemen in scoring the past two seasons.  Freshman Antti Tuomisto had 87 points (25-62-87) in 111 games for Ässät U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga) from 2018-20. In 2019-20 he was named Jr. A SM-liiga Best Player & Defenseman and selected for the First All-Star Team. Both have seen extensive ice time in the Pod and Benning is currently third in points with 1-6-7.

Forwards
The Pioneers also had significant losses at forward as leading scorer, Emilio Pettersen (13-22-35) elected to sign a pro contract following his sophomore season. They also lost four-year players, Liam Finlay (5-23-28) and Tyson McLellan (5-6-11) and saw the transfer of junior, Tyler Ward (10-9-19) to the University of New Hampshire.

However, they return firepower at forward in junior, Brett Stapely (5-25-30), 14 goal scorer and junior Cole Guttman and sophomore, Bobby Brink (11-13-24). Senior Kohen Olischefski is another reliable forward who has logged 113 games in his career. However, Brink is away with the World Junior team and his presence is sorely missed. Guttman is currently second in points with 3-4-7.

Two graduate transfers look to impact the forward position.  Steven Jandric (Alaska Fairbanks) had 26 goals, 54 assists and 157 penalty minutes in 150 games for the Nanooks. He led Alaska in scoring the past two seasons and was named to the WCHA First All-Star Team last year. Bo Hanson (St. Lawrence) had 11 goals, 36 assists and 66 penalty minutes in 102 games for the Saints from 2017-20. Neither has registered a goal yet.

18-year-old Carter Savoie led the AJHL last season with an absurd 99 points including 53 goals in 54 games. The 4th round draft choice of the Edmonton Oilers has been an impact player netting six goals and adding four assists and leading the Pioneers in points. He had a goal and an assist vs the Huskies on December 5th. Savoie is the first DU freshman to score in the first five games of his college career and the first Pioneer since Jon Foster in 2004-05 to score in the first five games of any season.

First-year forward, McKade Webster has impressed thus far with 3 goals and 2 assists for five points.

Statistics

Record 3-5-1
Head-to-Head 0-1-0
Goals 22 / 2.44
Goals Against 25 / 2.78
Power Play 26.3%
Penalty Kill 75.0%
Avg. Height / Weight 5′ 11.50″ / 184.4 lbs.

Nick Perbix (Photo Courtesy Mark Kuhlmann @coolmancreative)

Scouting the SCSU Huskies

A comprehensive preview of the team is here

SCSU lost six players from its 2019-20 roster, which includes seniors Jack AhcanJack PoehlingNick PoehlingClark Kuster and Jake Wahlin. The team will return a total of 21 players from its 2019-20 roster. This list of veterans includes six returning seniors, six juniors and nine sophomores. They return 3 goalies, 7 defense and 11 forwards. SCSU has four NHL draft picks on its roster this year including Nick Perbix (Tampa), Sam Hentges (Minnesota), David Hrenak (Los Angeles) and Veeti Miettinen (Toronto). The Huskies welcome two senior transfers to its roster (Seamus Donohue from Michigan Tech and Jared Cockrell from Colgate). Newcomers include two defensemen and four forwards.

Goaltending
David Hrenak is the anointed starter so far. The draft pick of the LA Kings won his 50th career game at SCSU on Dec. 1. He is one of just four SCSU goalies to win 50 career games. The others include Brian Leitza (66 from 1994-98), Ryan Faragher (53 from 2011-14) and Charlie Lindgren (51 from 2013-16). Hrenak is currently tied for first in the team records with 9 career shutouts.

Backing up Hrenak to start the season, Joey Lamoreaux and Jaxon Castor could be starters on many Division I teams. Castor was inserted for the game vs Omaha and after a shaky start, settled down stopping 24 of 27 shots on goal (.888 SV%) to earn his first win since December 28, 2019. He also appeared in a relief role in the last game vs Colorado College, stopped all 10 shots and earned the win. 6’1″ Lamoreaux, an NCHC All-Academic Team selection was inserted in two games in 2019-20 and had a 3.25 GAA and .893 SV%. He was given the nod in the December 13th game vs Omaha and suffered a 2-0 loss stopping 19 of 21 shots and received little support early stopping 2 of 5 shots vs Colorado College.

Hrenak currently has a 3.02 GAA, .897 SV% and 3-2-0 record.

Forwards
The Huskies are looking to re-tool an offense that saw its point production drop from 156 goals and 429 points in 2018-19 to 94 goals and 260 points in a season-shortened 2019-20. They’ll rely on senior, Easton Brodzinski (12-15-27) who led the team in scoring last season for a big year as he approaches the 100 career point milestone. The junior class of Sam HentgesMicah Miller and Nolan Walker have come of age and the coaching staff looks for more consistency and scoring out of this bunch. The coaching staff wants these players to use their speed to be first on pucks, get to the net and create traffic. Upperclassmen and experienced forwards Kevin Fitzgerald and Colgate transfer Jared Cockrell need to be factors on offense as well. Senior, Will Hammer anchors a checking line providing grit and defensive play spelling minutes for the top lines.

The sophomore class of Jami KrannilaChase BrandZach OkabeKyler Kupka and Thomas Rocco all had their moments and gained experience last season. The question is how much of a jump can they make this season after a solid offseason of improving their strength and speed.

Finally, newcomers Veeti MiettinenJack Johnston and Joey Molenaar will be thrown into the mix. Miettinen, a prolific Finnish scorer is the best bet to provide pop to the lineup immediately and has made an impact already with three goals and fours assist for seven points good for second on the team.

Defense
Defense will be solid but not flashy with captain Spencer Meier leading the unit. The loss of Jack Ahcan to graduation was huge making the contributions from junior Nick Perbix and senior transfer Seamus Donohue that more paramount. Luke JaycoxBrendan BushyOndrej TrejbalTyler AndersonTrevor Zins and Freshman, Brady Ziemer will all compete for the 4-6th position. Newcomer Donohue has been particularly impressive with his mobility and ability to carry the puck up ice and it will help lessen the loss of Ahcan.

Perbix is unquestionably one of the top defensemen in the NCHC Pod. He’s currently leading the Huskies in points with 4-5-9 including one game-winning goal and is +4.

Graduate transfer Seamus Donohue logged lots of minutes and moves the puck well in his first game as a Husky on Tuesday. Freshman, Brady Ziemer has provided some toughness and tenacity and has played all five games.

Statistics

Record 5-3-0
Head-to-Head 1-0-0
Goals 26 / 3.25
Goals Against 23 / 2.88
Power Play 15.4%
Penalty Kill 90.67%
Avg. Height / Weight 6′ 0.13″ / 185.1 lbs.

Game Prospectus

Both the Huskies and Pioneers look to finish the Pod on a strong note. The Huskies have had an extra day of rest and should have a little more fuel in the tank. The Huskies are designated the home team and will have the benefit of the last change.

On-ice discipline continues to be a concern for the Huskies and with the Pioneer’s power-play converting at a 26% success rate, the Huskies can ill afford giving them the man-advantage. To counter that, the Huskies penalty kill is in the top ten in the country at slightly over 90%.

I suspect Chrona will be in goal for Denver and Hrenak for the Huskies. However based on play in the Pod thus far, Hrenak’s numbers have placed his role as the automatic starter in doubt.

This will be a fast-paced puck control type of game and with last change, it’ll be important for the Huskies to be successful in the faceoff circle. This could be a game dictated by special teams and whoever gets the best play out of their goaltender.

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