Top-ranked Pioneers open against Irish
Nothing significant has changed for University of Denver forward Jared Lukosevicius, the then-sophomore who scored a hat trick in the April 8 NCAA championship game in Chicago. “Luko” is now a junior, but he’s still a left winger on what still is considered one of college hockey’s most formidable lines.
The top-ranked Pioneers return their top line from April — a big reason why DU was the near-unanimous preseason No. 1 team in the country. Junior Dylan Gambrell will continue to center Lukosevicius and junior Troy Terry when the Pioneers begin defense of their title Friday at Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.
Both games of the nonconference series will be televised nationally by NBC Sports Network. DU pounded the Fighting Irish 6-1 in the Frozen Four semifinals April 6. Gambrell’s line combined for five goals and 10 points at the Frozen Four.
“We obviously have a strong connection,” Lukosevicius said of his line. “But we’re still progressing, each and every day, each practice. We just have to keep working hard.”
DU is so deep offensively that its preseason All-American forward doesn’t play on the top line. Sophomore Henrik Borgstrom centers the second line, with sophomore Liam Finlay and freshman Ryan Barrow.
“We expect Gambrell’s line to lead us. We expect big things from them,” DU coach Jim Montgomery said. “But if people are going to be focused on that, they better have an answer for Borgstrom and his line. We have a lot more scoring depth throughout our lineup than I’ve ever had here. Hopefully it translates.”
Sophomore Tyson McLellan will center DU’s third line with junior Logan O’Connor and freshman Jake Durflinger. And the fourth line will include junior Colin Staub and freshman Kohen Olischefski, but the 12th forward hasn’t yet been identified, Montgomery said.
DU will play the first month of season, or more, without senior defenseman and team captain Tariq Hammond, who is recovering from a second offseason ankle surgery. The Pioneers’ blue line Friday will feature senior Adam Plant with sophomore Michael Davies, junior Blake Hillman with freshman Ian Mitchell, and freshman Griffin Mendel with sophomore Erich Fear.
Senior goalie Tanner Jaillet, the 2017 Mike Richter Award winner as the country’s top netminder, is scheduled to start both games against the Irish. Freshman goalie Dayton Rasmussen probably won’t play until the Oct. 20-21 homeopening series against Lake Superior State.
“Notre Dame is too good for a freshman goalie on the road,” Montgomery said.
Referring to the expectations for his team, he added, “It’s great to be recognized that way, but we’re worried about this weekend and getting better — win or lose — and growing to become a team.”