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NCHC preview: Denver

Denver has actually seen a more substantial exodus than Miami this off-season.

Head coach Jim Montgomery left for the NHL this spring, and the Pioneers’ three top scorers and five of their top 10 points producers from 2017-18 bolted for the pros in recent months.

So Denver has a lot of work ahead if it hopes for return trip to the regional final.

DENVER PIONEERS

NCAA titles: 8 (1958, 1960, 1961, 1968, 1969, 2004, 2005, 2017).

COACH: David Carle (first season).

2017-18 RECORD: 23-10-8.

POSTSEASON: Lost to Ohio State, 5-1 in a regional final.

RINK (capacity): Magness Arena (6,315).

MIAMI VS. DENVER LAST SEASON: 1-2-1.

ALL-TIME SERIES: Denver leads, 14-11-3.

SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Feb. 22-23 – at Denver.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Colin Staub, F Jarid Lukosevicius, D Ian Mitchell.

KEY NEW FACES: F Brett Stapley, F Mathias Emilio Pettersen, F Cole Guttman, D Slava Demin, D Sean Comrie, D Les Lancaster, G Filip Larssen.

KEY LOSSES: F Troy Terry, F Dylan Gambrel, F Henrik Borgstrom, F Logan O’Connor, F Blake Hillman.

NOTES: Denver probably expected early departures this off-season, but the Pioneers were hit harder than many expected.

DU has 11 freshmen listed on its roster, and its goaltending threesome has logged a total of 20 collegiate minutes.

Henrik Borgstrom, Troy Terry and Dylan Gambrell – all of whom left before completing four seasons – combined for 143 points in 2017-18.

Leading the way up front this season will be Jarid Lukosevicius, who scored 21 times last season, and two-way stud and team captain Colin Staub, a senior who has logged 117 career games and tallied 51 points.

Undersized Liam Finlay and Jake Durflinger produced 15 and 12 points, respectively.

Several of Denver’s newest forwards have been drafted, and the Pioneers will need them to contribute right away if they hope to return to the top tier of the NCHC standings.

Brett Stapley (Montréal), Mathias Emilio Pettersen (Calgary) and Cole Guttman (Tampa Bay) were all taken in the last two rounds.

On defense, Ian Mitchell led all blueliners last season in assists (28) and points (30) as a freshman.

But other than Mitchell, only Griffin Mendel and Michael Davies were the only other DU blueliners to dress for the majority of games in 2017-18.

Les Lancaster is an interesting addition, as he racked up 81 points at Mercyhurst, and he is eligible this season because he’s a graduate transfer.

Slava Demin, a Vegas fourth-round pick who thrived in the BCHL last season, is also expected to make a pick impact on the DU defense corps.

In net, Devin Cooley played one period last season as a freshman, as Tanner Jaillet was a mainstay between the pipes, and Detroit draftee Filip Larssen is expected to log substantial minutes as a freshman.

Denver has a talented freshman class coming in, but the Pioneers lost a lot of NHL-caliber talent and lack experience at forward, defense and especially in net.

Coach Jim Montgomery accepted the head coaching job with the Dallas Stars, and assistant David Carle was promoted to his position despite being just 28.

Carle is an NHL draftee, but sadly his career ended when he was diagnosed with a heart problem prior to him dressing in the NCAA.

He was a student assistant for Denver during his collegiate years, and after a year at USHL Green Bay as an assistant coach, he returned to the Pioneers as an assistant to Montgomery the past four seasons.

NOTE: BoB is previewing each NCHC team leading into the 2018-19 season. This is the second of seven installments.

The first one on Colorado College can be read here: 2018-19 Colorado College preview

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