This weekend’s match up between the Denver University Pioneers (#14) and the Fighting Sioux of North Dakota (#5) had all the drama that college hockey fans could hope for. A “kissing you sister” game on Valentines Day ended with all the love of a bench-clearing brawl as the horn sounded but revenge and redemption would come with just two seconds left in Saturday’s thriller. With both teams looking to either solidify or move up, valuable points were fought over, as the playoff picture seemed to change by the minute with each final score in the always-tight WCHA standings.
Game one: Known for their physical play, the Fighting Sioux would not show any love to the Pioneers on February 14th but the Pioneers would not allow themselves to be pushed around in their own barn. With a less than spectacular performance in last weeks match up against Duluth, the Pioneers started off on the right foot with an early goal. After an intense hard fought battle along the boards, Jon Foster was able to dig the puck out of the corner to feed Max Bull for an early 1-0 lead.
After a power play goal with an Al MacInnis like slap shot by UND’s David Lundbohm, the Pioneers continued to pour it on and dominate the rest of the period with another goal before heading to the locker room. Kevin Doell continues to find different ways to score in every game. This goal deflected off a UND player and into the net on an intended pass to Kevin Ulanski.
The Pioneer’s defense was at its best of the season though the first and second period of this game against the high-powered offense of the Fight Sioux. The talk of the college hockey world, Zach Parise was held to just one shot on goal up until the third period and only six shots on goal were faced by DU’s Adam Berkhoel (Chicago Blackhawks) in the second period.
Still in the second period, Kevin Doell struck again with a backhanded shot though the five hole with a stellar set up by Conner James (LA Kings).
The beginning of a momentum shift took place when the Pioneers were unable to convert with a minute and a half of a five on three power play.
After a great defensive play from Scott Drewicki to keep Parise from scoring on a break away, he was late on his shift and could not stop the second wave from a goal scored by Kevin Spiewak. UND continued to pour on the offense and Spiewak scored yet another goal soon after this to bring the total to a 3-3 tie.
The overtime was fairly uneventful with both teams playing not to lose. However neither team would back down from the physical play knowing that they would meet again in less than 24 hours. DU’s Aaron Mackenzie found himself right in front of UND’s bench as the horn sounded. Immediately every single player on the North Dakota bench and on the ice swarmed MacKenzie and started swinging. The DU players who were on the ice for this last shift also joined in but the brawl was lopsided as the UND players continued to throw the punches. In order for DU to get to their locker room they must cross the ice to get to the hallway. Seeing the activity on the UND bench, the rest of the Pioneers came to the aid of their captain instead of heading to the locker room. The punching and shoving continued while the referees and coaches tried to separate the mass of gloves, sticks and bodies. The may-lay ended with a few un-served majors handed out and both coaches yelling at their players to leave the ice like a teacher ordering an unruly child to the principal’s office.
Date: Feb 14,2003 DU Vs. North Dakota Score 3-3
Scoring for DU:
1st: Max Bull (Jon Foster)
Kevin Doell (Aaron MacKenzie, Connor James)
2nd: Kevin Doell (18) (Connor James, Aaron MacKenzie)
Total Shots on Goal: DU 30 UND 31
*** Adam Berkhoel (Denver)
**Kevin Spiewak (UND)
*Kevin Doell (DU)
Game two: With too much on the line for both teams, the events of the night before were nearly forgotten as both clubs played a tight checking, low scoring, defensive, playoff type of game. Things looked good for the Pioneers as they took a 1-0 lead midway though the first period on a power play. While Greg Keith was creating a distraction in front of the net, Connor James received another great feed from the corners by Kevin Ulanski. Then the Wade Dubielewicz show took over for the rest of the period. UND showered Doobie with 15 chances in the first period alone, but he would deny them on every attempt.
Finally in the second period the Fighting Sioux would find the back of the net with yet another tally by David Lundbohm on a power play. