Team of the Week: Denver
by Joshua Berhow/CHN Writer
Marc Cheverie wasn’t very good against Minnesota Nov. 22, 2008, in Denver. He allowed five goals in just more than 52 minutes, made 17 saves and was handed his third straight loss.
But oh, how things have changed since that lonely November night for the Pioneers’ netminder.
“I remember that first game, I was embarrassed,” Cheverie said. “I didn’t play well and I knew the next day I had to come back and rebound. I was really mentally prepared and physically prepared for the next game and I had one of the best games I’ve played all of last season.”
Cheverie stopped 34 shots in a shutout the next night to lead the Pioneers past the Gophers, and then led the Pioneers to six straight wins where he allowed seven total goals.
Just last weekend the junior was at it again against the maroon and gold, leading Denver to a pair of 3-0 wins over the Gophers in Minneapolis. It was the first time the Gophers were held scoreless in back-to-back games since 1930.
“I remember just one year ago where the biggest question mark for our team was our goaltending,” said Denver coach George Gwozdecky, who earned his 500th career collegiate victory after Saturday’s win. “Would Marc come in and give us the kind of goaltending we need to be successful? He’s certainly answered that question.”
Cheverie stopped 30 shots each night against the Gophers, and Tyler Ruegsegger, Rhett Rakhshani and Kyle Ostrow scored goals to lead the Pioneers to a four-point weekend, earning the Pioneers CHN Team of the Week honors. The shutouts against Minnesota were Cheverie’s second and third straight after holding Ohio State scoreless in a previous game. The Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, native hasn’t even allowed a goal in his last 10 periods.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Rakhshani said. “If you have three games in a row with shutouts that speaks for itself. He’s been perfect.”
If Cheverie can manage to keep Minnesota State scoreless this weekend for more than five minutes and 24 seconds he’ll break Peter Mannino’s record of consecutive scoreless minutes of 208:42, which the former Denver goalie set in 2005. For the season, Cheverie is 4-0 with a 1.00 goals against average, and was named this week’s WCHA Defensive Player of the Week.
“He’s got a good build for a goaltender,” Gwozdecky said. “He’s tall, he moves well in the net and I think the one thing he’s really developed is a competitive nature in goal. He’s as tough to score on in practice as he is in a game.”
The Pioneers needed their goalie to come up big against the Gophers, as they entered the series with a 2-2 record after non-conference losses to Vermont and Ohio State.
Besides the Pioneers’ netminder, the defensemen played a big role in the sweep as well. Gwozdecky shuffled the group around for the first couple of series but used the same six blue-liners Friday and Saturday, which included three freshmen.
Matt Donovan, William Wrenn and Paul Phillips were all in the lineup against Minnesota — only the second and third time all season where half of the Pioneers’ defensemen were freshmen — although none of the three were paired together.
Gwozdecky said he likes the impact his young blue-liners have made so far.
“They’ve done a pretty good job,” he said. “They’ve made their mistakes just like everyone else but they’re working very hard to make the transition to this level, and it’s not easy.”
Sophomore defenseman Patrick Wiercioch is highly regarded for his two-way play and his above-average ability to move the puck, and Donovan had high expectations coming in to do the same.
“There’s no question, not only our ability to defend but our ability to transition has been enhanced by the strong play of our freshmen so far,” Gwozdecky said.
Donovan has three assists after five games, and Phillips and Wrenn each have one.
With the four-point weekend in Minneapolis the Pioneers moved to No. 2 in the polls, trailing only Miami by a slim 26-point margin.
And while Gwozdecky downplays his 500th career win, saying he’s been “fortunate to be surrounded by talented assistants and tremendously talented players,” he certainly has a group in place that can help him add to his total.
“Last weekend was a good example,” he said, “especially for our older players, showing that they are serious about this year and the team we could possibly have.”
And having a goaltender who simply refuses to allow a goal doesn’t hurt, either.