There was hardly a streakier team in college hockey last season than Denver.

The Pioneers ran off eight straight wins to open 2019-20, won one of its next eight, went 8-0-2 after in the subsequent 10 games and lost the next four.

Ultimately Denver finished third in the conference and No. 6 in the polls and was a credible threat to capture their second national title in four years.

The Pioneers have reloaded for 2020-21, adding four NHL draftees among its freshman class, including second-rounder Antti Tuomisto, and are ranked fourth in the USA Today preseason poll.

Part II of our seven-part, NCHC opponent snapshot series focuses on Denver.

DENVER PIONEERS

NCAA TITLES: 8 (1958, 1960, 1961, 1968, 1969, 2004, 2005, 2017).

COACH: David Carle (third season, 45-21-14, .656).

2019-20 RECORD: 21-9-6 (11-8-5 NCHC, third place).

RINK (capacity): Magness Arena (6,026), Denver, Colo.

MIAMI VS. DENVER LAST SEASON: 4-0.

ALL-TIME SERIES: Denver leads, 19-12-3.

SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Two bubble games in Omaha, TBA in December.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: G Magnus Chrona, F Brett Stapley, F Cole Guttman, F Bobby Brink, F Kohen Olischefski, D Slava Demin.

KEY NEW FACES: G Jack Caruso, F McKade Webster, F Carter Savoie, F Steven Jandric, D Antti Tuomisto, D Mike Benning, D Bo Hanson.

KEY LOSSES: F Liam Finlay, F Tyson McLellan, F Emilio Pettersen, F Tyler Ward, D Ian Mitchell, D Michael Davies, G Devin Cooley.

NOTES: Denver’s two top scorers left early, but the Pioneers boast an outstanding freshman class and also picked up a pair of transfers who should help them return to the top half of the league standings again in 2020-21.

Up front, Montréal draft pick Brett Stapley is the team’s top returning scorer with 30 points last season, and Tampa Bay selection Cole Guttman led the Pioneers in goals with 14 and was fourth overall with 28 points.

Bobby Brink (Philadelphia) was also a key contributor with an 11-13-24 line, as was Kohen Olischefski (9-11-20).

Steven Jandric joins the DU forward corps for his senior season after racking up 80 points for Alaska-Fairbanks, leading his team in scoring in both 2018-19 and 2019-20.

Freshmen Carter Savoie and McKade Webster are both NHL draft picks who should contribute up front right away.

No returning Denver defenseman tallied more than nine points last season, and only three members of this corps have at least 30 games played with the team.

Griffin Mendel has logged 110 games in three seasons and was 3-6-9 with a plus-13 rating in 2019-20, tops among Pioneers blueliners.

Vegas draft pick Slava Demin also picked up nine points as well as a team-high 50 penalty minutes.

Justin Lee is third on the team in career games played on D for Denver with 31.

Tuomisto, a Finnish product who was selected No. 35 overall by Detroit last month, is 6-feet-4 at age 18 and should play significant minutes right away.

Senior transfer Bo Hanson will also chip in after spending his first three seasons at St. Lawrence, where he racked up 47 points in 102 games.

Tampa Bay draftee Magnus Chrona logged 1,593 minutes in net as a freshman last season and is the likely primary starter again in 2020-21 after going 16-6-4 with a 2.15 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage in his inaugural NCHC campaign.

Both backups from 2019-20 left early, and freshman Jack Caruso is the only other netminder currently on the Denver roster. Caruso played just 502 minutes between New Jersey of the NCDC and Fairbanks of the NAHL.

Denver was a slow starter last season, with a minus-7 goal differential the first period and plus-44 mark the final 40 minutes of regulation.

The Pioneers were also 13-4-1 at Magness Arena, so it will be interesting to see if they can continue their dominance on neutral ice as well as a fan-less home rink.

Part I of our NCHC Snapshot series can be found here: Colorado College.

One thought on “NCHC Snapshot: Denver

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