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University of Denver Pioneers Weekend Preview: #4/#6 Notre Dame

The Pioneers head to South Bend to take on Avalanche prospect Cam Morrison and Fighting Irish

2017 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championships - Semifinals

After watching the opening weekend of college hockey from home, the University of Denver Pioneers 2017-18 season is finally here. The lengthy offseason is over and the title defense has begun.

The top-ranked Pioneers will travel to South Bend to take on #4/#6 Notre Dame in a rematch of last year’s NCAA semifinal, in which DU cruised into the National Championship game with a 6-1 win.

Like most other teams, Notre Dame opened up its season last weekend, sweeping Alabama-Huntsville at home, 5-3 and 4-0. The wins helped the Fighting Irish jump up in the national polls from 8th, where they were slotted in the preseason rankings.

Like the Pioneers, Notre Dame returns a good deal of talent from a team that went deep into the postseason and finished 23-12-5. The transition from Hockey East to the Big 10, where the Irish were picked second in the preseason polls behind Minnesota, will be much smoother with the impressive depth returning this year.

2016-17 leading scorer Anders Bjork is gone, but the next seven top scorers will all be back. Sophomore Andrew Oglevie returns after a 21-goal output during his freshman campaign and got off to a quick start last weekend, tallying a pair of goals in Saturday’s win. Oglevie and senior defenseman Jordan Gross were named to the Big Ten Preseason Watch List.

Avalanche fans ought to keep an eye on Cam Morrison, who was a second-round draft pick in 2016 and could be a addition to the youth movement taking over the franchise soon enough.

A clear advantage for DU will be in goal, where Notre Dame won’t be able to match the veteran experience of Tanner Jaillet. 20 minutes from sophomore Cale Morris is the only experience returning from last season for Notre Dame, although Dylan St. Cyr has all the potential to make a majority of the starts as a freshman. Morris made the start for ND Friday, but St. Cyr upstaged him with a 34-save shutout against UAH Saturday.

For the Pioneers, we will get a look at a new set of lines offensively and a defensive unit without 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher. Even if DU doesn’t leave South Bend with a 2-0 record, there certainly won’t be any reason to panic after facing a talented team that has a 2-game head start.

Faceoff tonight will be at 5:05 PM and tomorrow at 4:05 PM. Both games can be seen on NBC Sports.