DU hockey nears return to ice with season format in limbo: “There’s a lot that’s still on the table” – The Denver Post

DU hockey coach David Carle held virtual one-on-one meetings with each of his players this week as the Pioneers approach the start of a new season.

A global pandemic hasn’t altered their championship expectations.

“We’re going to be a deep, four-line team that can roll teams over with their puck pressure and puck possession game,” Carle said. “We’re really excited to get going — whenever that exact date will be.”

What is known is that the the Pios’ start date won’t come until late November at the earliest.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference announced Thursday that it has postponed the start of its 2020-21 season from October until at least Nov. 20 to accommodate for a bevy of coronavirus-related issues. The NCHC has yet to determine its scheduling model, or where or when games will be played.

“There’s a lot that’s still on the table,” Carle said. “We want to flush out every scheduling format that’s available. For our program and our players, we just want to play at some point, whatever that format is exactly. If it involves getting on the ice and playing another team, we’re going to be excited about it.”

DU players began arriving back on campus starting in mid-August, Carle said, and are required to pass “different protocols to return to activity.” The school has not released COVID-19 data for athletics, but a team spokesman told The Post it is following NCAA-approved testing policies. The school is awaiting word from state health agencies on whether fans will be allowed for games at Magness Arena.

DU hockey received the green light for organized team activities when classes resume on Monday. Carle said no players have opted out due to coronavirus health concerns.

“Our hope is that we’ll be on the ice Monday,” Carle said. “The official start date is Oct. 3 and you’re allowed four hours a week on the ice with each individual. We’re going to start in cohorts over three different groups.”

The Pioneers’ 2019-20 season was cut short in mid-March with the cancellation of NCAA winter championships. DU carried a No. 6 national ranking and a realistic opportunity to win the school’s ninth national title in hockey. The Pioneers lost four key seniors — Erich Fear, Tyson McLellan, Liam Finlay and Michael Davies — but added seven freshmen and two graduate transfers to begin this season.

Carle said the long absence away from his team amid the pandemic has created challenges. But he’s confident the Pioneers will overcome.

“What you worry about the most is their mental state more than anything,” Carle said. “Most of the guys have been able to access ice and weight facilities to where their bodies are fine. But we’re looking at quite an extended time here of being able to practice. Our big message has been: ‘In five year’s time, when you look back on these few months, look back on it with pride of how we took advantage of it.’”

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