Nov. 21, 2008

Courtesy of Minnesota

The nation’s new top-ranked team puts its 10-game season-opening unbeaten streak on the line this weekend with a two-game series at Denver. The series is a rematch of last season’s WCHA Final Five championship game won 2-1 by the Pioneers. Denver was the only WCHA team Minnesota didn’t beat last year as the Pioneers were 4-0-1 in the five meetings.

Last Time Out
For the fourth straight weekend, Minnesota tied its opening game and won the second game of the series. The Gophers tied Michigan Tech 2-2 on Saturday and posted a 3-0 win on Sunday. Ryan Stoa and Mike Hoeffel scored goals and Jordan Schroeder collected two assists on Saturday, while Stoa, Schroeder and Tony Lucia all scored on Sunday. Alex Kangas stopped 62 of 64 shots in the series, including all 38 shots on Sunday for his first career shutout.

Series History
Minnesota leads the all-time series 90-63-12, though went 0-4-1 against Denver in 2007-08. In fact, last season the Gophers only lost five games by three goals or more and three of those came against the Pioneers. Denver defeated Minnesota 2-1 in the WCHA Final Five title game at the Xcel Energy Center.

About the Pioneers
Denver had been ranked in the top five of the national polls all season until being swept last weekend at St. Cloud State 4-2 and 2-1 to fall to 10th in this week’s rankings. Denver ranks seventh nationally in scoring offense, but tallied 24 of its 38 goals in the first five games of the season. The Pioneers have been especially tough at home with a 6-1-1 record at Magness Arena and an 0-3 record away from home. Sophomore forward Tyler Bozak leads the Pioneers in scoring for the second straight year with five goals and eight assists for 13 points. Bozak was among the Gophers’ biggest troublemakers last season with seven goals, including three shorthanded, and two assists in the five meetings between the two teams. Freshman Luke Salazar has seven goals and five assists for 12 points. The Pioneers also feature two of the nation’s top-scoring defensemen as senior Patrick Mullen has 12 points on 12 assists and Patrick Wiercioch has five goals and five assists for 10 points. Sophomore Mark Cheverie has played every minute in goal and has a 2.63 goals against average with a .914 save percentage.

Top of the Heap
Minnesota took over as the nation’s top-ranked team this week for the first time since Jan. 22, 2007. It’s nothing new for the Gophers, who have been ranked No. 1 at some point of the season eight of the last nine years. Last season was the only exception when they reached as high as No. 3.

Bulls-Eye
Having the target of being the nation’s top-ranked squad hasn’t affected the Gophers much in recent years. Minnesota has a 32-14-7 combined record in its last seven stints as the nation’s No. 1. The last two times have been especially successful as Minnesota was ranked No. 1 for nine straight weeks in 2006-07 and held the top post for six straight weeks in 2005-06.

Out of the Gates
Minnesota’s 6-0-4 start marks just the second time since 1940 that the Gophers have been undefeated through their first 10 games. The only better start during that span was in 2001-02 when they opened 11-0-2. Prior to 1940, Minnesota opened 11-0-0 in 1923-24 and posted an 18-0-0 season record in 1939-40.

Streak Speak
Minnesota’s 10-game unbeaten streak is its longest since its school-record 23-game streak early in the 2006-07 season. The Gophers’ longest streak since that historic run had been five games. The current unbeaten streak is tied with Air Force for the longest in the country. There are three remaining undefeated teams in Division I hockey. Along with Minnesota, Air Force is 10-0-0 and Cornell is 2-0-2.

At the Top
Through eight league games, Minnesota sits in first place in the WCHA with a 5-0-3 record and 13 points to hold a two-point lead over Colorado College. In 2007-08, the Gophers picked up their 13th point of the season on Jan. 19 in the 16th game of the year when they beat Minnesota Duluth to improve to 6-8-2.

