After a weekend off it was time for the Denver University Pioneers to get ready for a play-off run. With the remaining of their schedule consisting of nothing but opponents from the heavily competitive WCHA, the Pioneers would face a big mountain to climb, starting at the bottom with the Wisconsin Badgers.
Game one: The first period started off slow with both teams trying to play a more defensive style. Finally the Badgers could no longer contain the speed line of Connor James (LA Kings), Greg Keith and Max Bull. Bull blazed to the net and threw the puck in the crease for James to poke in on the rebound for a late first period goal.
The beginning of the second period also started off slow until the Badgers received a power play. Luke Fulghum stole the puck away from the Badger defenseman at the blue line, which created a two on one with Kevin Doell. Doell, with a spectacular wrist shot, lifted the puck over the blocker side of the Badgers goalie. However, it looked as though it would be a far from easy night as the Badgers answered with a goal from Rene Bourque on the same penalty.
Even after doubling their shots on goal in the third period, the Badgers could not get anything more past Adam Berkhoel (Chicago Blackhawks). The Pioneers secured a win while the entire team pinched down on a power play with Greg Keith jamming the puck out from underneath the goalie pads and into the back of the net.
Rarely is an empty net goal something to talk about but as the clock wound down on Friday night a special display of teamwork and good sportsmanship occurred. The Badgers were already on a power play and had also pulled their goaltender. Somehow defenseman Aaron MacKenzie managed to backhand the puck through this crowd and out of his zone. Connor James burst down the ice to trail a puck that looked like it had neither the angle nor the speed to make it into the empty net. After seeing that it was easily going to light the lamp, he letup on his speed and lifted his stick without touching the puck thus allowing team mate MacKenzie to get credit for the goal.
Date: Jan 31,2003 DU Vs. Wisconsin Score 4-1 DU
Scoring for DU:
1st: Connor James (Max Bull, Aaron MacKenzie)
2nd: Kevin Doell SH (Luke Fulghum, Brett Skinner)
3rd: Greg Keith (Kevin Doell, Aaron MacKenzie)
Aaron MacKenzie SH, EN (unassisted)
Total Shots on Goal: DU 26 Wisconsin 28
*** Adam Berkhoel (DU)
** Connor James (DU)
* Kevin Doell (DU)
Game two: Saturday was “Parents Night” at Magness arena, which was appropriate since almost every mom and dad in attendances got to see their son put up a point on the scoreboard.
The game started with Greg Barber (Boston Bruins) letting the college world know he was back from an injury by scoring on a blast from the left circle just 51 seconds into the game. This got the sold out crowd ready for an offensive avalanche from their home team. Later in the first period, having only faced four shots, Wade Dubielewicz decided to get into the game offensively by shoving a beautiful pass up ice for the Kevin connection. In a mad scramble in front of the net, Kevin Doell got the puck to Kevin Ulanski who somehow amazingly shuffled the puck past the Badgers goalie while flat on his stomach for a power play tally. However, it looked as though a weekend sweep might not be so easy after the Badgers scored very late in to the first period on a goal once again by Rene Bourque.
After the moms and dads were introduced to the home crowd during the first intermission, it was time for their kids to really put on a show in the second period.
Seconds after the Badgers killed off an early penalty, Luke Fulghum streaked up the ice to a pinching d-man man Brett Skinner (Vancouver Canucks) who made a stellar across the crease set up to Jeff Drummond. Later in the same period the Kevin connection hooked up again for a power play goal, this time by Doell from Ulanski and guest line mate Connor James. Dubielewicz saw a little bit more action in this period but turned away every one of the 11 shots that were thrown his way.
The frustration of the Badgers began to show after Luke Fulghum scored early in the third period. Several scrums and penalties occurred after Badgers took the lead on shots on goal but still could not get anything more past Dubielewicz.
Known as a finesse player who usually scores his goals by weaving his way to the front of the net, Connor James decided to try his luck on a slap shot from the left face off circle. His successful attempted was a top shelf nothing but net power play goal which completely deflated the Badgers. Knowing that a dominating performance against a WCHA team might help them in the Parwise rankings, the Pioneers continued to pour it on. J.J Hartman’s hard work through out the weekend series finally paid off with a short handed back breaking goal late in the third period.
Date: Feb 1, 2003 DU Vs. Wisconsin Score 7-1
Scoring for DU:
1st: Greg Barber (Kevin Ulanski, Jason Grahame)
Kevin Ulanski PP (Kevin Doell, Wade Dubielewicz)
2nd: Jeff Drummond (Brett Skinner, Luke Fulghum)
Kevin Doell PP (Connor James, Kevin Ulanski)
3rd: Luke Fulghum (Jeff Drummond, Lukas Dora)
Connor James PP (Aaron MacKenzie, Kevin Ulanski)
J.J. Hartmann SH (Matt Weber)
Total Shots on Goal: DU 22 Wisconsin 28
*** Kevin Doell (DU)
** Kevin Ulanski (DU)
* Wade Dubielewicz (DU)
Weekend Goalie tandem Comparison:
Friday: Berkhoel 28 shots 27saves .964 %
Sat: Dubielewicz 28 shots 27 saves .964 %
Player Profile: J.J. Hartmann – This senior forward from Colorado Springs varied in the number of games he played in his first three years as a Pioneer. In his final year it’s hard to imagine a game with out him on the ice. His stat sheet is far from what tells the story of what he brings to the team. Frequently ignored or passed off by the opposing team, Hartmann is often the surprising catalyst to a great scoring opportunity with his hard work and willingness to what ever it takes to help his team. Hartmann has 10 points in 20 games including one short-handed goal and is a plus 10 with 20 PIMS.
Up next: DU goes on the road next weekend to seek some revenge on Minnesota-Mankato. After a tie and a loss in their own barn, DU will look to improve on their WCHA standings by taking on the surprising and hard working Mavericks. DU knows better than to over look Mankato as a lot of team have, but it’s hard to forget that the big boys from North Dakota will be paying a visit to Magness arena on Valentine’s weekend.
Side notes: With injuries and the up and down play of DU’s goaltending pair, coach Gwozdecky flip flopped his two net minders by having Adam Berkhole play on Friday night and Wade Dubielewicz play on Saturday. This seemed to have worked as both players had identical stats and registered a fantastic .964 save percentage.