|(above) Ty Loney hopes to play in his hometown of Pittsburgh in April|
by Joe Sager
Heading into his sophomore year at the University of Denver, Ty Loney opted to stay in Colorado over the summer to work on his game.
If all goes as planned for the Pioneers, Loney will get to make up for some lost time at home in April.
That’s because the NCAA Men’s Frozen Four will take place at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center. And, Denver, with 75 percent of its roster returning from last year’s NCAA Tournament qualifier, hopes for bigger and better things this season.
“I couldn’t really imagine anything like that; that’d be crazy,” Loney said. “Just making it to the tournament is a huge success. To play in the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh would be pretty unreal.”
The Pioneers, ranked No. 3 in the USA Today/U.S. Hockey Magazine poll, are hoping to pick up where they left off last year. Denver finished 25-14-4 and advanced to the WCHA championship game, where it dropped a 4-0 decision to North Dakota. The Pioneers advanced to the NCAA Midwest Regional semifinals, but fell to eventual NCAA runner-up Ferris State, 2-1.
“It gives us a lot of confidence to be ranked that high and a lot of incentive to back it up and prove to everyone else what we can do,” Loney said. “We lost some pretty good players. I think we have a really strong team, especially with our sophomore class.
“Defensively, I think we’ll be very good. Most of the people are returning. Up front, we have some skilled guys coming in, and I think we’ll surprise some teams this year.”
Loney, a son of former Pittsburgh Penguins winger Troy Loney, hopes to continue his progression. He had 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) and had a plus-8 rating in 36 games for Denver last season.
“Starting off as a freshman, it was tough to fit in and find out what your role is. It’s pretty tough to battle your way into the lineup. I think that makes you better,” Ty Loney said.
“When (Jason) Zucker went away to play in the World Junior Championship, it gave me the opportunity to step up and play on a line with Drew (Shore) and (Luke) Salazar. We did pretty well together. I proved myself to my coaches.”
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound right winger certainly made an impression. He began this season skating on the Pioneers’ top line.
“We have a really good group of forwards this year, and that’s just the way the coaches put them together,” Loney said. “We’ll see how everything works out. But I think we have a pretty good lineup up front no matter who is where.”
Loney focused on improving his game over the summer, which is why he stuck around in Denver to work out with many of his teammates.
“Staying in Denver really helped. I did a lot of strength training with a lot of the players at Denver. Everyone was pretty focused and had the right mindset. I wanted to become a better overall hockey player,” Loney said.
“I want to be a guy that can help out defensively, too. I’ll do anything I can to benefit the team. I really worked on all aspects of my game, especially speed. You can never have too much speed and that’s one area I need to improve.”
Loney wants to use his big frame to his advantage, too.
“I am more of a power forward. I see the ice pretty well and have some soft hands around the net,” he said. “When I was in the USHL, coaches saw me as more of a scorer. But I think I can be that guy in front of the net who can cause havoc and put the puck in the net whenever possible.
“This year, I want to make sure I leave everything out there on the ice every game and every shift, I want to be a 20- to 25-goal scorer and do whatever I can to help the team go as long as we can in the playoffs.”
Loney, who won a Penguins Cup Class AAA championship with Pine-Richland, played two seasons with the Youngstown Phantoms before attending Denver.
“I never really figured out how I picked Denver. It was one of the last schools I talked to,” he said. “When I came out here on my visit, the campus was unbelievable, and the weather is fantastic. Also, the tradition of a winning hockey team and having people go pro really topped it off.”
Loney, however, wouldn’t mind coming back to Pittsburgh, especially in April.