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Huskies Return Home To Face A Young Denver Team

11/07/2018 - 6:30 PM

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Huskies Return Home To Face A Young Denver Team

The top two teams in the NCHC do battle at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center this weekend. The last time the Huskies (7-1-0) played the Denver Pioneers (5-0-1) at home, St. Cloud lifted a Penrose Cup. There won’t be any trophy’s lifted after this game but one of these teams will end the weekend leading the conference.

These two squads have put one game each out of the win category. The Pioneers played Alaska-Fairbanks to a tie. This is the only game that Alaska-Fairbanks hasn’t lost this season. The Huskies have one loss to the No. 15 Northeastern Huskies.

The Pioneers lost their coach Jim Montgomery to the NHL this offseason and in steps David Carle. Carle is 29-years-old and the youngest coach in NCAA Division 1 college hockey.

Montgomery left a hearty recruiting class for Carle to start with and they are lighting it up through their first six games. Leading the way for the strong class is Emilio Pettersen with 3 goals and 8 assists. The Pioneers need a lot from their young players because they have only 7 upperclassmen (3 seniors and 4 juniors). This class is first in the NCAA with 26 combined points.

Pettersen is barely out pacing stand out senior forward, and line mate, Jared Lukosevicius in points but it’s Lukosevicius that has been finishing their plays, as he has 7 goals. The Huskies will need to shut down this line if they want to have success this weekend. That is a tall task as no one else has been able to do it this season but if anyone can, it will be the Huskies.

The defense for the Pioneers holds most of their experience with only one freshman. They are led by sophomore Ian Mitchell who has 7 assists already. Mitchell quarterbacks the power play and leads this team on the back. The Huskies can get Mitchell off of his game by pressuring him and not giving him any passing lanes to run their offense.

In net is sophomore Devin Cooley who has look fantastic after learning under Tanner Jaillet for a season. Cooley sports 1.64 GAA and a .930 save-percentage on the season. He has yet to lose a game in his collegiate career.

The Huskies offense has been electric to start this season and they can strike from anywhere and everywhere. The scoring rolls up and down the lineup. Senior Patrick Newell leads the team with 6 goals and 11 points. 14 Huskies have potted a goal and all but two skaters have made a tally on the score sheet. Even senior goaltender Jeff Smith has an assist.

The D-core is running on all cylinders as well with senior Jimmy Schuldt on a 5 game point streak after finally netting one against Northern Michigan three weeks ago. Junior Jack Ahcan leads the team in assists with 10 and is a constant figure on special teams. Freshman Nick Perbix got on campus as an offensive defenseman and he is living up to that standard so far with 4 assists.

In net sophomore David Hrenak stands tall. Smith was getting minutes prior to the conference schedule but Hrenak looks to hold the net on his own from here on. He comes in with a 1.40 GAA and a .940 save percentage. Hrenak already has 2 shutouts this season.

This game could breakout either way, with goals going high or very low. The Huskies score at a 4.25 clip per game and only allow 1.50 goals per game. That ranks eighth and third respectively in the NCAA. The Pioneers score 4.33 goals per game and allow 1.67 goals per game. This is good for tied for second and a tie for fourth respectively in the NCAA.

This will be a very close series as these two teams have been power houses in the NCHC since its beginning. Denver carries a younger roster and the Huskies depth can exploit their lower lines. The key to this weekend is to shut down the top line for Denver and focus on their second and third lines. The way Coach Brett Larson matches his players up will be huge for how SCSU will fair.

The Pioneers opponents so far have combined record of 7-26-1 and that cumulative win total will double once the game starts Friday. The Pioneers have had a relatively easy start to their season and are walking into a strong Huskies team who hasn’t lost at home in the regular season since Jan. 20.

I expect this Denver team to be good come March but I think the Huskies will sweep this series in similar fashion to last Nov. when they swept the UMD Bulldogs, the eventual national champions.

The first game of the weekend will be Nov. 9 with a 7:07 p.m. puck drop. Saturday’s game will be Nov. 10 with a 6:07 puck drop. Both games will be broadcast live on KVSC. The pre-game show will start about 15 minutes before the hour both nights.

NOTES:

Hrenak gets the nod for both games last weekend. Could that be due to Smith earning the team’s first loss or that was the plan the whole time once NCHC play began.

The Huskies have only lost two regular season games at home since the start of last season.

Larson will get to face off against another rookie head coach.

Sports Schedule

  • Men's Hockey vs Bemidji State
    Nov 16, 2018 - 7:07
  • Women's Hockey vs University of Minnesota (Sports Stream)
    Nov 17, 2018 - 2:07
  • Men's Basketball vs MSU-Mankato (Sports Stream)
    Nov 17, 2018 - 4:00

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