icehockey-men-d1 flag

Brad Elliott Schlossman | The Grand Forks Herald | February 1, 2019

College hockey: 10 things to know about Denver ahead of this weekend's series vs. North Dakota

Must-see plays from this week in college hockey

North Dakota and Denver have consistently crossed paths in big games in the last 16 years.

The teams met in the NCAA regional final in 2004 and 2011. They met in the NCAA national championship game in 2005 and the NCAA Frozen Four in 2016.

College hockey: 5 teams who could make their first Frozen Four in 2019

The programs know each other well.

But Denver lost four seniors and five to early signings last season, so there are plenty of things you may not know about the Pioneers.

Here are 10 items you may or may not know ahead of this weekend's series:

1. Gwozdecky's influence still around

It has been nearly six years since George Gwozdecky has been the head coach at Denver, but his influence is still around.

Some of the standouts who led Denver to the 2016 NCAA Frozen Four and 2017 NCAA national championship were players who committed to the Pioneers when Gwozdecky was head coach — most notably, Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher and top-line forwards Troy Terry and Dylan Gambrell.

This is actually the first DU team that doesn't have any players who committed to Gwozdecky on the roster.

However, first-year head coach David Carle was brought aboard by Gwozdecky as a student assistant after a heart condition forced Carle to end his playing career.

2. McLellan's father coached the Sharks, Oilers

Denver junior forward Tyson McLellan is the son of longtime NHL coach Todd McLellan, who most recently was the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

NCAA in the pros: 13 NHL first-round draft picks you can still watch playing college hockey

Todd served as the head coach for the San Jose Sharks from 2008-15 and head coach of the Oilers from 2015-Nov. 20, 2018.

Among the former UND players to play under Todd are Drake Caggiula, Brad Malone, Dillon Simpson.

Tyson McLellan missed last Saturday's game against Western Michigan due to an injury. He's questionable this weekend.

3. Only hockey this weekend at Magness

Denver's basketball teams sometimes play at Magness Arena, but not this weekend.

The Denver women's basketball team hosted South Dakota State on Thursday night, but they played at the adjacent — and much smaller — Hamilton Gymnasium. That means Magness Arena's ice was not covered up Thursday and both teams held hour-long practices at Magness on Thursday.

UND skated from 11 a.m. to noon Thursday and Denver skated from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

4. Lancaster is a Mercyhurst grad transfer

The name Lester Lancaster may not ring a bell to National Collegiate Hockey Conference fans, despite the fact that he's a DU senior.

That's because Lancaster played his first three years of college hockey at Mercyhurst before graduate transferring to Denver this season.

Lancaster, a 5-foot-11, 182-pound right-handed shooting defenseman, put up more than 25 points in all three seasons with the Lakers and is one of college hockey's most prolific defensemen career scorers.

Only five defensemen in college hockey have more career points than Lancaster's total of 87: Quinnipiac's Chase Priske (106), St. Cloud State's Jimmy Schuldt (103), Harvard's Adam Fox (95), Notre Dame's Bobby Nardella (94) and Mercyhurst's Joseph Duszak (89).

Lancaster has three goals and six points in 19 games this season. He missed DU's series at UND in December.

5. Denver's goalie adventure

Denver goaltender Devin Cooley was injured during the series opener at Wisconsin on Jan. 4, leaving the Pioneers with one healthy goalie, Filip Larsson, for the series finale.

2019 Beanpot tournament: Preview, how to watch

Denver's third goalie, Michael Corson, happened to travel home to the Chicago area that weekend to visit family, so the Pioneers had him drive in for the second game.

Because Corson didn't have his gear with him, Denver needed its student equipment manager, Jakob Vettori, to fly from Denver to Madison on Saturday morning with his gear. The airlines wouldn't let Denver send the gear alone.

Denver's head equipment manager, Nick Meldrum, was gone at the World Juniors that weekend.

Cooley hasn't dressed since Jan. 4. Larsson, a Detroit Red Wings draft pick, has started all six games in Cooley's absence.

