For the Huskies, junior center Nic Dowd (4-6-10) and senior center Drew LeBlanc (3-7-10) are tied for the lead and freshman wing Kalle Kossila (3-4-7) is tied for fourth. Denver junior forward Nick Shore (4-5-9) is third. And, oh by the way, two of the top scoring defensemen will be
in the game in Denver sophomore Joey LaLeggia (3-3-6) and St. Cloud State junior Nick Jensen (0-6-6).
LaLeggia was the national Freshman of the Year after leading rookies in scoring with 38 points last season.
“He passes extremely well, has a good shot, likes to move up into the attack, has a low panic threshold and reads plays very well,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said of LaLeggia, who is listed at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds.
As has been the case in recent years for the Pioneers, a Shore is leading the way in scoring. This season, it has been Nick. His older brother, Drew, led the Pioneers in scoring (22-31-53) before signing a pro deal at the end of his junior season. He is playing for the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League.
Their younger brother, Quentin (2-0-2), is a freshman forward for the Pioneers. There is a fourth Shore brother, Baker, who is 12. Jokingly, Gwozdecky said he has had conversations with the Shore parents about providing more players for the team. The family is from Denver, which has had a big impact on the hockey community in the state, according to Gwozdecky.
“In Colorado hockey, everyone knows who the Shore family is,” he said. “They’ve obviously helped our program. But they’ve sparked interest at all levels of hockey down to youth hockey in the state.”
Denver leads Division I in goals per game (5.0) and 40 percent of the team’s goals have come from its defensemen. LaLeggia and junior defenseman David Makowski have three goals apiece.
In goal, there is a chance that there could be a rotation of three goaltenders for Denver for a while until someone stands apart. Senior Adam Murray (2-0-0, 2.00, .935) and junior Sam Brittain (2-0-0, 1.00, .970) have split time the first four games while sophomore Juho Olkinuora has been sitting out a four-game suspension for a violation of team rules. Olkinuora, an All-WCHA Rookie Team pick last season (9-8-3, 2.18, .924). Gwozdecky said that Olkinuora will start one of the games this weekend.
“It’s rare to have two really good goaltenders on one team, but we think we have three goaltenders who could start for any team in the league,” Gwozdecky said. “It’s actually had a very, very positive effect on our team. If you’re one of the guys on the fourth or fifth line, you look at the goaltenders and realize that any one of them should have been playing any night. It doesn’t give them a chance to complain about playing time.”
Barring a poor performance by sophomore Ryan Faragher (3-2, 2.23, .925) on Friday, he is likely to start both games of the series for the Huskies. He has stopped 77 of 79 shots (.975) in his last three games, all wins. It’s likely that Faragher will also start both games the following weekend against North Dakota, a team he played well against four times last season. Faragher went 2-2 and stopped 95.3 percent (141 of 148) of the shots he faced against North Dakota last season.
St. Cloud State has the weekend after the North Dakota series off.
There are a few surprises for the Huskies statistically in the early going. The top two
Huskies in plus/minus are freshmen Ethan Prow (2-3-5, +9) and Kossila (+8 in 4 games). The next two in plus/minus are sophomore defenseman Tim Daly (+7) and his partner, junior defenseman Kevin Gravel (+6).
The Huskies are averaging 4.5 goals-per-game, which is a bit of a shock. Not shocking is that the defensemen are playing a big role in the offense, scoring 25.9 percent of the team’s 27 goals.
Denver leads the all-time series 38-34-4, but the Huskies are 9-9 against the Pioneers under coach Bob Motzko. St. Cloud State split with Denver (3-2 loss in OT and 5-1) in a series Dec. 16-17 at the National Hockey and Event Center.
The Huskies will play Denver, Colorado College and North Dakota in home-and-home series this season. The Pioneers will be at the NHEC for a series on Jan. 18-19.
Team statistical comparison
|Shots per game||31.3||31.2|
|Opponent shots per game||27.7||32.0|
|Goals per game||4.5||5.0|
|Opponent goals per game||2.3||1.5|
|Power play %||18.2||37.5|
|Penalty kill %||82.1||89.5|
|Short-hand goals for||1||0|
|Short-hand goals against||2||1|
|Penalty minutes per game||15.0||7.2|
|Opponent penalty minutes||15.3||6.5|