Series Preview: Lake Superior State at #1 Denver

 

Denver: 2016 33-7-4 2017: 1-0-1

LSSU 2016 11-18-7 2017 1-2-1

 

Crimson and Golder, Over and Over….

The Denver Pioneers are coming off an outstanding 2016-2017 season having won their eighth national championship, their first since back to back wins in 2004 & 2005, and this weekend will be their first weekend back at Magness Arena this season.

The clear-cut #1 team did take a big hit after the tournament, losing 9 seniors, including their captain Will Butcher (New Jersey Devils). They are, however, returning Jarid Lukosevicius, who was the first player since his own head coach to record a hat trick in a championship game. His coach, Jim Montgomery, played for Maine in college, and recorded his hat trick against the team they will be facing this weekend: the Lake Superior State Lakers in 1993. Maine won that game & their first championship in school history.

After splitting with Notre Dame on the weekend, the Pioneers will be looking for a sweep of the Lakers when they hang their banner this weekend.

Upper Peninsula of Mitens-igan

There is some good news going into this weekend: The Lakers and the Pioneers both have the same amount of wins this season.

Joking aside, last Saturday we had our first real look at who could be our starting goaltender for the rest of the year (and hopefully more) – Mareks Mitens. Mitens is coming off a record setting year in the NAHL, but when we first saw him during the blue-gold scrimmage, he didn’t look great. I don’t know what happened in the last few weeks, but he stopped 40 of 42 shots on net against a good Michigan Tech team, forcing a tie with an eventual loss in the shootout.

JT Henke was named the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week after a 5 point weekend (1-4=5), being in on each one of the 5 goals the Lakers had last weekend.

Being able to keep pace with a really good Michigan Tech team bodes well for boys in blue, as Tech has been the preverbial monkey on the Lakers back since joining the WCHA, having only won once, under former coach Jim Roque, and forcing a 1-1 tie back in 2015. One game was a 4-2 loss, with the others being blowouts.

This bodes well for the Lakers. Despite taking only one point last weekend, they are closing the gap on their rivals. That should be the message in the locker room this weekend. They are improving, and to this author, the team, nearly as a whole, has been passing the eye test. They have solid goaltending in Kossoff and Mitens (we have not seen Lukenda or Bengert in net since the scrimmage – or Bengert in uniform since), the blue line has been tightened, and the offense is clicking. Their Power Play is third in the nation for goals.

The Lakers, in all honesty, don’t have much to lose this weekend. Yes, the WCHA non-conference record would suffer, but I doubt many people are expecting the Lakers to win this weekend; even the most optimistic fan would likely say they just hope they play a good game, and keep the score close. But the Lakers have everything to gain this weekend. Coming out with a win on Friday may put doubts into the Pioneers heads, allowing them to make mistakes Saturday night. A win this weekend would force the rest of the league to take notice of Lake State again.

A win would give the team confidence that they can win despite the last twenty years that says the contrary.

Games this weekend start at 9:05pm eastern time. They can be heard locally on 99.5 YesFM, or online at http://1043thefan.com/. Please note that YesFM will not be streaming it online.

Game can also be streamed through NCHC.tv (15.95/day for just Denver).