Wednesday, October 7, 2009

09/10 WCHA Previews: Denver

Finally the last preview...

School: Denver University
Mascot: Pioneers (in the guise of a red tailed hawk…)
National Championships: 7 (5 during ancient times when CC was winning NC’s, ’04 & ’05)
Head Coach: George Gwozdecky, 346-217-46, 16th season @ DU

Last Season: 16-8-4, 2nd Place WCHA; 23-12-5 Overall

Predicted 09/10 WCHA Finish: 1st

Key Departures:
D Patrick Mullen, 4-21-25*
F Tyler Bozak, 8-15-23
D JP Testwuide, 3-10-13
*All stats listed from 08/09

Key Returnees: (88.6% of scoring returns)
F Anthony Maiani (Jr), 11-30-41
F Rhett Rakshani (Sr), 15-22-37
D Patrick Wiercioch (So), 12-23-35
F Joe Colborne (So), 10-21-31
F Kyle Ostrow (Jr), 14-14-28

Top Tender:
Marc Cheverie (Jr), 23-12-5, 2.34 GAA, 0.921 save %

Key Additions:
D Matt Donovan (USHL), 19-32-51
F Drew Shore (US NTDP), 17-32-49
G Adam Murray (US NTDP), 22-10-1, 2.94 GAA, 0.902 save%
D William Wrenn (US NTDP), 6-11-17
D Paul Phillips (USHL), 8-25-33

Freshman Scouting Report: Wow, loaded class coming to the Mile High City this Fall; well they are already there. Matt Donovan is the two-time USHL Defenseman of the Year, he is a stud. Shore, Murray and Wrenn all played together the last two years w/ the National Team Development Program, they won the U18 Worlds in Fargo early in the year. Shore and Wrenn were both drafted in the second round of this summer’s NHL Draft. Paul Phillips is another nice young defenseman, and Shawn Ostrow isn’t even on the list because he didn’t have any stats since he was out the whole year in the AJHL w/ an injury. INCH ranked DU’s class #2 in the Nation.

When UW beats DU: KC 1/22 & 1/23

08/09 Recap: Before the season even started, freshman dman David Carle was told he would no longer be able to play hockey. W/ a scholarship open, DU lured Patrick Wiercioch into defecting and backing out of his verbal commitment to UW. Not only did they steal Wiercioch, but went on to beat UW 5 times, including UW blowing two multiple goal Friday leads on opposite sides of the season. Overall, DU had a really nice season and were right in the running for the MacNaughton Cup until the end. Only a few teams in the WCHA caused them trouble: St. Cloud (1-3), North Dakota (0-1-1) and Colorado College (0-1-3). How’s that Gold Pan? After dispatching UW in the Final Five, DU laid an egg against Duluth in the Final and left that egg at the Xcel Energy Center to pick it up the following weekend in the West Regional losing to Miami (OH) after being given a #1 seed. It didn't help that DU was w/ out their top player Tyler Bozak in the 2nd half until he returned in the West Regional. I think their season would have finished differently had he been healthy the whole season.

Team’s Biggest Strength(es): Do you see all the scoring returning and the talent at forward? They will light the lamp, no doubt.

Team’s Biggest Weakness(es): If you ask DU’s beat writer or the Let’sGoDU blog, DU is so stacked they will go undefeated because this is the best college hockey team of all time; they have no weaknesses, to them. The team didn’t lose much, but they did lose two senior blue liners, both regulars in the lineup. Three freshman will be regulars on that same blue line this season. The Badgers started three freshman on the blue line a few seasons back, and they were as (arguably more) talented than DU’s frosh trio, and Badger fans remember the struggles. It takes longer for a blue liner to adjust than a forward to the WCHA. There isn’t a ton of experience on the DU blue and I see a weakness.

09/10 Thoughts: Denver is loaded on offense, and has the top returning goalie in the WCHA (at least based on 1st team voting). As I said above, I think their blue line will be weak for no other reason than inexperience. For every Patrick Wiercioch and Jake Gardiner who steps in as a frosh as does fine, there are many more examples of freshman on the blue who struggle. That being said, I don’t think it will matter in the overall scheme of things w/ their depth and experience at forward. DU is so loaded their 4th line will be better than Tech 1st line; UW is the only other team w/ the forward experience close to matching them. DU is ranked #1 in most polls and picked to win the WCHA by most as well. Really it’s their season to screw up, which can be a lot of pressure. They will score a lot of goals, and if their defense is sound they should be #1 in the PWR at season’s end and the favorite to win the National Championship. Unlike Notre Dame or Miami (OH), DU will actually play tough competition more than once or twice during conference play, which hopefully will help.

In about 6 months we’ll know if all the hype was legitimate or just of a bunch of hot air. The Badgers only play DU twice at home this season; time to end the sad trend of losing to DU at the Kohl Center.