As is going to be the case for a lot of things this season, the meeting this weekend between Denver and Wisconsin, two of the most respected programs in the WCHA, will be their final one as conference foes. Word on the street is that they will continue to play as non-conference opponents on an annual basis, but nothing about that has been set in stone and until it is you can't believe words alone.
So, as we face the Pioneers for the final time as conference foes we sat down with Mike Chambers of The Denver Post to give us an inside look at what DU brings to the table and how things might go down this weekend in a bittersweet series.
Before we get in to the action don't forget for the DU perspective on this weekend you can follow Mike on twitter at @MikeChambersDP.
MTB: Denver faced their first taste of real adversity after last weekend's results, what's the mentality of this team coming into this series following their first losses of the season?
Chambers: The Pioneers took Yale for granted en route to playing New Hampshire last weekend. Yale is a good team and deserved the 2-1 overtime victory. DU played well after the first 10 minutes but wasn’t mentally prepared for that game. Similar thing happened Saturday. Pioneers led 3-0 but didn’t play a complete game. Couple bounces killed them. Bottom line: DU was humbled last weekend and will be 100 percent this weekend, no matter the opponent’s record.
MTB: Wisconsin vs. Denver - the mere mention of it around these parts conjures up great battles in the WCHA, what's the feeling on this rivalry amongst the Denver fans?
Chambers: UW, UM, UND or CC – they’re all great series in Denver. Unfortunately most DU students are on break and the games probably won’t be sellouts. Little more special between DU coach George Gwozdecky (UW alum) and UW coach Mike Eaves (Denver native).
MTB: Denver has been great at opening up games & closing them off, scoring the 2nd most goals in the 1st & the most goals in the 3rd period in the WCHA, what's been the key to that success?
Chambers: Great contributions from the back end, no doubt. DU lost three gifted forwards early to NHL deals (DShore, Zucker, Bennett) but the Pios are scoring more now with D-men David Makowksi (injured most of last season), Joey LaLeggia (WCHA rookie of the year) and Nolan Zajac (freshman). The forwards aren’t feeling as much pressure.
MTB: Who's first 12 games has been been more impressive - forward Nick Shore or defenseman Joey LaLeggia and why?
Chambers: Tough one. Both have played well (but both struggled last weekend). Shore is a solid two-way center and LaLeggia is a gifted playmaker.
MTB: Any thoughts on this, the final time the Badgers and Pioneers get together as members of the same conference?
Chambers: I think it’s a shame. I love going to Madison. Great rivalry. I hope the schools schedule nonconference series in the future.
MTB: Prediction time…. if you dare?
Chambers: DU learned a lot about itself last weekend, and I think the Pioneers will be better for it. They will come out strong, and their goaltending is exceptional (save for Sam Brittain’s meltdown Saturday). I think the Pioneers will sweep.