We took some time chat with our pal Nick over at LetsGoDU about this weekend’s game between Boston College and Denver. Check out our thoughts on the game over on their blog, and then take a look at Nick’s answers to our questions below!
Laura: Denver has been brutal on offense so far this season. What is BC’s best chance for tamping that down a little bit?
Nick: You’re not wrong there...after averaging fewer than three goals per game last year in what was, after all, an asterisk of a year, all of a sudden they’re out here putting up 6 per game and wowing the fans night in and night out.
It’s been a sight to behold and a welcome one at that. Now, it’s all come against a poor defensive team in Arizona State and a completely overmatched team in Air Force, but this is still Division I college hockey! If BC is going to find a way to slow Denver’s offense down, they’re going to just have to play responsible, mistake-free defense...and block a ton of shots.
What I noticed against ASU and AFA was that any time one of their defensemen missed an assignment, DU took full advantage. Leave the backdoor pass open? Goal. Fall behind your man while DU is cycling the puck? Goal. The few stretches of play that actually kind of stifled DU’s offense were the shifts when passing lanes and shooting lanes were taken away. Now, that’s much easier said than done, but if BC can consistently take those lanes away and block a bunch of shots - they do love to shoot from the point and high slot - they might be able to slow DU’s red-hot offense down.
Laura: Outside of leading scorers Carter Savoie and Massimo Rizzo, which Denver players should BC fans be watching?
Nick: What’s funny about this is I didn’t even think Rizzo was going to be one of the top scorers on the team coming into this year (and that’s on me!). I thought Carter Mazur and Jack Devine were going to be bigger scoring factors in this freshman class than Rizzo. Of course, it’s still early and it’s not like Mazur and Devine have been bad as they have combined for 5 points in 4 games, but Rizzo has kind of surprised me.
But one player that I thought was going to be a difference-maker coming into the season was Bowling Green transfer Cameron Wright. So far, it seems like he’s added a different dimension to this offense. He’s a guy who you can depend on to get to the hard areas of the ice and consistently win those 50-50 battles. His game is something that the Pios sorely missed a year ago. He’s a safe bet to tally a goal or two and a couple assists this weekend. I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention DU’s top line of Savoie, Cole Guttman, and Bobby Brink, though. Those three together on the ice know how to put on a show. There’s a good reason they’re leading the team in scoring with a combined 26 points already.
Laura: Denver has only played 1 road game this season, which was still in Colorado. Do you think the travel to Providence & Boston is going to affect the team at all?
Nick: I think that’s the biggest wild card this weekend, to be honest. I didn’t get a chance to attend the game at Air Force (still not sure why my own schedule isn’t consulted before the season schedule gets released but I digress) but from what I heard, it was a pretty raucous atmosphere with a lot of cadets in attendance. And that building does get LOUD.
DU played pretty well, coming away with a 4-1 victory, but an hour bus ride south on game day is a lot different than a 4 and a half hour flight a couple days before hitting the ice. Now, that said, the importance of this stretch of games this weekend at Providence & BC and then next weekend at North Dakota isn’t lost on this team. They’d all tell you “it’s the same sport just in a different place and we have to get pucks deep against these guys” but I am going to be very interested to see what the effect of a real road trip is on this young team. If they get off to a fast start on Friday against the Friars, I think they’ll have a good weekend.
Laura: Is always having a player on the roster from Finland the secret to success?
Nick: This is my favorite link between DU and BC over the past half a decade or so. Though, I’m pretty disappointed to see BC isn’t rostering a single Finn this year! So I mean...for your sake, I hope the answer to your question is no.
For DU, however, the Finnish pipeline is strong as ever and I do actually think it’s been a huge boon for the program (we have Henrik Borgström to thank for that). Antti Tuomisto has been one of DU’s strongest defensemen over the last two years and I think he’s poised for a breakout year. The Pios have two more Finns coming next year as well in forwards Samu Salminen and Miko Matikka, which means they’ll have three of them if Tuomisto doesn’t sign with Detroit after this season.
Laura: What do you see as a successful season for Denver this year? Does not winning the NCAA Championship make the season a bust?
Nick: I said in my season preview that after last year when they missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since George W. Bush was president, expectations should probably be tempered a bit. Players have stated multiple times already this year that they expect to win the national title, which is great to hear, of course, but I think that if they win a game or two in the NCAA Tournament, DU fans should be relatively satisfied.
Now, with the highest-scoring offense in the country and a defense that has yet to give up a 5-on-5 goal through four games, maybe those expectations should be adjusted a bit. As I said above, though, those four games weren’t exactly against national contenders, so these next four games are going to tell us a lot about this team, I think. If they win three of their next four games, I think winning their ninth national title shouldn’t be out of the question at all.
Laura: What’s your score prediction for Saturday’s game?
Nick: As you said in your prediction about beating CC on Friday over on our blog, I think a key to DU coming back home with a win over BC is getting a win on Friday against Providence. Winning often begets more winning, especially on the road. If there’s one thing I worry about, though, it would be an emotional letdown after playing last year’s captain, Kohen Olischefski, on Friday - he transferred to Providence for his fifth year of eligibility. I have yet to see any reason why DU shouldn’t keep rolling, though, and with the questions that arose for BC after the Bentley game, I have DU winning 5-2.