Wednesday, March 24, 2010

East #1: Denver

Denver University Pioneers

#1 seed vs. RIT, East Regional (Times Union Center, Albany, NY)
WCHA Regular Season Champion
At-large berth from WCHA
Record: 27-9-4
Coach: George Gwozdecky

Things to do in Denver Albany when you're a #1 seed. Making their 20th appearance in the tournament, Denver had been near the top of the heap all season, falling out of the #1 spot in the poll on the last weekend after suffering back-to-back losses for the first time all season in St. Paul at the Final Five. As one might expect from Pioneers, the trip to Albany will be the first sojourn east for Denver this season to face a team with which they are wholly unfamiliar. George Gwozdecky is saying all of the right things, noting how Michigan was taken out by Air Force from Atlantic Hockey last season in the first round and RIT would be more than happy to do the same, playing just four hours from home.

Though the game is not played on paper, one would have to like Denver's chances when you look at the numbers. The Pioneers have an exceptional top lined, paced by a pair of 20 goal scorers in Rhett Rakhshani and Joe Colborne, and they have a Hobey candidate in net in Marc Cheverie. The biggest question will be if Denver can find scoring beyond their top line, which is accounting for almost half of the team's goals, or if they will need to even find it.

Denver is in a tough spot because they are the lone western team in Albany. They will face at least one, if not two New York teams in the Times Union Center and actually New Hampshire's campus is closer to the TUC than RIT, so clearly Denver will be facing if not hostile crowds, at least ones not necessarily friendly to them. If Denver makes it to Ford Field, it will likely be the same way that they have done it all year, with strong defense, timely scoring, and solid goaltending. (Wait a minute. That would work for any team! I'm sorry, that is way more clich├ęd that it should be. Denver looks like an exceptional bet, the worry being that they're riding a two game losing streak and they're dinged up. And yet, I don't know that anyone views Denver at the moment as a favorite. So this is where we are. They can win, they could easily win it all. The question is if they will.)

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