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DU Pioneers weekend preview: Colorado College

Pioneers, Tigers square off in home-and-home series

NCAA Hockey: Frozen Four-Denver vs Notre Dame Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

One of the oldest rivalries in college hockey will be renewed this weekend, as the #1 Denver Pioneers face their arch-rival Colorado College Tigers for a two-game series. With the Gold Pan — awarded to the team with the better record in the four regular season matchups — at stake, the teams will skate at Magness Arena tonight and at Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs Saturday night.

The Tigers (7-7-0, 3-5 NCHC) have shown themselves to be an improved team from last season, but have few significant wins this year. Outside of a 2-1 win over North Dakota Oct. 27, the Tigers have struggled against top-tier competition. Case in point — last weekend’s series at #2 St. Cloud State, where the Huskies swept by a combined margin of 11-1.

Any competitive game this weekend would be an improvement for CC relative to last year, when the Pioneers held onto the Gold Pan by winning all four in-season matchups by a combined score of 13-4. Denver also knocked their rivals out of the NCHC tournament in a two-game sweep.

The Tigers are led offensively by former Colorado Rampage standout Nick Halloran, who has posted 19 points in 14 games of his sophomore season. His 14 assists tie him for eighth most nationally and second most in the NCHC, behind only Troy Terry.

As a team, CC ranks average to below-average statistically — 39th in team offense (2.64 goals/game) and 37th in team defense (3.07 goals allowed/game). Their special teams have been generally poor. Especially concerning for them is a penalty kill that ranks 57th in the country — dead last in the NCHC — at just 74.6 percent.

One part of their penalty kill problem has been staying out of the box to start with. The team takes 13.29 penalty minutes per game on average, third most in the conference and top 20 nationally. Playing shorthanded for large parts of the game against a more talented DU team with a dangerous power play unit is not a recipe for an upset.

In goal, expect to see sophomore Alex Leclerc, who has played in all 14 games for CC. Leclerc has been highly inconsistent but still good at times, sporting a 2.88 goals allowed average and a .909 save percentage.

The two games will be matchups 307 and 308 all-time between the teams, playoffs included. Denver leads the series 175-116-17 overall and has won 14 straight, losing last on February 22, 2014 in Colorado Springs.

Friday’s game can be seen on Altitude 2 and both will be broadcast on 104.3 The Fan.