George Gwozdecky is a head games artist. I should say artiste actually. He's the consummate subtle spin doctor of the WCHA. Almost nothing that George says can or should ever be taken at face value. If he's answering a question about Jesse Martin's injury progess you'll likely find a subtle reference sandbagging his team's chances or if he's talking about a just concluded hard fought win he'll slip in some sort of inference about his team's luck. He's a misdirector.
This week he's apparently commented that "things" affecting his team this week will be Alaska's short days, the two-hour time difference and dehydration from the long plane ride. Yeah ... Okay ...
Seriously though, the shorter days create sluggish play on the part of visiting teams? Somehow when that sun sets Friday at 3:42pm as it will in Anchorage instead of 4:37pm as it will in Denver his team will be induced into sluggishness by 7pm?
The time difference? You mean like jet lag? Um, hate to tell you this ... but jet-lag is only truly applicable over such few time zones when one travels west to east. In this case, a short two hour nap makes the adjustment from east to west. DU will have two full nights of sleeping prior to the game on Friday. So um yeah ... bogus misdirection.
Dehydration from the long plane flight? Again here ... we're talking a Wednesday when your boys might get a little dry skin from not drinking enough on a low humidity 5 or 6 hour plane ride and the game is on Friday. More meaningless misdirection.
See what I'm saying. George just spews stuff that has nothing to do with what's really going on. And what's really going on with the DU team? Mr. Smoke and Mirrors ain't gonna tell anyone.
I think the Pios are surprising George and he doesn't quite know how to account for it yet. He already spent his whole "we're really young" quote budget when he kept pointing that out just before his team ran off 7 wins in a row sparked by 12 and 13 goals from a couple of underclassmen. Yeah, that PR gambit failed eh? He should know one thing though, that DU's record is probably better than the team.
Their 7 game winning streak was ... 3-2 and 6-1 over Mankato at Magness, 3-1 and 4-2 over Bemidji at Magness, 6-3 over LSSU at Magness, 3-1 over Air Force at Magness then 5-4 OT over Duluth in Duluth before the Bulldogs ended the streak the next night 2-1. The Pios are 3-3-1 in road games so far this season compared to 8-2-1 at home.
As for common opponents. DU split with Duluth, UAA lost both games to Duluth. The Pios took 3 points from Bucky, UAA split with Bucky. The Pios split with UND, UAA tied UND in their only game so far. The Pios swept Bemidji, UAA split with them. DU swept Mankato, UAA managed 1 point versus them. The Pios split with CC, UAA is 1-2 versus them. Both DU and UAA beat Air Force.
So in that last couple of paragraphs above, I smell something less than an 11-5-2 record would otherwise be assumed to indicate. The Pios like the Badgers before them are simply ... oh so beatable.
The strength of this years Pioneers seems to be similar to one of UAA's. Both teams are getting dependable and vital performances from a core of upperclassmen. In UAA's case, it's Tommy Grant, Sean Wiles, Nick Haddad, Craig Parkinson, Luka Vidmar, Brad Gorham, Curtis Leinweber and Jade Portwood ... in DU's case it's Maiani, Nutini, Ostrow, Ryder, Dewhurst, Lee and Salazar. Scoring wise the UAA upperclassmen have nabbed 18 goals while DU's group has 19.
Combine that core of upperclass solidity with dynamic youngsters and you've got a pretty nice mix. For UAA the youth is Kwas, Bailey, Cameron, Warner, Pustin, Kirchevel and McLeod who've combined for 16 goals and for DU it's Jason Zucker who's buried 12 goals plus Makowski and Bennett's 3 goals each for 18.
The sophomore edge for DU is huge though. UAA has two players that have combined for 3 goals and DU has Drew Shore's team leading 13 plus Matt Donovan's 4 goals.
Overall, DU has 9 players that have 2 goals or more. UAA has 10 players that have 2 goals or more. UAA's two leading goal scorers have 6 each. DU has three players with more than 6 goals each.
I think that all spells out a couple of things. UAA has a more balanced scoring lineup that does DU. However, DU is scoring 3.17 goals per game versus UAA's 2.38. More importantly perhaps is that DU is giving up just 2.61 goals per game compared to UAA's 3.25.
In goal it appears that one-time successor sophomore Adam Murrary has been usurped by the play of freshman Sam Brittain. Brittain has a nice .929 save percentage. UAA's Rob Gunderson has a save percentage of .936 in his last 4 games though it's .901 for the season.
So what we've got here is two teams that are more alike than not. They both have solidly performing rookie goaltenders. Both teams have a mix of dependable veteran players who perform well in all areas of the ice for their team combined with some dynamic underclassmen who've been providing a nice part of the scoring punch.
The two primary injury omissions from the DU lineup are Jesse Martin (neck) and Beau Bennett (knee). Otherwise they appear to be most healthy. For UAA it looks like Jade Portwood (shoulder) will be out until the 2nd half and we'll have to wait and see if Mitch Bruijsten's back problems last weekend have cleared up for action this weekend.
So that's about it. Excuse me for thinking Denver isn't "all that". But they aren't.