The 10th ranked Pioneers will have a tough task as they face off against the #1 ranked University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs (UMD). This will be a match up of the number one and two teams in the WCHA. UMD comes into the weekend with a 11-1-2 record overall and 8-1-1 in conference, while Denver is 10-4-2 overall and 7-2-1 in conference. The Bulldogs and their fans will be energized, with emotions flowing, as the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) will be closing after this weekend after 44 years. The Duluth Tribune News has a nice write up on the DECC arena.
This is the second time this season the Pioneers will be facing a #1 ranked team. The first time didn't end so well for the Pios as they lost both games to Boston College back in October. Coach Gwozdecky spoke about the similiarities between the teams in his press conference "Duluth reminds me a lot of Boston College, especially the top line," Gwozdecky said of the Bulldogs' top trio of Mike Connolly and Jack Connolly and Justin Fontaine. "They remind me a lot of Atkinson, Gibbons and Whitney. Fast, quick, creative, not dominant in size, but in skill level and very difficult to defend." Theresa Spisak, a WCHA columnnist, has an extensive analysis of the WCHA matchup of the week.
Denver's youngsters are playing well this season and continue to pick up national attention. Drew Shore was named Inside College Hockey's player of the week.Coach Gwozdecky also praised Drew in his weekly press conference saying, "He has become a really strong multidimensional player". More proof the Pios have young talent is Drew Shore (So) along with his brother Nick Shore (Fr), Beau Bennett (Fr)and Jason Zucker (Fr) are expected to make the US National junior team 28-man preliminary roster. Mike Chambers at the Denver Post has more.
We are better than we were in Mid-October.... and we are looking forward to the challenge.
This quote by Coach Gwozdecky sums up where the team is now. The question is, has this very young Denver squad come far enough in this last month and a half to compete with the number one ranked team in the nation?