Denver Pioneers at North Dakota Fighting Sioux Hockey series preview

In Grand Forks, ND pre-season WCHA favorite and No. 3-ranked Denver (14-6-4, 10-4-4 WCHA) will go up against defending WCHA regular season champion and No. 4-ranked North Dakota (13-8-5, 8-7-3 WCHA) for a two-game series on January 29-30 at Ralph Engelstad Arena. The games are set for 8:30pm ET on Friday, Jan. 29 and 8:00pm ET on Saturday, Jan. 30. Friday's game will be televised on Fox College Sports Central, while Saturday's game will be televised on Fox College Sports Atlantic.

The Pioneers fell to No. 3 in the media polls after failing to win a weekend game for the first time this season, when they tied 3-3 at Wisconsin on Jan. 22 and lost 4-3 at Wisconsin on Jan. 23. Denver is 5-3-1 on the road in the powerful WCHA. DU continues its four-game road swing at UND this weekend, where North Dakota is 7-2-3 at home. Denver is tied for second with St. Cloud State in the WCHA with 24 points each, while North Dakota is sixth with 19 points. The Pioneers rank first in the WCHA on the penalty kill (86.2%) and third on the power play (21.6%).

DU Goaltender Marc Cheverie leads the WCHA in goals against average (2.12), saves percentage (.928) and shutouts (5), while Rhett Rakhshani is tied for second in goals (16) and is fourth in scoring (31). Rakhshani, who is a candidate for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, awarded annually to the outstanding senior NCAA Division I Student-Athlete of the Year across nine different sports, has at least one point in 18 of 24 games.

The Fighting Sioux are coming off a series split at Cornell last weekend. UND lost 1-0 on Jan. 22, but rebounded with a 3-1 win on Jan. 23. UND ranks first in the WCHA in scoring defense (2.22 goals-against average), fourth on the penalty kill (83.8%) and fourth on the power play (20.8%). The Sioux penalty kill was a perfect 12-for-12 at Cornell and has now killed 13 straight opponent power-plays. However, UND has been held scoreless in its last 19 power-play opportunities, including 18 straight over the last four games.

Jason Gregoire leads UND in goals (13), which is fourth in the WCHA. Gregoire is tied for the team lead in points with Evan Trupp (21 each). Brad Eidsness leads the team with a 12-6-4 record, 2.24 GAA (fourth in the WCHA) and a .906 Saves percentage. Head coach Dave Hakstol has put up a 143-79-24 record in six seasons. Hakstol joined rare company when he took the Sioux to the Frozen Four in his first four seasons as a collegiate head coach, joining Jack Parker and Doug Woog as the only three coaches to accomplish that feat.

North Dakota leads the all-time series against Denver 129-112-8, including a 78-39-4 mark in Grand Forks. DU is 0-3-1 in its last four games against UND at Ralph Engelstad Arena, including an 8-3 loss and 2-2 on Jan. 23-24, 2009.

However the Pioneers swept the Fighting Sioux 1-0 and 3-2 in a pair of games back on November 20-21 at Magness Arena in Denver. In the last five games against each other, the Pioneers lead the series 3-1-1 but in the last 10, the Fighting Sioux lead 5-4-1 against the Pioneers.