College Hockey Game of the Week: North Dakota vs. Denver
The NCHC season is underway with all eight teams converging in the conference’s bubble in Omaha, Nebraska. This Friday, it is a top-four matchup between No. 1 North Dakota and No. 4 Denver at 8:35 p.m.
The Fighting Hawks of North Dakota started their 2020-21 campaign with a 2-0 victory over the Miami RedHawks. Matt Kiersted and Riese Gaber scored the goals, while goalie Adam Scheel pitched a 19-save shutout.
At the helm for the Hawks is Brad Berry, who is in his sixth year as head coach. Last year, he guided North Dakota to a 26-5-4 record. His team was poised to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
The Hawks bring back 96 goals from last season, the most in the nation. Senior leaders Kiersted and Jordan Kawaguchi will lead this high-powered offense. Last season, Kawaguchi and Kiersted put up 45 and 29 points, respectively.
North Dakota also has 12 NHL draftees, including talented freshmen Jake Sanderson and Tyler Kleven. There’s also sophomore Shane Pinto, who scored 16 goals and made the NCHC All-Rookie team last season.
In between the pipes is possibly the best goaltending tandem in the nation in Scheel and senior Peter Thome.
Scheel posted an impressive stat line last season: a 19-4-2 record, a 2.07 goals-against average and a save percentage of .907. Thome, meanwhile, posted a 7-3-1 record with a NCHC-low 1.37 goals-against average.
The Pioneers from Denver also opened their season on Wednesday with a 2-1 loss to Minnesota Duluth after they allowed two goals in the final 10 minutes. Graduate transfer Bo Hanson scored his first goal with Denver.
David Carle is in his third season as head coach for the Pioneers. Last season, Carle led Denver to a 21-9-6 record. Denver was set to head to the NCAA Tournament for the 13th straight season.
Like North Dakota, the Pioneers return a majority of their scoring from this past year: 84 goals in total. Coming back are last season’s leading goal-scorer Cole Guttman (14 goals) and talented sophomore Bobby Brink, who had 24 points last year.
Denver also adds some young, talented players. Freshmen Carter Savoie, Mike Benning and Antti Tuomisto had productive careers at the junior level. Hanson, Steven Jandric and Corbin Kaczperski join the roster as graduate transfers.
Like the Fighting Hawks, Denver has a talented goaltender in Magnus Chrona.
As a freshman last year, Chrona went 16-6-4 with a 2.15 goals-against average, two shutouts and a .920 save percentage, which led the NCHC.
Both teams will come out of the gates fast for this big matchup, but expect a little bit of rust, as it is only the second game of the season.
With a lot of firepower on both sides, expect a tight game from the start, but North Dakota comes out on top in the end.
Prediction: North Dakota 3, Denver 2
Matt Scalzo is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.