Denver was decimated by early departures during the off-season, losing junior goaltender Marc Cheverie (48-18-8, 2.21 GAA, .926 SV%, 13 shutouts), sophomore forward Joe Colborne (32 goals and 40 assists in 79 games), and sophomore defenseman Patrick Wiercioch (18 goals and 44 assists in 75 games). Additionally, Rhett Rhakshani (60-91-151 in 156 games) and Tyler Ruegsegger (56-67-123 in 147 games) graduated, leaving George Gwozdecky standing virtually alone on the dasher, scratching his head and wondering what type of team he has and if the officials are to blame.
The Pioneers return some scoring, notably the “M.O.M.” connection of Maiani, Ostrow, and Martin. The three forwards make up the bulk of the returning scoring for Gwozdecky’s squad and will be relied upon early and often.
The other question mark for Denver is between the pipes. The Pios will look to freshman goaltender Sam Brittain this weekend, as Adam Murray is questionable for this series with a groin injury.
For North Dakota, goaltending is the only issue. The Fighting Sioux are fast, deep, talented, and experienced up front and on the blue line, and should be able to play with anyone in the country. Aaron Dell and Brad Eidsness need to make all of the easy saves and keep the game simple, and the Green and White will compete all season long.
Denver Team Profile
Head Coach: George Gwozdecky (17th season at DU, 375-229-52 .611)
National Rankings: #12/#12
This Season: 2-2-2 Overall, 1-0-1 WCHA (t-4th)
Last Season: 27-10-4 Overall (NCAA East Regional Semifinalist), 19-5-4 WCHA (1st)
Team Offense: 2.33 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.83 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 6.2% (2 of 32)
Penalty Kill: 90.0% (27 of 30)
Key Players: Senior F Kyle Ostrow (2-3-5), Senior F Drew Shore (4-1-5), Junior F Luke Salazar (3-1-4), Senior F Anthony Maiani (0-3-3), Sophomore F Matt Donovan (2-0-2), Freshman D David Makowski (0-3-3), Freshman G Sam Brittain (1-1-2, 1.70 GAA, .940 SV%)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season at UND, 158-86-25, .634)
National Ranking: #8/#8
This Season: 3-2-1, 2-0-0 WCHA (t-1st)
Last Season: 25-13-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 15-10-3 WCHA (t-4th)
Team Offense: 3.83 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.50 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 25.8% (8 of 31)
Penalty Kill: 78.4% (29 of 37)
Key Players: Junior F Jason Gregoire (3-2-5), Sophomore F Corban Knight (2-5-7), Senior F Evan Trupp (1-4-5), Senior F Matt Frattin (7-2-9), Senior D Chay Genoway (1-2-3), Freshman D Derek Forbort (0-5-5), Sophomore G Aaron Dell (2-2-0, 2.88 GAA, .883 SV%)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: March 19, 2010 (St. Paul, MN). North Dakota advanced to the WCHA Final Five title game with a 4-3 semifinal victory over the #1-seeded Pioneers at Xcel Energy Center. Sioux forward Evan Trupp notched two goals and one assist and was named MVP of the tournament one night later.
Last Meeting in Grand Forks: January 30, 2010. Denver rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the homestanding Sioux 4-2, completing a season sweep of the four WCHA games between the teams. The Pioneers outscored North Dakota 10-4 during the 2009-10 regular season.
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.
Last Ten Games: Denver has had slight edge lately, going 5-4-1 (.550) in the last ten meetings between the schools.
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 130-114-8 (.532), including a 71-41-5 mark (.628) in games played in Grand Forks.
Game News and Notes
Friday night will be Ed Belfour Night at Ralph Engelstad Arena, as the Fighting Sioux faithful will recognize and celebrate the man who backstopped the team to the 1987 national championship. Denver is the last team to visit Grand Forks and win during the regular season. Sioux senior forward Evan Trupp has nine career points against the Pioneers (four goals and five assists in eleven games).
North Dakota will be looking to atone for a dreadful series at Maine, and will come out with an edge. A game that rolls four lines favors North Dakota, while a parade to the penalty box is a toss-up. I think Denver manages to take a close one this weekend, and the Fighting Sioux take them to the woodshed in the rematch.
Denver 3-2, North Dakota 5-2.