Weekend Preview: UND at Denver

Which Pioneers team will show up this weekend?  The squad that went into Mariucci and swept the Gophers by identical 3-0 scores, or the club that gave up nine goals in a road series at Anchorage and barely came out with a split?

Much has been made of the players who won’t or might not skate this weekend. UND’s top defenseman, senior Chay Genoway (upper body injury) will not play in this series, and DU’s top goaltender, Marc Cheverie (leg injury) and top defenseman, sophomore Patrick Wiercioch (knee), are both questionable for the weekend. Furthermore, Denver senior defenseman Cody Brookwell, the team’s biggest defenseman (6’4″, 220 lbs.) has been sick and may miss Friday’s opener. But there will be plenty of talent on the ice and plenty on the line this weekend at Magness Arena (Denver. CO).

Sophomore defenseman Corey Fienhage will need to step up in Genoway’s absence, and Denver freshman goaltender Adam Murray (2-3-1, 4.36 GAA, .838 SV%) will need to play better if Cheverie misses any more time.

And this from the Denver Post: DU is coming off a bye week and begins final exams today. Many Pioneers will miss today’s and Saturday’s pregame skates because of finals.

Denver Team Profile

Head Coach: George Gwozdecky (16th season at DU, 352-220-47, .607)
This Season:  6-3-1 Overall, 4-1-1 WCHA (t-3rd)
National Rankings: #3/#3
Team Offense: 3.10 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.5% (10 of 57)
Penalty Kill: 86.3% (44 of 51)
Last Season: 23-12-5 Overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 16-8-4 WCHA (3rd)
Key Players: Senior F Rhett Rakhshani (7-5-12), Senior F Tyler Ruegsegger (5-5-10), Junior F Anthony Maiani (1-3-4), Sophomore D Patrick Wiercioch (2-7-9) Junior G Marc Cheverie (4-0-0, 1.27 GAA, .959 SV%, 3 SO)

 North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (6th season at UND, 137-73-20, .639)
National Ranking: #2/#2
This Season: 7-2-1, 5-2-1 WCHA (2nd)
Last Season: 24-15-4 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 17-7-4 WCHA (1st)
Team Offense: 3.50 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.70 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 23.7% (14 of 59)
Penalty Kill: 92.2% (47 of 51)
Key Players: Senior F Chris VandeVelde (3-8-11), Sophomore F David Toews (4-6-10) Junior F Evan Trupp (4-5-9), Senior D Chay Genoway (4-6-10), Sophomore G Brad Eidsness (6-1-1, 1.61 GAA, .925 SV%, 1 SO)

 By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 24, 2009 (Grand Forks, ND).  In a game remembered more for Gwozdecky’s antics on the dasher and on the ice, Denver twice came back to tie UND and the final score read 2-2.  Brad Eidsness made 38 saves to preserve one point for the Fighting Sioux.  A night earlier, North Dakota rolled, 8-3.

Last Meeting in Denver: December 1, 2007.  #8 North Dakota took game two from #3 Denver, 3-1, after falling 1-0 in the opener.  Ryan Duncan netted two goals and assisted on the third goal for the Fighting Sioux.

Most Important Meeting: It’s hard to pick just one game, as the two teams have played four times for the national title. Denver defeated UND for the national championship in 1958, 1968, and 2005, while the Sioux downed the Pioneers in 1963.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 129-110-8 (.538), while Denver holds a 64-49-3 (.565) edge in games played in Denver.  The two teams have split the last two weekend series at Magness Arena.

Game News and Notes

In the past seven meetings between the two teams, the Fighting Sioux have killed 40 of 45 Pioneer power play opportunities.  UND is 5-2-1 in the past eight games against the Pioneers, outscoring DU 26-15.  After five seasons of second-half surges, this year’s North Dakota team is off to its fastest start in the Dave Hakstol era with a 7-2-2 record.  Vegas oddsmakers are offering 6 to 5 that Denver head coach George Gwozdecky stands on the dasher at least once this weekend.

The Prediction

It will take a while for UND to adjust to altitude, and Denver will take advantage.  Look for a fair number of power plays on Friday night, as North Dakota will commit several hooking and holding violations.  On Saturday, the Fighting Sioux will respond in kind. DU 4-2, UND 3-1.

An Invitation from fightingsioux.com: The UND Alumni Association will be hosting a pre-game party prior to Saturday’s game. The celebration is from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Embassy Suites Denver Southeast and will feature remarks from UND President Dr. Robert Kelley and First Lady Marcia Kelley. A $10 admission price includes hors d’oeuvres and door prizes. A cash bar will also be available. For more information, contact Katie Compton at katiec@undalumni.net or at 800-543-8764.

Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments and suggestions.

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