2012 Final Regular-Season Rank: 13 2012 Preseason Rank: 5 Key Returnees: Jeremy Noble (25g, 21a), Eric Law (26g, 16a), Wes Berg (26g, 11a), Cam Flint (16g, 7a), Chase Carraro (14g, 6a) Key Losses: Eight seniors. Mark Matthews (47g, 17a), Alex Demopolous (20g, 27a), Patrick Rogers (3g, 5a, 33gb)
- Can the Pioneers reverse their one-goal trend?Denver went 1-6 in one-goal games in 2012, including its 10-9 defeat to Loyola in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals. Some have suggested — perhaps slightly tongue-in-cheek — that Denver and Loyola might have met in the national championship if they were paired on opposite sides of the bracket. That speaks to Denver’s overall strength. Usually these trends reverse, or normalize, over time. Unless there’s something endemic plaguing the program, and there’s no reason to believe that’s the case here: Denver didn’t play tight.
- Who steps into Mark Matthews’ shoes? The “Master of the Toe Drag” departs Denver as the school’s all-time leader in points and goals. He attracted a swarm of defensive attention every time he stepped on the field, and seemingly always made something happen when the ball was in his stick. The Pioneers, led by offensive coordinator Matt Brown, won’t have difficulty scoring in 2012. They just have to figure out where the scoring will come from. Freshman Wes Berg looks like the next Matthews, though he’s a smaller, right-handed version. Jeremy Noble, Eric Law, Cam Flint and Chase Carraro are very dangerous.
- Who’s the starting goalie: Ryan LaPlante or Jamie Faus? It’s a good “problem” to have, but one that coach Bill Tierney will have to handle delicately, assuming Faus is healthy. Faus, also the starter in 2011, tore his Achilles against Notre Dame in the sixth game of the season. LaPlante was never supposed to play last year — he was at home in Colorado when Faus got hurt, then flew out to New York to face Cornell on short notice — but he started 10 games and posted a .535 save percentage. The guess here? Faus is the guy, while LaPlante takes a redshirt.