It seemed like Denver lost everyone but its mascot after 2017-18, with head coach Jim Montgomery vaulting to the NHL Dallas Stars and three key scorers leaving early for the pros, among others.
Despite the rampant turnover, all the Pioneers and first-year coach David Carle did was come within a goal of the national championship game this spring.
Denver looks to continue its string of 12 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances this season and extend its 18-year 20-win season streak.
View From the Glass takes a look at Denver in Part II of its seven-part 2019-20 preview series.
Part I can be viewed here: Colorado College
NCAA TITLES: 8 (1958, 1960, 1961, 1968, 1969, 2004, 2005, 2017).
COACH: David Carle (23-10-8 in one season).
2018-19 RECORD: 23-10-8.
2019 POSTSEASON: Lost to UMass in the national semifinal.
RINK (capacity): Magness Arena (6,026), Denver, Colo.
MIAMI VS. DENVER LAST SEASON: 1-1.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Denver leads, 15-12-3.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Jan. 24-25 – at Miami; Feb. 21-22 – at Denver.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: G Devin Cooley, F Liam Finlay, F Emilio Pettersen, F Cole Guttman, D Ian Mitchell, D Slava Demin.
KEY NEW FACES: F Bobby Brink, D Justin Lee, G Magnus Chrona.
KEY LOSSES: F Jarid Lukosevicius, F Colin Staub, D Lester Lancaster, G Filip Larsson.
NOTES: A major key to Denver’s success in 2018-19 was its goaltending.
The Pioneers allowed just 83 goals in 41 games, and both of their netminders posted goals-against averages below 2.00 and save percentages north of .930.
Half of DU’s starting tandem is back in 2019-20, with Devin Cooley returning for his junior campaign after posting a 1.85 GAA and .934 save percentage last season. Detroit draftee Filip Larsson turned pro after just one year in the NCAA.
Also back for Denver is last season’s leading scorer, Liam Finlay, who had just 34 points his first two seasons with the Pioneers but notched 36 in 2018-19.
Calgary draft pick Emilio Pettersen, last season’s team leader in assists with 24, also returns, as do Cole Guttman and Brett Stapley – selections of Tampa Bay and Montréal, respectively – sophomores-to-be who combined for 19 goals and 45 points as rookies.
On the blue line, Chicago draftee Ian Mitchell led the team in defenseman goals (6), assists (21) and points (27), and he finished with a plus-18 rating.
Michael Davies went 4-12-16, playing in all 41 games, and Vegas pick and blue chip prospect Slava Demin is expected to take another step forward after going 4-10-14 as a freshman.
As successful as Denver was last season, the team power play was a liability, converting at just a 15.2 percent clip and only 12.5 in NCHC play.
The Pioneers also struggled in league road games, finishing just 4-7-1 in NCHC play away from Magness Arena.
DU has a six-member freshman class, including 5-feet-8 forward Bobby Brink, who was second in the USHL with 35 goals for 68 points as a center last season, and Swedish goalie and Tampa draft pick Magnus Chrona.
Defenseman Justin Lee is also expected to make an immediate impact after recording six goals and 24 assists for Lincoln and Fargo of the USHL in 2018-19.
It was easy to predict a slide for Denver entering last season after the coaching and player departures, but then-rookie Carle thrived behind the DU bench, and with another talent-laden roster, the Pioneers should enjoy plenty of success again in his second campaign.