>Game Preview: (4) Miami vs. (1) Denver
>NCAA Championships: Seven (1958, 1960, 1961, 1968, 1969, 2004, 2005)
NCAA Appearance: 19th (most recent, 2008)
Head Coach: George Gwozdecky (Wisconsin ’78)
What You Need to Know: The Pioneers have been dealing with injuries, especially in the second half of the season. The good news is that Tyler Bozak is expected to return to the lineup, giving DU a much-needed boost at center. Tyler Ruegsegger is out for the season. Even when players are missing, there is sufficient, talented depth to make a difference for the Pioneers. Freshman Joe Colborne really came on in the second half of the season. Denver holds a record of 23-11-5 and a mark of 16-8-4 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). The Pioneers are coming off a 4-0 loss to Minnesota-Duluth in the championship game of the WCHA tournament. Denver also finished second in the WCHA regular season, two points behind North Dakota. The Pioneers are led by Anthony Maiani who has 41 points (11-30-41) on the season. Denver also features three 15-goal scorers in Rhett Rakhshani, Tyler Guegsegger and Luke Slasar.
How They’ll Advance: You don’t win 23 games in a year, including 16 in the WCHA, by accident. The Pioneers are a very good skating team and are the best suited team of the four in the Minneapolis regional to playing on the huge ice at Mariucci Arena, although they’ll be taking that particular surface for the first time this year (and were 0-3-1 in four games on big sheets at Colorado College and St. Cloud State). Freshman defenseman Patrick Wiercioch has 12 goals and is a difference maker from the blue line.
What Might Trip Them Up: The Pioneers were 6-5-1 against NCAA Tournament teams this season, but just 1-4-1 in those games in the second half of the year. Consistency in taking care of the wins you’re supposed to get is a key to success in the regular season, but there has to be some concern about how Denver plays when good teams start to push back at this time of the year.
NCAA Championships: None
NCAA Appearance: Seventh (most recent, 2007)
Head Coach: Enrico Blasi (Miami ’93)
What You Need to Know: After a 6-0-1 stretch that put the Redhawks in a great position to finish at least second in the regular season, Miami finished the year 2-4-1, including a 3-game CCHA quarterfinal loss to Northern Michigan. Having played well most of the year, the Redhawks have to be alarmed that they’re not exactly on a roll headed into the national tournament.
How They’ll Advance: Miami has a very productive offense and two freshmen goaltenders who have been reliable for most of the year. With player like Carter Camper, Justin Mercier and Andy Miele taking the reins, the Redhawks have the ability to outscore anyone that they come across.
What Might Trip Them Up : Over the past few years it seems like the RedHawks complete great regular seasons but are incredibly inconsistent in the postseason. The team hasn’t shown that they have learned from past losses and suffered an early exit from the CCHA Tournament. Until they prove they can win in the postseason, you have to wonder if they’ll ever make a dent in the national tournament.
Fourteen years after the new Mariucci Arena first graced the campus of the University of Minnesota, fans and players alike still are amazed by the breathtaking beauty of a sold-out Mariucci and the atmosphere it provides. In 1993, the old Mariucci Arena, located in front of Williams Arena, took on a whole new face when it relocated just north of its old home. The new Mariucci Arena brings a brand new look to Golden Gopher hockey, not only from the outside, but inside as well. With the best sight lines possible from every seat, no Gopher fan is ever disappointed with the view of the fastest game in town. The Olympic-sized (200 feet by 100 feet) ice sheet lends itself to the free-wheeling style of play of Minnesota’s “Pride on Ice.” With the capability to have ice year-round, the arena brings a truly state-of-the-art facility to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.
This year marks the fourth time in 10 years that Mariucci Arena has hosted the NCAA West Regional, joining 2000, 2003 and 2005. In 2006, the facility welcomed the NCAA’s Women’s Frozen Four.
The 2001-02 season featured the introduction of 18 luxury suites, which increased the capacity of the building from 9,700 to 10,000. It was the third time that seating capacity has been increased, a testament to the support the Golden Gophers receive from the community.
Upon entering the building, fans immediately become part of the action as play on the ice can be heard from the George Lyon Lobby. The glassed-in entrance features a clear glass elevator, original brick from Memorial Stadium and a display dedicated to the legendary John Mariucci, for whom the building is named.
Escalators on either side of the lobby bring fans up to the concourse level where the fastest game in town can be seen. The open-bowl configuration allows fans to watch the game from anywhere on the concourse.
The arena seating capacity of 9,305 for the first three seasons increased to 9,700 before the 1996-97 campaign, continuing to make Mariucci Arena one of the premier collegiate hockey venues in the country. The nearly 500 person-per game average increase is due in large part to the 395 additional seats added between 1995-96 and 1996-97, the continued demand for standing-room only tickets and also to the continuous fan demand to watch a Gopher hockey game and take in the Mariucci Arena experience.
The last time these two teams met was during the 2006 Ice Breaker Tournament. Miami won the game 5-2, with defenseman Michael Findorff scoring the first ever goal at Cady Arena.