Tuesday, September 30, 2008

WCHA Previews: Denver

Finally wrapping this up...

School: Denver
Mascot: Pioneers
Head Coach: George Gwozdecky, 15th year, 323-205-41

Last Season: 16-11-1, 3rd Place WCHA; 26-14-1 Overall

Predicted 08/09 WCHA Finish: 1st

Key Departures:
F Brock Trotter, 13-18-31*
D Chris Butler, 3-14-17
F Tom May, 9-6-15
D Andrew Thomas, 1-7-8
G Peter Mannino, 25-14-1, 2.27 GAA
*All stats listed from 07/08

Key Returnees:
F Tyler Bozak (So), 18-16-34
F Rhett Rakhshani (Jr), 14-14-28
F Kyle Ostrow (So), 10-13-23
F Tyler Ruegsegger (Jr), 10-12-22
F Patrick Mullen (Sr), 4-18-22

Top Sieve:
Marc Cheverie (So), 1-0-0, 1.70 GAA

Key Additions:
F Joe Colborne (AJHL) 33-57-90, Jr A POY
D Patrick Wiercioch (USHL) 3-18-21, Defecticon
D John Lee (USHL) 1-10-11
D Luke Salazar (NAHL) 41-46-87

When Wisconsin Beats DU: @ DU 10/17 & 10/18, KC 2/20 & 2/21

07/08 Recap: During the 1st half of the season, Denver gave CC a good run for their money. Shortly after Christmas, Brock Trotter got into some sort of trouble and was suspended by the university. Not long after that he signed a contract w/ the Montreal Canadiens organization, leaving Denver w/ out their top forward (arguably) for good. This combined w/ the bad karma from having Randy Schmidt in their back pocket, Denver started to slide in the 2nd half. They recovered late in the regular season, and went to the Final Five and brought home the Broadmoor trophy as tourney champ. Denver really got the short end of the straw for seeding in the NCAA Regional. They landed in Madison, where they had to face the Badgers, and despite their incredible success at the Kohl Center since its opening, they were beat down and sent home quickly. In the off season, Chris Butler signed w/ the Buffalo Sabres organization, removing Denver’s best defensemen from returning. Beyond the NCAA Regional, Wisconsin played a memorial series in the mile high city in January. Like I need to remind fans, but on Friday Matt Ford scored as time expired to tie the game, only to have the goal disallowed by the hapless (and still suspended) Randy Schmidt. Instead of doing his job, he stuck his head up his ass instead, potentially costing Wisconsin at least one point, which could have yielded home ice for the WCHA playoffs. On Saturday, Wisconsin crushed Denver to gain some sort of revenge.

08/09 Thoughts: The biggest question for Denver is their defense. Peter Mannino graduated, and despite his horrible diving and poor acting (Ben Grotting grazing his helmet last season sticks out in my mind), he was a pretty decent netminder. Marc Cheverie takes over in net having started only one NCAA game. On the blue line, the loss of Chris Butler is huge because he was one of the best defensive defensemen in the WCHA. Everyone else is going to have to step up. Unfortunately for Denver, David Carle was diagnosed w/ a life threatening condition ending his career before it started. As luck would have it for Denver, the Defecticon was right there ready to back out of his verbal commitment to Wisconsin and fills Carle’s skates. If Denver can keep the puck out of their net, they should win a lot of games, because they return a great group of forwards and could be an offensive power. Between Rakhshani, Ruegsegger, Bozak, Ostrow and freshman Joe Colborne, they should be lighting the lamp often during the season. I’m picking Denver for the MacNaughton. There defense should be solid as the season progresses, and if the offense gets going right away they could be hard to beat.

Overall, it should be a good race in the WCHA again this season.