(left) DU coach George Gwozdecky said freshman goalie Marc Cheverie could play Sunday if senior Peter Mannino falters tonight. Mannino is 0-3 and has a 4.41 GAA against Minnesota.
From: Denver Post
by Mike Chambers
TV/Radio: FSN / KCKK 1510 AM
When: Fri. (6 pm) & Sun. (1 pm)
This weekend's NCAA hockey games in Minneapolis will feature two of the country's most storied programs, both suffering from the same glitch.
Capitalizing on offensive opportunities is the foundation of the Denver and Minnesota programs, but the No. 7 Pioneers and No. 8 Gophers bring a combined 6-of-67 power play into tonight's opener of a two-game series at Mariucci Arena.
DU is 3-of-37 with the advantage on the season (8.1 percent), ranking 44th among 56 teams. The Gophers are 39th at 3-of-30 (10 percent).
Given that games between these rivals typically become chippy and the winner is usually the team that capitalizes on the opposition's penalties, the outcome might become obvious without looking at the final score. Just look at the special-teams section of the box score.
The relatively speedy Pioneers will be playing their first two games on the Olympic-size ice sheet that is 15 feet wider than the NHL rinks. They hope that more time and space will deliver more power-play goals.
"The way Minnesota kills (penalties), maybe because of the big ice surface, they're not as aggressive as some teams are, so that might help us," DU coach George Gwozdecky said. "We're still in work mode, looking at different combinations and patterns to run. Some days they work, some days they don't."
Minnesota is scoreless in its past 20 power plays, plus it went 0-of-5 in Saturday's 3-1 exhibition win over the U.S. under-18 team.
Gwozdecky blamed himself for "wasting" two power plays Saturday in a 3-0 loss to Minnesota-Duluth for inserting his top players when some of them had just finished a shift.
The Pioneers drew up new power-play strategies at both ends of the ice this week at practice.
"It's more than just setting up the right pattern in the offensive zone," Gwozdecky said. "It's being able to get the puck in the offensive zone under control. That's where we've struggled at times."
DU is not concerned with adapting to the Olympic ice or Minnesota's team speed. The Pioneers are quicker this season with improved sophomore forward Matt Glasser, who played in just 12 games last year, and freshmen forwards Tyler Bozak, Anthony Maiani and Kyle Ostrow.
"I'm real happy with our speed this year, and that and our work ethic has been what's made us relatively successful so far," DU senior captain Andrew Thomas said. "I think the big ice is going to be to our benefit."