Stopping Them All
Alex Kangas’ 38 saves in Sunday’s shutout marked the most saves by a Gophers’ goaltender in a shutout since Robb Stauber stopped all 40 shots in a 5-0 win over Colorado College on Feb. 27, 1988. It was the third-highest save total in a Gophers’ shutout since 1984 as Stauber also made 44 saves against Michigan Tech on Feb. 19, 1988.

Absolute Zero
Remarkably, Kangas’ shutout against Michigan Tech was the first of his Gophers’ career despite setting single-season school records for goals against average and save percentage in 2007-08. It was Kangas’ 41st career start and he had allowed one goal in a game 11 times. One of those came when he held Minnesota State without a goal for over 96 minutes in a WCHA playoff game last season, but the Gophers lost 1-0 in double overtime.  He stopped 62 of 64 shots last weekend to earn WCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second time this season. Kangas has started 31 straight games and owns a 1.78 goals against average and .937 save percentage with a 14-7-10 record during the streak.

Offensive Outburst
Minnesota ranks 10th in the country in scoring offense at 3.40 goals per game after averaging 2.45 goals per game in 2007-08. The Gophers have scored six goals in two of their last three games after not reaching that mark in any game all of last season. Minnesota has scored at least two goals in every game this year and not allowed more than three in any game.

Power Surge
Power plays have been one of the Gophers’ biggest strengths this season as Minnesota ranks seventh in the country at 20.8 percent. The Gophers have already scored 15 power play goals after totaling 25 all of last season. Minnesota has scored on the power play in nine of its 10 games, including seven straight. They ranked 50th in the country last season at 13.0 percent on the man-advantage.
 
Killer Instinct
Minnesota ranks fourth nationally and leads the WCHA in penalty killing at 93.8 percent (4-for-65) after holding Michigan Tech to 0-for-13 in last weekend’s series. The Gophers had allowed just one power play goal in each of its first four weekend series as St. Cloud State was 1-for-16, Wisconsin was 1-for-14, Minnesota State was 1-for-15 and New Hampshire was 1-for-7. Only two of the goals have come in five-on-four situations.

Streaking Stoa
Gophers’ forward Ryan Stoa missed the last 43 games of the 2007-08 season with a knee injury, but has made up for lost time already this year with nine goals and seven assists for 16 points to rank seventh in the country in scoring. He has points in all 10 games and has scored goals in eight different games. Stoa scored the first goal in each of the Gophers’ games against Michigan Tech last weekend.

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Courtesy of Denver

The No. 10 Denver Pioneers (6-4-1, 4-3-1 WCHA) host the No. 1 Minnesota Golden Gophers in WCHA action on Nov. 21-22. Puck drop is slated for 7:37 p.m. MT on Friday and 7:07 p.m. on Saturday. Both games will be televised live on FSN Rocky Mountain and FSN North. Friday's game will be broadcast live 560 AM, while Saturday's tilt will be on 101.5 FM.

THIS WEEKEND’S STORYLINES

• No. 10 Denver is fourth in the WCHA with nine points, while No. 1 Minnesota is first with 13 points.
• Pioneers are 5-1-1 against ranked opponents and 6-1-1 at Magness Arena this season.
• Minnesota’s Jordan Schroeder (4-10--14) and DU’s Luke Salazar (7-5--12) rank first and second, respectively, in WCHA rookie scoring.
• Pioneers face the No. 1 team for the second time this season. DU is 5-6-1 against top ranked teams since 2004-05.
• Denver (2004-05) and Minnesota (2002-03) are the last two teams in NCAA Division I men’s hockey to claim back-to-back NCAA Championships.

