by Tim Rosenthal/Staff Writer
Head Coach: George Gwozdecky
2006-07 record: 21-15-4 (13-11-4 WCHA)
Key Returnees: Andrew Thomas D SR., Peter Manino G SR., Chris Butler D JR., J.P. Testwuide D JR., Brock Trotter F JR., Tyler Ruegsegger SO F., Rhett Rakhshani F SO.
Key Losses: Ryan Dingle (underclassman), Adrian Veideman, J.D. Corbin, Glenn Fisher, Michael Hanzda, Ryan Helgason, Steven Cook, Geoff Paukovich (underclassman)
Last season, Denver was 19-9-2 going into February, and was getting closer to the top of the Pairwise. However things changed in the last two months of the season.
"It was a season where one team would wind up happy four years ago," said head coach George Gwozdecky. "We expected a longer run after January — March was a different story.
"This was the closest pairwise in years and we were one win away from the NCAA tournament."
Which was the same result as the season before, when the Pioneers were coming off two national titles.
If the team was struggling in February, then the nail in the Pairwise coffin was put into the Pioneers in March. The team went 0-3-1, first losing and tying Colorado College on the last two days of the regular season. After that, the team got swept in the WCHA tournament by Wisconsin to put the finishing touches on the 2006-07 season.
This season will be another tough task for the Pioneers; they lose nine players, seven of whom graduated. Underclassmen Ryan Dingle and Geoff Paukovich decided to skip out for the pros.
Last year's assistant captain, Andrew Thomas, will lead the Pioneers in 2007-08.
"They all have experience," said Gwozdecky about his three captains. "They watch out for each other and they will be good leaders."
One of the toughest tasks this year will be replacing leading goal scorer Dingle, who in three seasons scored 55 goals.
One comfort is Peter Mannino in goal. The senior has the most experience of any goaltender in the conference when you factor in that he was in net for a national championship in 2005. But he was a little more inconsistent last season than one would've liked, and he's lost his security blanket in graduated fellow goalie Glenn Fisher.
"We are really fortunate to have a guy like Peter," said coach Gwozdecky. "It is the biggest position and we have good luxury with one proven guy back, and he has shown that he is one of the top goalies in the conference in the past."
This year, the incoming freshmen class will be asked to step up right a way.
"We have another good class," said Gwozdecky. "They will have to step in and contribute right away to replace the seniors and the departure of Ryan Dingle. They will be asked to step in quickly, be patient, and challenge for playing time."
The class of 2011 includes three players from the BCHL, two of whom were teammates (forward Kyle Ostrow and goalie Marc Cheverie). Forwards Tyler Bozak, the other player from the BCHL, Jesse Martin from Spruce Grove of the AJHL, and defenseman John Lee from Moorehead H.S. round up this years freshmen class.
"We have a competitive schedule in 2007-08," said Gwozdecky. "We start off with Maine then travel to Notre Dame, then we get into our conference schedule and play the likes of Minnesota, North Dakota and Colorado College right away.
"The team will need to develop with leadership and contributions."