Bozak Taking Off-ense
by Nick Lowman/CHN Reporter
After leading the Denver Pioneers in scoring last season, sophomore forward Tyler Bozak is picking up where he left off. Already nine games into the young season, the offensive sniper has amassed 13 points and is tied for second in the WCHA in scoring.
But it should come as no surprise to find Bozak near the top in relatively all offensive categories in the conference. Before coming to Denver, he led the British Columbia League in scoring with 128 points in 59 games. With those kinds of numbers, even a meteorologist could accurately forecast good days to come in Denver.
Since his arrival to campus, he has not disappointed. An impressive rookie campaign last season saw the native of Regina, Saskatchewan, become just the third freshman since the 1986-87 season to lead his team in scoring. By season end, he was named the WCHA Rookie of the Week four times and ranked second in the country with five shorthanded tallies.
Continuing to lead one of the country's top-ranked offenses this season, Bozak believes a lot of that success is due, in large part, to his line mates and his experience from last season.
"I've been playing with more confidence and playing on a good line with guys who are talented and work hard every night," Bozak said. "I've learned a lot from last season and that has helped me prepare for this season."
And it shows. So far this season Denver's top line of Bozak, Luke Salazar and Joe Colborne have been unstoppable, being held off the score sheet just once so far. For Bozak however, he's been getting it done in every aspect of the game, especially on special teams where he already has a shorthanded goal to go along with his two power-play goals.
Just a sophomore, Bozak has transpired into a big-time player at the collegiate level, showcasing great hockey sense and maturity. Not only is he leading his team in total points, but also leads the Pioneers with a plus-9 rating; not to mention that he has yet to take a penalty this season.
What separates Bozak from other good players is his positioning and two-way play. He has a knack for being a ghost away from the puck and reappearing at the right time to create quality scoring chances, as well as defending them. Since last season, he has worked hard to improve many aspects of his game and none more important than his strength.
"I definitely have improved my speed and gotten a lot stronger," Bozak said. "I'm able to stay on the puck more this season."
As super sophomore continues to improve his game, the more dangerous Denver is going to be this season. Currently tied for second place in the WCHA with a 4-1-1 record in conference play (6-2-1 overall), Bozak understands the challenges that lie ahead in a tough-as-nails conference that sees his Pioneers facing a grueling schedule ahead.
"Every game is a battle and it's exciting," Bozak said about the WCHA. "We can't take any nights off and it's a lot of fun to compete with those teams."
Among those that Denver will be facing in the near future are St. Cloud State and Minnesota with out-of-conference games against Colgate and Air Force. No problem for the 6-foot-1, 180-pound sophomore. He's proven to play well against some of the predominant programs in the country. And when it comes to the schedule, there are two familiar programs that he looks forward to.
"Colorado College for sure because they are our biggest rival and there's a lot of energy between both teams," said Bozak. "Minnesota is the other one because they're a good team and I've had a lot of success against them."
In five career games against the Golden Gophers, Bozak has their number with seven goals and two assists while also recording his first collegiate hat trick in a 4-1 win on the road in Mariucci Arena. Unlike last season, Denver is only slated to play Minnesota twice this season but the way Bozak has been playing, it really doesn't matter.
In 50 collegiate hockey games, Bozak has compiled 47 total points. That kind of consistency is transcended by his offensive instincts that make him and the guys around him a threat every night. With the WCHA being a hockey mecca, playing games at home or on the road is fun either way for the offensive catalyst.
"It really doesn't matter," Bozak said. "Home games are fun because you're playing in front of your own fans and it's great to have them behind you and cheering. On the road, it's fun to try and silence the crowd."
No matter where Tyler Bozak plays, there's a good chance that No. 21 will find his way onto the score sheet. Some things just never change.