DU hockey: No. 5 Pioneers set to begin “pod” season against nation’s best

The University of Denver hockey season kicks off next week with the Pioneers’ confidence to add a ninth national championship to their extraordinarily large trophy cabinet.

It doesn’t take long to find out if the No. 5 pioneers are legitimate. Their opening schedule is stacked.

“It is undoubtedly difficult,” said DU coach David Carle. “We are grateful and delighted to have the opportunity to join. Having meaningful games right away is great. “

The NCAA hockey season, which begins in early October before the coronavirus pandemic begins, is finally returning in a ‘pod’ format in Omaha, where DU and fellow teams from the National Collegiate Hockey Conference come together to play 10 games each in the first three weeks of December. .

On December 2, DU opens the season against No. 3 Minnesota Duluth (the defending NCAA champions). Two days later, the Pioneers face No. 1 in North Dakota.

“Everyone is eager to play and everyone is very excited,” said senior DU forward Kohen Olischefski, the Pioneers captain this season. “We know it will be a challenge. We have not seen this format before with many games in a short time. Our fitness and fitness are currently our main focus. “

The Pioneers also know that the entire season – including home and away games against regional foes starting in January – may be on thin ice. A DU player tested positive for COVID-19 about two and a half weeks ago, Carle said, requiring seven additional players to be “temporarily eliminated.”

The Pioneers are now back at full strength.

“That’s been our only major problem,” said Carle. “Our team has done a great job, but of course it doesn’t matter how good it is (you do it). With an infectious virus, it can still get you. I give our boys a lot of credit. We’ve done the right things off the rink to make sure we’re on the ice as much as possible. “

Olischefski added: “It’s just been a lot, making sacrifices and making decisions that benefit the team. We now just try to stay safe and healthy. Obviously, positive tests put a big key in things. “

The Pioneers have reason to trust. DU returns 63% of its goals from a year ago and four defenders with at least 25 matches played. Add to that a trio of direct-impact graduate transfers – D Bo Hanson (St. Lawrence), F Steven Jandric (Alaska Fairbanks), and G Corbin Kaczperski (Yale) – and the Pioneers believe they have the talent and the depth to compete with everyone.

“The pace at which we do things has been the most impressive,” said Carle. “We need that with the playing style that we like. We need all four rules to do it. I like our depth on all three positions. We are a confident couple. “