Top-ranked Pi­o­neers open against Ir­ish

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Mike Cham­bers

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.”

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