A Shore Thing
Denver Sophomore On Pace to Win WCHA Scoring Title
by Justin Magill/CHN Reporter
Last season, the Denver Pioneers had one of, if not, the most talented and experienced teams in the WCHA.
On the scoring end, seniors such as Rhett Rakhshani and Tyler Ruegsegger did more than just play their final games for the Pioneers.
They were teachers of the game.
This season Drew Shore, a native of Denver, has taken everything he learned as a freshman and is on pace to win the WCHA scoring title.
"I learned a lot from them," he said. "Arguably the best players in the league were on our team last season and I saw what they did and took it all in. It was no coincidence that our best players were the first and last ones on the ice firing pucks and doing other skating drills. It takes a lot more work than what is posted on a schedule to become a good player."
Shore took that to heart this past summer. He knew for a player of his stature, he had to pack on some weight and be a physical force for the Pioneers.
He gained 10 pounds of muscle over the offseason to add to his 6-foot-2 frame and is reaping the benefits of it.
"I have always been kind of tall, but needed to add some mass," Shore said. "Did a little work on my upper and lower body and I noticed right away. I am able to control the puck when getting checked and am not as easy to knock off the puck."
Through 16 games he has 12 goals and 10 assists for 22 points, tops in the WCHA and third in the nation.
"I think I am stating the obvious when I say Drew has done a wonderful job for us," Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky said. "He worked so hard in the offseason and it has really shown. There were a lot of guys on our team with a lot of experience that taught him how important the offseason is to prepare for this year."
A player does not get the points Shore has amassed by being just a flashy player.
He has learned quickly that success takes gritty, hard work and does not come easy.
His added weight, without losing speed and quickness, has allowed the sophomore to be a presence in front of the net, making him a dual threat.
"Everyone wants the highlight-reel goals," he said. "but you have to score the tough ones, too. They're not easy, but they make a huge difference. With goalies playing as good as they are today and defensemen blocking shots, if you want to score you have to want to go to the net."
It all began on the first regular season game for Denver in a road test against Vermont.
Down 2-0, Shore got the Pioneers on the board with a power-play goal that began a run of four unanswered goals and a 5-3 win.
Shore also put away an empty netter to ice the game.
"You could just see it from the first game," Gwozdecky said. "He played a really good game and hasn't looked back."
In the series finale against Vermont, Shore scored the only goal for Denver in a 1-1 tie and finished the opening weekend with three goals.
"Started out strong and got a lot of confidence," Shore said. "I have been fortunate enough to get the opportunities to help the team."
Shore recorded 19 points that included 5 goals and 14 assists in all 41 games Denver played last season and has already eclipsed that this year.
If he stays on his torrid pace, he would easily reach 50 points, more than double his total from his freshman year.
"It has gone pretty well for me," Shore said. "The best part is being able to help the team in anyway possible. If that is scoring goals, killing penalties, whatever, I will do it.
A new role and a reason why Shore might be getting a raise in points is his contribution on the power play.
Normally a forward, Shore moves to the point with the man advantage and has done exactly that - taken advantage.
He leads the Pioneers with 4 power-play goals, accounting for one-third of his total tallies.
"They moved me to the point on the power play and I can't tell you how nice it has worked out," Shore said. "It is different, but good. The coaches know what they are doing and put us in the best place to be successful."
Averaging 1.38 points a game means Shore is more than capable of putting his name once in the box score.
In the 2009-10 season, he produced multi-point efforts in four games. He has seven this year already, one being a four-point effort where he had a hat trick and an assist against Lake Superior State on Nov. 26.
The next night he had another goal and an assist against Air Force in the Denver Cup final for a six-point weekend and garnered WCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors.
It is without a doubt that there is a correlation between Shore's play and the Pioneers' position in the national polls and their current spot in the WCHA standings — which is now third after a split with Minnesota-Duluth. It's a comfortable spot for the Pioneers, who were unsure of how things would go this season with so many key players gone. Having players like Shore fill in the gaps, has gone a long way to comfort everyone in Denver.