FOR OPENERS
• DU will honor long-time WCHA Off-Ice Official Jim White in a pre-game ceremony on Nov. 21. White passed away earlier this season after more than 30 years of service.
• The Pioneers are 2-4-1 since starting the season 4-0 for the first time since 2003-04.
• DU is 0-1-1 against the No. 1 team in the nation this season. The Pioneers tied (2-2 ot) and lost (3-2) to then-No. 1 Colorado College earlier this season.
• The Pioneers have averaged 4.7 goals per game in their six wins and 2.0 gpg in their four losses.
• Denver leading scorer Tyler Bozak (5-8--13) and Patrick Mullen (0-12--12) are pointless in their last three games.
• Bozak is DU’s leading scorer against Minnesota with 7-3--10 in five career games.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
• Bozak leads DU in scoring for the second consecutive season. Bozak is tied for third in WCHA league scoring and tied for eighth in overall scoring. Bozak has five multi-point games and leads DU with a +9 plus/minus rating. DU is 2-3 when Bozak is pointless.
• Mullen is ranked No. 6 nationally in defenseman scoring at 1.00 ppg. Mullen ranks third in the WCHA in overall defenseman scoring and second in assists.
• Freshmen Luke Salazar (7-5--12) and Patrick Wiercioch (5-5--10) rank sixth and tied for seventh, respectively, in national rookie scoring. Salazar leads the WCHA in game-winning goals (3), ranks second in rookie scoring and is tied for third in goals. Salazar was named Red Baron WCHA Rookie of the Week twice in October, while Wiercioch earned the honor once. Salazar and Wiercioch netted goals in DU’s 4-2 loss at St. Cloud State.
• Marc Cheverie has posted a 6-4-1 record with a 2.63 GAA and .914 Sv%. Cheverie is 7-4-1 with a 2.47 and .916 Sv% in 16 career games.
• DU went a perfect 10-for-10 on the penalty kill at St. Cloud State and is 65-for-75 (86.7%) overall. The Pioneers have netted a power-play goal in eight of 11 games and are 14-for-83 (16.9%) with the man-advantage overall.

INJURY UPDATE
• DU defenseman Patrick Wiercioch (upper body) is questionnable for this weekend’s series, while captain J.P. Testwuide (groin) and alternate captain Rhett Rakhshani (upper body) are probable. Testwuide returned to the lineup on Nov. 15 after missing three games, while Rakhshani missed the series opener at St. Cloud State. Wiercioch suffered his upper body injury on Nov. 14 and missed the Nov. 15 game.

PIONEERS ALL-TIME VS. MINNESOTA
Minnesota owns a 92-63-12 advantage in the all-time series that dates back to 1951. The Golden Gophers are 38-37-6 against DU in Denver. DU is 5-4-1 in its last 10 games against Minnesota and 2-2-2 in the last six meetings at Magness Arena. The Pioneers have held the Golden Gophers to one goal or less in six of the last seven meetings.

SCOUTING THE GOLDEN GOPHERS
The Minnesota Golden Gophers improved to 5-0-3 in the WCHA after last weekend’s tie (2-2 ot) and win (3-0) over Michigan Tech. The 3-0 shutout was the first of goaltender Alex Kangas’ career at Minnesota. Kangas leads the WCHA in overall goals against average (1.84) and winning percentage (.800), while ranking second in saves percentage (.936). Junior forward Ryan Stoa leads the WCHA with nine goals and is tied for second in overall scoring with 9-7--16. Jordan Schroeder leads the nation in rookie scoring at 1.40 points per game and Cade Fairchild has added 2-8--10 from the blueline. Head coach Don Lucia has posted a 245-113-42 mark in 10 seasons at Minnesota.

ABOUT THE 2008-09 DU PIONEERS
The Pioneers are led by Tyler Bozak, Tyler Ruegsegger and Rhett Rakhshani, defensemen J.P. Testwuide and Patrick Mullen, and goaltender Marc Cheverie. Bozak, who led DU with 34 points last season, is tied for third in WCHA conference scoring at 1.38 points per game. Rakhshani (28-46--74), Mullen (16-52--68) and Ruegsegger (29-34--63) are DU’s top current career scoring leaders. Rakhshani and Testwuide lead the team with nine penalties each, while Testwuide leads the team with 29 penalty minutes. Cheverie, who has started all 11 games in net, has 23 or more saves in nine games. Cheverie stopped a career-high 41 shots in DU’s 3-1 win over Ohio State on Oct. 24.

