The Colorado Avalanche and the Denver University Pioneers both saw their seasons end at the hands of teams from the state of Michigan. It seems only fitting that the two clubs would start a new year on the same ice. A few weeks ago, the Avalanche held their annual Burgundy and White scrimmage for the first time at Magness arena in front of a near capacity crowd.
On a beautiful autumn Saturday afternoon in Denver, the DU Pioneers began their long journey to Buffalo with their Crimson and Gold game in front of a few hundred of their closest friends. In this modest, casual setting it’s easy to forget that this is the same team that is ranked second only to the defending champs, Minnesota Golden Gophers in preseason polls and has been picked by the Hockey News to win it all this year. Here’s a preview of what to look for from the Pioneers this season and a brief review of their scrimmage.
First the Frosh: With a long term committed coaching staff and a barley broken in arena, the recruiting power of the Pioneers will only continue to attract top talent in the future. This year’s fresh faces include forward Gabe Gauthier (Chilliwack), defenseman Scott Drewicki (St. Albert), forward Ted O’Leary (Cedar Rapids), forward Brock McMorris (Topeka) and highly touted defenseman Brett Skinner (Des Moines) After Skinner was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the third round this summer, he teamed up with fellow countrymen and other defensemen such as Duncan Keith and Jay Bouwmeester at the WJC’s developmental camp in Halifax. Skinner’s stats with the Buccaneers included 47 points in 46 games with five of his nine goals coming on the power play.
Super Sophomores: With a talented group of freshman and solid group of experienced upper classmen, it’s easy to forget about the sophomores. If Saturday’s scrimmage is an indication of what can be expected from the second year players, then they will certainly make the fans take notice. This sophomore group, which includes Kevin Ulanski, Jon Foster, Luke Fulghum, Jeff Drummond and Jussi Halme, combined for 10 points at the C& G game including 2 goals scored just a few seconds apart. Ulanski and Foster played the majority of games last season and ranked in the top ten in total points with the Pioneers. Due to an injury, defenseman Halme only played 12 games last year, but will most definitely return to a solid season guarding the blue line and showing off his offensive abilities as well.
Goaltending: The net minding duties of the Pioneers are still in the excellent hands of (Jr.) Adam Berkhoel and (Sr.) Wade Dubielewicz. This tandem is once again expected to share the workload though out each weekend. Dubielewicz ended the season with an NHL-like .943 save percentage which was the best in the entire NCAA, and Berkhoel was not far behind with .917.
Defense: (Sr.) Aaron MacKenzie and (Jr.) Ryan Caldwell will once again lead the way in the guarding of the blueline. An alternate captain last year, MacKenzie earned the Captaincy this season with his courageous effort in playing though the entire playoffs with a broken wrist. With the departure of D-men Jesse Cook and Brian Vines, ice time should be increased for the towering 6’3 (So) Nick Larson and 6’3 (Jr.) Matt Laatsch.
Offense: Seniors and alternate captains Kevin Doell and Greg Barber should continue to lead the offensive output this season. Their consistent play will be boosted by the shiftiness of Connor James, the feistiness of Lukas Dora and the speed of Greg Keith. The continued development of these player and others should easily make up for the loss of topper scorer Chris Paradise.
Crimson and Gold game
Taking the ice for the first time this season, fans got a glimpse of the new DU Pioneer line-up. Both goaltenders took the ice, sporting shinny new goalie pads and equipment. The competitive Dubielewicz played this game as though he was still in the playoffs and chalked up a .920 save percentage and threw in an assist to boot. Working out all the kinks, this penalty filled game thrilled the fans with high flying action. When it was all over, both teams met at center ice to shake hands and prepare themselves for the long journey ahead of them.
1st: Lukas Dora (Luke Fulghum, Aaron MacKenzie) GOLD
Greg Keith PP (Ryan Caldwell, Gabe Gauthier) CRIMSON
Jeff Drummond (unassisted) GOLD
2nd:Jon Foster PP (Kevin Doell, Wade Dubielewicz) GOLD
Ryan Caldwell (Greg Keith) CRIMSON
Jeff Drummond (Luke Fulghum, Jon Foster) GOLD
3rd:Luke Fulghum EN (Jeff Drummond, Brett Skinner) GOLD
Total Shots on Goal: Gold 30 Crimson 25
Gold:Dubielewicz 25 shots 23 saves .920 %
Crimson:Berkhoel 30 shots 25 saves .833%
Recruiting for 2014: This annual FREE C&G game attracts a large amount of youth hockey teams to enjoy the action and learn from the players. Always super supportive of youth hockey in Denver, the DU Pioneers invited anyone who would like, the opportunity to skate with them after the game was over.
Summertime happenings: Sniper Connor James was chosen in the ninth round in this summers entry draft by the Los Angeles Kings.
Former Pioneer and leading scorer, Chris Paradise signed a contract with the Boston Bruins organization.
Former Pioneer Jesse Cook attended the Calgary Flames training camp while former captain Brian Vines attended the Edmonton Oilers training camp.
Wade Dubielewicz, Connor James and Kevin Doell were invited to play in the WCHA All Star game which WAS to take place in Italy over the summer. Unfortunately this event was canceled due to increased security concerns of North Americans traveling abroad.
Several big name NCAA players, including Ryan Miller, Mike Cammalleri and Mike Komisarek recently chose to discontinue their college careers and attempt the jump to the NHL. While Wade Dubielewicz received several NHL offers over the summer, he chose to show his loyalty and commitment to his teammates and finish his education in Denver.