Whew. We made it. The number one team in the country, as if you didn’t know. Last year, the Denver Pioneers made it all the way to the WCHA title game, earning a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. But they were upset by the Miami Redhawks in the first round. This year, led by a defenseman who could be in the NHL right now and tons of firepower up front, the Pioneers are out to go even farther this year.
For all their offensive firepower, Denver was actually the 13th best defensive team in the country last year. Marc Cheverie had a .921 save percentage to lead the WCHA, and he was 2nd only to Alex Stalock in GAA. The defense didn’t allow opposing forwards many looks at Cheverie last year either. The Pioneers return some very good defensemen, led by All-American Patrick Wiercioch. Wiercioch was 3rd on the team in scoring last year with 35 points, and 5th in goals with 12. Overlooking his defensive skills however would be a mistake. I fully expect to see him in an Ottawa Senators jersey next year.
Offensively, Denver is loaded. Anthony Maiani (41 pts), Rhett Rakhshani (37), Joe Colborne (31), Kyle Ostrow (28) and Luke Salazar (25) are all back. In all, Denver has 13 double digit point getters back this year, and would be a good bet to lead the country in scoring. My player to watch is John Lee, who had 5 points as a Freshman, but displayed good defensive skills and I think he will take a huge leap forward in his Sophomore year on the DU blue line.
Denver at this point seems to be the overwhelming choice to win the championship, or at least the safest bet to make it to Ford Field. Of course, that’s what I said about Boston College last year.