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DU Pioneers weekend preview: Going for Gold

Pioneers look for more consistency in second meeting with arch rival CC

DU versus Colorado College at Magness Arena Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images

After an idle weekend in the heart of a tight race to the finish in the NCHC, the #2 Denver Pioneers hope that winning the Gold Pan Trophy will be the start of a steady stream of hardware over the next two months.

The stakes will be high for the Pioneers’ second series with the Colorado College Tigers this weekend. Because DU holds the trophy in the heated rivalry series from last season and the teams officially tied twice in December, the Pioneers will need just one win this weekend to keep the Gold Pan at home.

Although DU may be in a better spot in terms of the rivalry, the December series was in the midst of some head-scratching outcomes for the team. In the first matchup, DU gave up the tying goal with seven seconds left and would go on to lose in 3-on-3 overtime. Another official tie the next night kept things even for the purposes of the Gold Pan, but a goal in 3-on-3 OT earned the Pioneers an extra point in the NCHC standings and lessened the overall sour mood from the night before.

This weekend’s series, split between Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs Friday and Magness Arena Saturday, has important postseason implications as well. While idle, Denver was jumped by St. Cloud State last weekend and the Huskies now sit in first with both teams having played an equal number of conference games.

For CC, who sits at the bottom of a 4-team middle tier gunning for third place, the series is the first of three against ranked teams to close out the regular season. At 23 in the PairWise Rankings and RPI, it seems likely that CC’s best hope for making the NCAA tournament would be a hot streak against the quality teams remaining on their schedule, starting with DU, and a deep run in the NCHC tournament.

If CC were to get that done, it would most certainly be on the shoulders of sophomore forward Nick Halloran. Halloran is finishing up a breakout sophomore season — his 40 points (17 G, 23 A) rank third in the nation and best of any NCHC player. In the Friday night win in December, he scored twice and assisted on the equalizer in the final seconds.

Outside of Halloran and junior captain Mason Bergh (15 G, 19 A), Colorado College boasts a decidedly below-average statistical profile — 23rd in team offense, 48th in team defense, 37th on the power play and dead last (60th) in penalty kill.

CC has given the bulk of their minutes to sophomore goaltender Alex Leclerc. Again, Leclerc boasts solid if unimpressive statistics to date with a 3.20 GAA and .902 save percentage.

Friday’s game is an 8:05 start and can be seen on CBS Sports and Altitude Sports will show Saturday’s contest at 7:05.