From: Rocky Mountain News
by Pat Rooney
To a man, the University of Denver hockey team's defensive corps will maintain that having a goaltender like Peter Mannino will erase many shortcomings.
That does not mean there isn't plenty of room for improvement.
Mannino's magnificence - the senior ranks 10th in the nation with a .935 saves percentage - often has been necessary in recent weeks as the Pioneers slowly have begun allowing more shots per game than during the first portion of the still-young season.
DU hopes to reverse that trend as another high-octane attack invades Magness Arena this weekend. The third-ranked Pioneers will play their final Western Collegiate Hockey Association series at home until mid-January beginning tonight against eighth- ranked North Dakota.
"As defensemen, we always feel like there are areas we can tighten up on," senior captain Andrew Thomas said. "I know we have become a lot better covering down low on one-on-one coverage. Peter does his job and more. He helps us out so much we can risk a little more. We can take a couple more chances, knowing he's back there. But we do need to give him some more help."
DU has surrendered a respectable average of 25.7 shots a game, but that includes a 30.2 average the past six games.
Part of the increase in opponents' shots can be attributed to the style of the Pioneers' recent opponents. DU won three of four the past two weekends against Minnesota State Mankato and Colorado College, teams that attack relentlessly on offense, but surrendered only 38 shots total in a split earlier this season at Notre Dame, a nationally ranked team that plays with a more defensive style.
Still, DU realizes it must not allow a North Dakota team that features reigning Hobey Baker Award winner Ryan Duncan and is averaging 29.2 shots a game to enjoy the same number of opportunities it has surrendered the past few weeks.
And with the Pioneers playing their next two WCHA series in tough venues, St. Cloud State and Alaska Anchorage, reaping points against the Fighting Sioux is even more crucial.