College Hockey Series of the Week: No. 1 Denver vs. No. 7 Minnesota Duluth
While Penn State takes on Michigan State in another Big Ten tilt, an even bigger showdown will be taking place up north in Minnesota. For the college hockey series of the week, it’s top-ranked Denver vs. No. 7 Minnesota Duluth.
Denver heads to Amisol Arena sporting a perfect 8-0-0 record. The Pioneers have racked up victories against Alaska- Fairbanks, Lake Superior and Boston College, having done so in dominant fashion, as only two of those wins were within a one-goal margin. Denver boasts the seventh-best scoring offense in the country, is tied for third in scoring defense, and has only allowed a single power-play goal all season. Expect physical play, strong defense and low scoring in this series, which is exactly how Denver likes to play.
For the underdog host Bulldogs, they face an extremely tall task and will need to get some help from the home crowd to rally against the hottest team in college hockey. Minnesota Duluth is 3-3-0 entering this weekend’s series and has posted far more tame numbers at 2.33 goals per game and 2.5 goals allowed per game. The Bulldogs will need to play A-level hockey if they want to stand tough against a wicked Denver team.
Denver is led by top scorer Ian Mitchell, a jack-of-all-trades defenseman. Mitchell has 10 points thus far in the season and has earned most of them by putting his teammates in position to succeed, tallying seven assists. Mitchell is the kind of player that always make sure to be near the puck, whether standing in front of the opposing goal waiting for a rebound or fighting off opposing forwards.
Freshman goaltender Magnus Chrona is a huge part of why Denver’s defense has the ability to freeze any team. The young netminder has a .925 save percentage for the season and has only allowed 13 goals. Chrona has posted two shutouts this season: one against Alaska in which he stopped 30 shots, and another against Boston College. However, he also did struggle in the second game against the Eagles, allowing four goals.
Hunter Shepard has also done an admirable job in goal for Minnesota Duluth. The senior has a .899 save percentage in 2019-20 and has only ceded 14 goals to the opposition. Shepard has only recorded one shutout on the season, however, against Minnesota in the second game of a home-and-home two weeks ago. He’s also capable of getting burned in games, having been victimized by an electric Wisconsin offense for six goals on Oct. 18.
All things considered, the Denver Pioneers have the edge in this series. They are playing excellent hockey in almost all phases and have yet to drop a game. The main concern is a power play that hasn’t taken shape yet. The team will need to develop this aspect of their game as the season progresses because things will only get harder from here. Some of the best teams in the nation loom on their schedule, and the 2017 NCAA champions (who defeated Minnesota Duluth that year to win it all) will need to continue to improve if they wish to make a trip to the Frozen Four this year.
Prediction: Denver sweeps 2-0
Game 1: Denver 3, Minnesota Duluth 2
Game 2: Denver 4, Minnesota Duluth 1
Jeremy Ganes is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.