DENVER - Colo. – After a two-week break over the holidays, the Northern Michigan University hockey ‘Cats will be back in action as they face non-conference foe Denver University of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 31-Jan. 1. Friday’s game will be played at 8 p.m. EST/6 p.m. MT and will be televised on Fox Sports Network Rocky Mountain. Saturday’s game is scheduled to start at 9 p.m. EST/7 p.m. MT. FSN Rocky Mountain can be found on DirecTV channel 683 or on Dish Network channel 414.
Northern Michigan (9-8-3, 7-5-2 CCHA) enters into the series in a three-way tie for fourth place in the CCHA. The Denver University Pioneers (12-5-3, 9-3-2 WCHA) are tied for second place in the WCHA with Minnesota-Duluth, behind North Dakota who sits in first, just two points ahead. The ‘Cats and Pioneers have played multiple common opponents thus far in the 2010-11 season. In common opponents played, Denver beat Bemidji State (3-1 on Nov. 19 and 4-2 on Nov. 20), downed Lake Superior State (6-3 on Nov. 26), and split against Minnesota-Duluth (5-4 overtime win on Dec. 3 and 2-1 loss on Dec. 4). The Wildcats split with Bemidji State (4-0 win on Nov. 26 and 0-3 loss on Nov. 27), split with Lake Superior State (4-1 win on Nov. 5 and 1-3 loss on Nov. 6), and lost to Minnesota-Duluth (2-3 on Oct. 9).
Northern Michigan and Denver University have consistently played throughout the years and the ‘Cats are slightly favored in the series, 29-24-2. Games played in Denver, Colo., favor the Pioneers as the Wildcats record is 10-14-0. The ‘Cats haven’t played the Pioneers since 1997 when they were swept by the home team with 1-5 and 3-6 losses in Denver, Colo. The ‘Cats travelled to Denver, Colo., in the 2007-08 season and played in the Denver Cup, but didn’t play the host school, Denver University. In the Tournament the ‘Cats lost to Dartmouth College, 1-4, before beating Sacred Heart, 5-2.
In this weekend’s two-game-series against Northern Michigan, Denver will play without forwards Drew Shore and Jason Zucker who are on the roster for the 2011 U.S. National Junior Team who is competing at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., Dec. 26, 2010 – Jan. 5, 2011. Shore, a sophomore from Denver, Colo., leads the Pioneers with 25 points on 14 goals and 11 assists. Teammate Zucker, a freshman from Las Vegas, Nev., has 14 goals and seven assists on the season for 21 points which is the second most points on the Pioneer scoresheet.
The Pioneers have plenty of other forceful threats on their roster in the absence of Shore and Zucker. Denver will likely turn to Senior forward Anthony Maiani who has five goals and 14 assists for 19 points, and junior forward Luke Salazar who has nine goals and seven assists for 16 points this season.The Denver Pioneers will also look to freshman goaltender, Sam Brittain who is 10-4-3 on the season with a .928 save-percentage and a 2.07 goals-against-average.
The Wildcats are looking forward to being back in action and are hopeful that their play will continue to improve. Junior Forward Tyler Gron has stepped up his play through 20 games played in the 2010-11 season as he is leading the Wildcat offense with 19 points on 11 goals and eight assists in comparison to the five points he had at this point last season. Gron’s teammates Greger Hanson and Justin Florek have 14 and 13 points respectively, in comparison to the 16 and 15 they had last year at this point. Phil Fox, Scott Macaulay, and Kyle Follmer’s numbers are all up from last year as they have 10, 10 and nine points apiece compared to the six, three, and four from last year. Junior Goaltender Reid Ellingson has taken the lead in the 2010 season with 15 games played, 33 goals against, and 40 saves for a 2.43 goals-against-average and a .925 save-percentage. Freshman Jared Coreau has appeared in eight games with 19 goals against and 234 saves for a 2.88 goals-against-average and a .925 save-percentage. The ‘Cats as a team have 54 goals against and 40 saves for a 2.66 goals-against-average and a .922 save-percentage.
The Point (100.3 FM) will broadcast the action from Denver. An audio stream will be available http://webb.nmu.edu/SportsAthletics/SiteSections/ForCatFans/GameBroadcasts.shtml).