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University of Denver weekend preview: #6/#8 Boston University & #19/#15 Boston College

Pioneers look to stay on top with a tough swing to Beantown

2017 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championships - Semifinals

The #1/#1 University of Denver Pioneers will tune up before a month-long stretch of NCHC games with a tough road test, facing #6/#8 Boston University Friday and #19/#15 Boston College Saturday.

The Pioneers are familiar with the Boston schools after facing both early in the regular season last year, falling to BC in the 2016 IceBreaker tournament before sweeping BU, ranked #2 at the time, at home.

BU (3-2-1, 1-0-1 Hockey East) began the season ranked behind Denver (2-0-2) at #2, but fell in the rankings after being swept by Minnesota State at home, 6-3 and 3-0.

DU will have a challenge on its hands in slowing down the Terriers power play, which ranks fourth best in the nation at 33% early in the season. By contrast, DU’s penalty kill is ranked near the bottom of Division I, killing just 62.5% of their opportunities. Junior Bobo Carpenter (5G, 3A) and Sophomore Patrick Harper (4G, 4A) are out to a better than one point per game pace and have a combined five power play goals.

BU has a stout sophomore goaltender in Dallas Stars 2016 first-round pick Jake Oettinger who, after posting a .927 save percentage as a freshman, is off to a .916, 2.61 GAA start. Oettinger, a 2016 Hockey East Second-Team All-Star, has started all six games for the Terriers this season.

Freshman forward Brady Tkachuk, who is regarded widely as a top ten prospect for next year’s draft, will be an intriguing player to watch for fans of the NHL and USA hockey. Tkachuk has 4 assists on the season and is still looking for his first NCAA goal.

The Pioneers will face Boston College (1-3-1, 1-0-0 Hockey East) after the Eagles take on a tough conference rival in # 11 Providence Friday night. Like their crosstown rivals, BC has fallen some in the rankings since the preseason, partly due to a brutal schedule. Saturday’s contest will be the eighth straight game against a ranked opponent to start the season for BC, including the top two teams in the country after being swept handily by #2 St. Cloud State last weekend.

Most of BC’s early season struggles have come as a result of a lack of offensive power. With their tough schedule in consideration, the Eagles rank 50th out of 54 teams in scoring at 2 goals per game. Likely facing DU’s Tanner Jaillet, raising that poor statistic could prove difficult for another weekend.

BC’s primary goaltender is sophomore Joseph Wall, who’s 2.71 GAA is tampered by a .898 save percentage in four games played.

The weekend’s games can be seen on the Patriot League Network for free Friday night and ESPN3 Saturday.