The weekend after Christmas is traditionally jam-packed with tournaments in the NCAA. One of the biggest is the Wells Fargo Denver Cup, held at Magness Arena.
This year, the Denver University Pioneers (#9) hosted (#13) Miami-Ohio, Clarkson and (#5) New Hampshire. The possibility of two powerhouse NCAA teams meeting in the championship round would make for some very exciting hockey though out the weekend.
After New Hampshire took care of business by defeating Clarkson 4-2 it was the Pioneers turn to take the ice against the surprisingly successful Miami-Ohio Redhawks. The long Christmas holiday proved to be the best thing for the banged up and less than confident DU Pioneers. After being swept in a disappointing performance against their archrival, CC Tigers in a home and home series, the Pioneers looked like a new team when they hit the ice on Friday night. This may be due, in part, to the return of goaltender Wade Dubielewicz. After missing most of the first part of the season with a hamstring injury, “Doobie” was back between the pipes to reclaim his title of being one of the best goalies in the league.
In the first period both teams were getting back into the groove of things by doing more hitting than passing or scoring. This looked like it was going to be a very close game until the only goal of the first period was scored. A rebound power play goal by Kevin Ulanski with just 16 seconds left, let open the flood gates for DU’s domination in the rest of the tournament.
In the second period, once again it was the spectacular speed of Greg Keith who blazed down the ice to set up his line mate Connor James (LA Kings). James received the puck from Keith on a two on one and waited patiently until just the right moment to slip it though the five hole. Next, it was defensemen Ryan Caldwell (NY Islanders) who released his super slap shot and scored after the puck bounced off of several bodies.
During a TV. timeout, the jumbotron played a highlight clip of Wade Dubielewicz’s great saves while the PA system fittingly blasted “Back in the Saddle Again” by Aerosmith. Right on queue, Dubielewicz then took over the game. With a 3-0 lead Doobie showed his team that he was back and ready to take on anything any team could through at him. The Redhawks showered him with a two on one in which he made a shoulder save and then a few seconds later he made the sprawling save of the night and stopped the rebound to boot. Miami was crashing the net and crowding him in his crease but Dubielewicz stood tall and stopped all 21 quality shots that he faced by the end of the second period.
Still in the second period, DU scored their fourth goal on a full two minute 5 on 3 when Ulanski shuffled the puck across the crease for Kevin Doell to knock it in.
With less than two minutes left, Doell struck again while cycling around the net and lifting the puck top shelf for a commanding 5-0 lead.
Early in the third period, the last goal of the night was again a top shelf goal scored by Jon Foster while standing in the slot untouched during a power play.
With the game in hand, coach Gwozdecky started to give more ice time to the third and fourth line players which gave the Redhawks an opportunity to pummel Dubielewicz with even more shots. In the last half of the third period he faced nine shots and by the end of the night he had turn away a total of 30 shots for the shut out.
Date: Dec 27th 2002 DU Vs. Miami-Ohio Score 6-0 DU Scoring for DU: 1st: Kevin Ulanski PP (Kevin Doell, Greg Barber) 2nd: Connor James (Greg Keith, Aaron MacKenzie) Ryan Caldwell (unassisted) Kevin Doell 5 on 3 (Kevin Ulanski, Connor James) Kevin Doell (Jason Grahame, Jussi Halme) 3rd: Jon Foster PP (Jussi Halme, Brett Skinner) Total Shots on Goal: DU 24 Miami 30
With a stellar performance by Wade Dubielewicz on Friday, the question of the night would be whether or not he would play again in the championship game against New Hampshire or would coach Gwozdecky return to the routine of alternating goaltenders.
The later would be true as Adam Berkhoel (Chicago Blackhawks) skated between the pipes to match his teammates performance from the night before.
The brand new shinny gold jerseys that the DU Pioneers debut this night was not the only new look to the team. They took the ice looking like a team ready to take on the best clubs in the nation. The first period was filled with playoff like intensity when finally DU scored the first goal midway though the period. Captain Aaron MacKennzie made a great play to keep the puck in the Wildcats zone while Conner James shot the puck hard enough to rebound right on to Greg Keith’s stick who swept it though the five hole.
Midway thought the first, Adam Berkhoel stoned the Wildcat player on a break away and then killed of a power play soon after this.
With less than two minutes left in the period, DU’s Luke Fulghum zig-zagged though 3 New Hampshire players to get a shot on goal so teammate Jeff Drummond could put the puck in the net on the rebound.
No goals were scored in the second period as both teams buckled down into a defensive mode. Both goaltenders made spectacular saves as the shots were even at 20 a piece by the end of this stanza.
New Hampshire took the desperation approach in the third period. While all the Wildcats pinched down on a power play, the puck squirted loose to Greg Barber (Boston Bruins) who back handed a no look pass to Kevin Doell who deked and went top shelf for a back breaking short handed goal.
Not to be forgotten was the goaltending of Adam Berkhoel. As the Wildcats threw everything that they could at him, “Berkie” caused the crowd rise into a standing ovation. His spread eagle post to post save late in the third was the save of the weekend and was the exclamation point on his shut out performance.
The Wildcats pulled their goalie with over 2 minutes left and the man who scored the first goal of the evening also scored the last. After Greg Keith put the puck in the empty net he waved his arms in the air to get the crowd pumped into an even bigger frenzy.
Date: Dec 28th 2002 DU Vs. New Hampshire Score 4-0 DU Scoring for DU: 1st: Greg Keith (Connor James, Aaron MacKenzie) Jeff Drummond PP (Luke Fulghum, J.J. Hartmann) 2nd: none 3rd: Kevin Doell SH (Greg Barber) Greg Keith EN (Connor James, Jussi Halme) Total Shots on Goal: DU 30 UNH 32 Weekend Goalie tandem Comparison: Friday: Dubielewicz 30 shots 30 saves SO% Sat: Berkhoel 32 shots 32 saves SO % Denver Cup All Star Team Defense: Aaron Mackenzie DU Defense: Jussi Halme DU Forward: Connor James DU Forward: Joshua Prudden UNH Forward: Kevin Doell DU Goaltender: Adam Berkhoel DU Denver Cup All Star Team MVP: Kevin Doell DU
Player Profile: Gabe Gauthier- This 5-10, 195 pound forward from Buena Park California has already chalked up 6 goals and 6 assists in 22 games with two of his goals coming on the power play. It’s hard to believe that this gritty player is just a freshman. He hits and grinds like a veteran and is trusted with plenty of ice time during critical situations.
Up next: After another weekend off the Pioneers with take on fellow WCHA powerhouse St. Cloud state in Denver.