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Denver captain Arnold sets the tone for Pioneers

 

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The large task in front of the University of Denver isn’t small: replace seven graduated seniors who played vital roles in the Pioneers’ run to the final eight of the NCAA Tournament this past spring.

Meeting that challenge of breaking in a large freshman class will require strong leadership outside – and inside – the locker room. That’s where senior Grant Arnold comes in.

The forward from Centennial begins his second season as captain with a clear picture of what is in store.

“Last year was pretty special with seven seniors, which is rare at a program like DU,” Arnold said. “I felt like I had seven assistant captains. We have quite a bit more work to do this season, but I like our chemistry so far. We have a lot of leaders.

“The freshmen that are coming in – and ‘Monty’ (head coach Jim Montgomery) recruits kids with high character – are willing to buy in. I have no worries.”

The third-year coach said Arnold’s leadership and commitment to his teammates goes beyond hockey’s usual high standard.

“He always thinks about the team,” Montgomery said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a drill, the length of practice. He considers how it affects the team, how it benefits the team. It’s like having another assistant coach. He’s always thinking about ways to bring out the best in the team and it’s amazing to see his maturity.”

One of the balances Arnold has mastered is serving as an extension of his coach while being an advocate for his peers. Fellow DU senior Gabe Levin, one of Arnold’s assistants this season, said the captain commands the respect of his teammates.

“Grant is a natural leader in every sense – people want to follow him,” Levin said. “He’ll say things and guys will go around repeating what he said. He has a great work ethic, and it’s important to have a guy like that as an example. He does a good job of knowing when to say things and when not to.”

Arnold, who has recovered from April shoulder surgery, attributes his leadership development to three of his coaches – Andrew Sherman (Colorado Rampage AAA), Jon Cooper and Montgomery.

“Andrew Sherman is really special to me, part of the family,” Arnold said. “I learned a lot from him on the ice, but more importantly, he taught me a mindset and a way to approach the game. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without him.”

Cooper, the current Tampa Bay Lightning bench boss, coached Arnold with Green Bay of the United States Hockey League (USHL) during the 2009-10 season when the Gamblers won the Clark Cup and Anderson Cup.

“That was a special time winning the Clark Cup as a rookie,” said Arnold, who won it again two seasons later under former DU assistant coach Derek Lalonde. “Cooper instills that winning attitude: ‘You’re not going to beat me, but if you do, you’re going to feel it the next morning.’”

Montgomery, who also won big in the USHL with the Dubuque Fighting Saints, has been another mentor to Arnold.

“Our relationship has grown,” Arnold said. “Monty has helped my leadership and like Cooper, he has that swagger. Our perspectives on hockey are very similar. One of his strengths is reading the situation in the room, knowing when to get on guys and when to praise guys.

“In Division I, you hear so much from coaches. Often captains or leaders don’t step up and say something. Obviously, we have our disagreements, but if we’re not on the same page, things can get rocky right away.”

Photo/DU Athletics

— Chris Bayee