WHO’S HOT? WHO’S NOT?
Rookie Joe Colborne (2-3--5) has 1-2--3 in his last three games and Anthony Maiani (4-8--12) has 0-5--5 in his last four games. DU’s fourth line has just one assist and Matt Glasser is pointless after 11 games.

MORE ON THE POWER PLAY AND PENALTY KILL
The Pioneers went 1-for-11 on the power play against St. Cloud State after going 4-for-13 against Minnesota Duluth. DU has tallied two or more power-play goals in five games, including a season-high three against Wisconsin on Oct. 18. DU is 22-for-23 on the penalty kill in its last four games.

YOUNGSTERS MAKING THEIR MARK
Pioneer freshmen and sophomores have accounted for 76% of the team’s goal scoring and 70% of the team’s total points. Freshmen and sophomores have accounted for five of six game-winning goals.

FOUR FROM THE LAND OF 10,000 LAKES
DU’s Joey Brehm (Edina), Brian Gifford (Moorhead), John Lee (Moorhead) and Brandon Vossberg (St. Paul) hail from Minnesota.

COLBORNE AND WIERCIOCH TOP DRAFT PICKS UNDER GWOZDECKY
Freshmen Joe Colborne and Patrick Wiercioch are the two highest NHL draft selections during head coach George Gwozdecky’s 15 seasons at DU. Colborne became DU’s second first-round NHL draft pick when Boston selected the forward No. 16 overall last June. Wiercioch was selected No. 42 overall by Ottawa. Current NHL players and former DU standouts Matt Pettinger (No. 43), Paul Stastny (No. 44) and Matt Carle (No. 47) were drafted in the second round.

CARLE NAMED STUDENT ASSISTANT COACH
Freshman David Carle is serving as a student assistant coach for DU this season. Carle was forced to retire from competitive hockey prior to the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and his freshman season at DU after being diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). The disease is a thickening of the myocardium, which is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes. Carle is writing a bi-weekly blog on ESPNU.com.

COLORADO FLAVOR
The 2008-09 DU roster sports seven Coloradans. Jon Cook (Denver), Stephen Cunningham (Boulder), Chris Nutini, (Centennial), Tyler Ruegsegger (Lakewood), John Ryder (Colorado Springs), Luke Salazar (Thornton) and J.P. Testwuide (Vail) all hail from the Centennial State. Testwuide is the first Coloradan and ninth consecutive defenseman to captain the Pioneers.

OH BROTHER!
Freshman defenseman John Lee is the younger brother of former North Dakota and current Ottawa Senators defenseman Brian Lee. Student assistant coach David Carle is the younger brother of former Pioneer and current Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Matt Carle. DU captain J.P. Testwuide is the older brother of Colorado College forward Mike Testwuide, while Jon Cook is the younger brother of former Pioneer Steven Cook.

HALL OF FAME SON

Senior defenseman Patrick Mullen is the son of U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Joe Mullen. Patrick’s dad tallied 1,063 points, including 502 goals, in 16 NHL seasons and helped the Calgary Flames (1989) and Pittsburgh Penguins (1991 and 1992) to Stanley Cup championships. Joe Mullen is currently an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Flyers.

DU VS. RANKED TEAMS
The Pioneers are 5-1-1 against ranked teams this season and 37-27-5 against ranked teams over the last four seasons.

MAGNESS = HOME ICE ADVANTAGE
The Pioneers are 121-60-6 (.657) all-time in 10 years of competition at Magness Arena. The Pioneers are 6-1-1 at home this year after posting a 16-4-1 mark in 2007-08.

CHAMPIONSHIP HOCKEY
The Pioneers are tied for second in NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey with seven NCAA National Championships. DU captured national championships in 1958, 1960, 1961, 1968, 1969, 2004 and 2005.

PIONEERS IN THE PROS
Paul Stastny (Colorado), Matt Pettinger (Tampa Bay), Brett Skinner (NY Islanders) and Matt Carle (Philadelphia) are former standouts representing the Pioneers in the NHL.

ON THE HORIZON
Denver hosts Colgate and Air Force in nonconference action on Nov. 28-29.