Canadians are expected to play pivotal roles for the University of Denver Pioneers if they hope to repeat as NCAA Division 1 champions in 2017-18.
Starting behind the bench where head coach Jim Montgomery, a native of Montreal, Que., has chosen to remain with the program for his fifth season after giving thought to leaving for an NHL post this off-season.
In his first four campaigns as bench boss, Montgomery, who was named national coach of the year last season, has guided the squad to championship tournament berths in each including Frozen Four berths in the past two. His record over that span is 102-47-18 and the squad went 31-7-4 during its championship drive in 2016-17.
The nation's top goaltender from last season (Mike Richter Award winner) Tanner Jaillet from Red Deer, Alta. is also returning for his senior year and is expected to get the bulk of the work between the pipes for Denver.
Jaillet picked up a pair of wins in the Frozen Four after an outstanding 2016-17 regular season where he started all but six games finishing with a record of 24-5-4 for the NCHC regular season champions. He led the conference in save percentage with .930, goals-against-average at 1.82 and tied for most wins with 24. His GAA ranked third in the nation and save percentage was fifth.
In three seasons in Denver, Jaillet has appeared in 95 games and has a record of 59-18-9.
The leadership team heading into the new season will include a pair of key Canadian-born defensemen, including recently named captain Tariq Hammond from Calgary, Alta., who returns for his senior campaign.
He'll be joined by assistant captains Adam Plant, a senior defenceman from Penticton, B.C., and junior forward Troy Terry, who starred for Team U.S.A. during their gold medal run at last year's World Junior Championships.
Hammond appeared in all 44 of Denver’s games last season, finishing third on the team with 54 blocked shots and was a plus-20. He also had a goal and two helpers in the Pioneers Frozen Four semifinal win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Plant was named the co-recipient (along with Jaillet) of Denver's top defensive player award for 2016-17. He played in 43 games, had 13 points (3G, 10A) and was a plus-13. He also finished second in blocked shots with 80.
The other returning players from north of the border include sophomore forward Liam Finley (Kelowna, B.C.) and junior forward Logan O'Connor.
Eight players have been announced as the Pioneers incoming freshman class for 2017-18, including four Canadians.
The Canuck freshmen include: defenceman Ian Mitchell (Calahoo, Alta.), who has played the past two seasons for Spruce Grove Saints in the AJHL; defenceman Griffin Mendel (Kelowna, B.C.), who has toiled for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL for the last two seasons; forward Kohen Olischefski (Abbotsford, B.C.), who has played for the past two seasons for the BCHL's Chilliwack Chiefs; and forward Ryan Barrow (Banff, Alta.), who has played for the Langley Rivermen of the BCHL for the past two campaigns.
Denver will be gunning for its ninth national crown this coming season which would tie them for most overall with the Michigan Wolverines. They are currently tied for second with the North Dakota Fighting Hawks with eight apiece.
The Pioneers will begin play with a home exhibition game against the Lethbridge Pronghorns on Oct. 1 and then kick off the new season with a pair of road matches against Notre Dame on Oct. 13 and 14.
Their home season opener will take place Oct. 20 against Lake Superior State.
Tanner Jaillet from Red Deer, Alta. will be returning to the University of Denver Pioneers for his senior year in 2017-18. He will be one of a number of Canadians who are expected to play key roles as the Pioneers set out to defend their NCAA Division 1 men's hockey crown. (Denver Athletics)
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