6. UND's Weatherby, DU's Demin won last year's BCHL title together

Several notable former British Columbia Hockey League teammates will be going head-to-head this weekend.

A year ago, UND rookie forward Jasper Weatherby and Denver freshman defenseman Slava Demin led the Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild, coached by Minot's Bliss Littler, to the BCHL championship and an appearance at the RBC Cup.

This summer, Demin and Weatherby were drafted just four picks apart from each other in the fourth round. The Vegas Golden Knights took Demin with the No. 99 overall pick. The San Jose Sharks took Weatherby at No. 102.

They aren't the only former BCHL star teammates going head-to-head.

In 2017, UND forward Jordan Kawaguchi and Denver forward Kohen Olischefski were linemates on the Chilliwack Chiefs, who lost to the Penticton Vees in Game 7 of the finals.

That Vees team had UND's Nick Jones, Jonny Tychonick and Gabe Bast and Denver's Griffin Mendel.

7. The Alaskan coaching staff

All three members of Denver's coaching staff have strong ties to Alaska.

Head coach David Carle is a native of Anchorage.

Assistant coach Tavis MacMillan played at Alaska Fairbanks from 1990-94, served as an assistant coach at Fairbanks from 1996-03 and as a head coach of the Nanooks from 2004-07.

Game schedule: 11 must-watch matchups remaining this 2018-19 men’s hockey season

Denver's other assistant coach is Dallas Ferguson, who served as an assistant at Fairbanks under MacMillan and followed him as the Nanooks' head coach.

Keeping the Alaska connection going, Denver's director of operations from last season, Joe Howe, is now an assistant coach in Fairbanks.

8. Carle is college hockey's youngest coach

At age 29, Carle is the youngest head coach in Division I hockey.

He took that crown from Omaha's Mike Gabinet, who was the youngest head coach in Division I during the 2017-18 season.

Carle's playing career was cut short because of a heart condition that was discovered during the NHL Combine.

Carle played prep hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary's, where he was teammates with UND players Ben Blood and David Toews.

9. Tough place to sweep

UND has swept a two-game series in every NCHC venue in the past three years other than Magness Arena. You have to go back to November 2003 to find UND's last sweep of the Pioneers in Magness.

UND's last road sweep was at Miami's Goggin Ice Center in March 2017. During that 2016-17 season, the Fighting Hawks also swept at Omaha's Baxter Arena and St. Cloud State's National Hockey Center.

During the 2015-16 season, UND earned sweeps at Minnesota Duluth's AmsOil Arena, Western Michigan's Lawson Ice Arena and Colorado College's World Arena.

The Pioneers haven't been swept at home since St. Cloud State in December 2015, and their lone home loss this year came in overtime.

10. Both teams have former NHLers in unpaid staff positions

UND has former Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Matt Smaby as a student manager, but the Fighting Hawks aren't the only team this weekend with former NHLers on staff in unpaid roles.

Denver has Avalanche forward Steven Reinprecht on staff as a volunteer assistant coach. Reinprecht also played for the Los Angeles Kings, Calgary Flames, Phoenix Coyotes and Florida Panthers.

The Pioneers also have former NHL goalie Ben Scrivens as a manager. Scrivens played in the NHL for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens.

Smaby retired from playing after the 2016-17 season, while Reinprecht and Scrivens retired from playing last spring.

This article is written by Brad Elliott Schlossman from Grand Forks Herald and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Western Michigan enters top 5 of latest men's college hockey Power 10 rankings

The men's college hockey regular season is hitting the home stretch. Two more weeks of upsets and sweeps led to some shuffling in the top-five of the latest Power 10 rankings.

Every men's college hockey player in the 2023 World Junior Championship

The 2023 World Junior Championship begins next week in Canada as the top under-20 men's ice hockey players from around the world represent their nations in search of gold and glory.

Denver hangs on for 3-2 win, split with St. Cloud State men's hockey

No. 2 Denver men’s hockey scored two goals in the opening three minutes of the game and never looked back in a 3-2 win over No. 4 St. Cloud State, fighting to a weekend split.

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from and our partners