At the end of last season the DU Pioneers immediately began to prepare for this season. The only thing they could not prepare for was the unknown and it was the unknown that ended a fantastic year. Having played only one team from the CCHA this year, (Bowling Green) it was difficult to gage how strong the Michigan Wolverines would be. Did their 27-10-5 record reflect that of an elite team or simply the best team in the CCHA? Was UM’s physical style of play capable of stopping DU’s speed? Would DU’s fantastic defense be able to match up with some of the NHL’s future stars? How could any building be louder then the Xcel Center, packed with 18,000 Gopher fans like they faced the weekend before? Would sitting out for over a week on a bye, while Michigan had just played the night before be a blessing or a curse? By beating 3 teams in the Hockey East conference earlier in the season, did this mean DU could also dominate the CCHA? Of coarse all these questions have now been answered. Here’s a look back at DU’s final game and an exciting season.
Saturday March 23, 2002 Last Saturday, the Pioneers faced the largest crowd to ever watch a college hockey game in the state of Minnesota. Since they were playing the Minnesota Golden Gophers, it was difficult to find any support for DU in the entire building with the exception of a few converted St Cloud fans. The most important part of this game was scoring the first goal to take the 18,000 plus vocal fans out of the game. Some how the Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, with less than 7000 fans seemed just as loud if not louder. It was not surprising to see a scoreless first period between two teams who had not seen each other since 1999.
DU scored all of their goals in the second period. After Michigan took a 1-0 lead, DU quickly came back with yet another crucial goal from Chris Paradise. DU then fell behind again on a power play goal from Montreal prospect Mike Komisarek. By scoring on the tail end of a five on three power play, DU clawed their way back to a 2-2 tie with a goal from Kevin Doell. Finally the Pioneers took the lead with a goal from Luke Fulghum and seemed to be taking command of the game with the score 3-2 at the end of the second period.
DU played though the beginning of the third period with the idea of simply holding on to the lead. This did not work and UM scored once again to tie the game. With less than 2 minutes left in the game, it looked as though things were headed for overtime. However, UM’s captain Jed Ortmeyer scored for the Wolverines with 1:21 left and the Pioneers season was all but over. With an empty net goal to seal the game, the Pioneers shook hands and headed back home.
Date: March 24,2002 DU Vs. Michigan Score 5-3 Mich
Scoring for DU:
2nd: Chris Paradise (Connor James, Ryan Caldwell)
Kevin Doell (Kevin Ulanski, Jesse Cook)
Luke Fulghum (Max Bull, Aaron MacKenzie)
Total Shots on Goal: DU 21 Michigan 38
Season Goalie tandem Comparison:
Dubielewicz .943% GAA 1.72
Berkhoel .917 % GAA 2.34
Season highlights for the Pioneers:
Oct 12-13 2001: Won two skilled, non-conference teams (Boston College and Northeastern) early in the season.
Nov 2-3 2001: Swept a two game home and home series against their arch rival, the Colorado College Tigers. Game one of this series was won with an overtime goal in CC’s arena.
Nov 5, 2001: Jesse Cook named defensive player of the week
Nov 12, 2001: Jon Foster named Rookie of the week
Dec 3, 2001: Connor James named player of the week. Kevin Ulanski named rookie of the week
Dec 5, 2001: Connor James named national player of the week
Dec 10, 2001: Aaron MacKenzie named defensive player of the week
Dec 17,2001: Connor James named offensive player of the week
Dec 28-29 2001: Won the Wells Fargo tournament by beating Bowling Green and U-Mass Lowell. Aaron Mackinzie, and Greg Barber were named to the Denver All- Tournament Team
Jan 7,2002: Erik Adams named defensive player of the week
Jan 14,2002: Jeff Drummond named rookie of the week
January 2002: Ranked number one in the Pairwise rankings and remained in the top three of both the Pairwise rankings and the standings though the remainder of the season.
Feb 12,2002 Coach Gwozdecky signs an extension. With several big name coaches leaving the NCAA, coach Gwozdecky was the most sought after replacement in the NCAA. He chose to stay with the DU program and signed a long term commitment.
Feb 18,2002: Ryan Caldwell named defensive player of the week
March 2,2002: Won the McNaughton cup the for best regular season record in the WCHA. DU had not won this since 1986
March 9,2002: With the game in hand, Wade Dubielewicz suggests that senior goalie Andy Lemelin be given the opportunity to play his first and only regular
season/playoff game in his NCAA career.
March 16,2 2002: Won the WCHA championship by beating Minnesota. DU had not won the Broadmoor trophy since 1999.
Individual milestones and achievements:
Chris Paradise reaches the 100 point mark as a Pioneer (Mar 8,2002)
Coach Gwozdecky is named Coach of the Year (Mar 14,2002)
Wade Dubielewicz is named a Hobey Baker finalist (Mar 14,2002)
Wade Dubielewicz is named MVP of the WCHA Final Five (Mar 17,2002)
Most goals: Chris Paradise (22)
Most assists: Connor James (26)
Most points: Kevin Doell (43)
Best plus/minus: Jesse Cook (+29)
Best save %: Wade Dubielewicz (.943)
Most PIMS: Ryan Caldwell
Most GW goals: Chris Paradise (7)
Most PP goals: Greg Barber (6)
Most SH goals: Max Bull (2)
Andy Lemelin G
James Armstong D
Erik Adams D
Jesse Cook D (alternate captain) property of the Calgary Flames
Brian Vines D (captain)
Chris Paradise F (alternate captain)
David Neale F
What’s next for the DU Pioneers:
Offense: DU’s line up is filled with several young point getters ready to fill the void left by Chris Paradise. Look for Connor James to continue scoring break away goals and setting up line mates with his under rated play making ability. Several freshman, including Jon Foster, Kevin Ulanski , Luke Fulghum and Jeff Drummond will have no problems lighting the lamp for several years to come. Grinding sophomores, Lukas Dora and Max Bull will continue to add enthusiasm to their team.
Defense: The biggest hole to fill will be on defense. Jussi Halme was the only freshman defensemen to play on a regular basses and this was only after returning from an injury early in the season. With 4 graduating d-men, Aaron MacKenzie and Ryan Caldwell will carry the bulk of the defensive workload. MacKenzie is the only remaining alternate captain and will more than likely be named captain in the 2002-03 season. His leadership skills reached a new height by inspiring his team while playing though the playoffs with a recent broken wrist.
Goaltending: Baring an early departure of either Wade Dubielewicz or Adam Berkhoel, the net minding duties will continue to be in excellent hands.
Recruiting: While Magness arena was being constructed, the Pioneers had to play in any arena that would find the time for them. This caused a brief but difficult period of time to convince new recruits to come to Denver. With a beautiful new arena, a committed coach and a top ranked team, the recruiting processes will continue to excel. This is already evident with the signing of sought after forward Gabe Gauthier from the Chilliwack Chiefs. In the future, the Pioneers will also have in their line-up, defenseman Scott Drewicki from the St. Albert Saints, forward Ryan Dingle from the Des Moines Buccaneers and defenseman Brett Skinner from the Trail Smoke Eaters of the BCHL.
Congratulations to the Denver University Pioneers for an exciting and successful season. By starting a tradition of commitment and teamwork, the Pioneers will be a team to watch for many years to come.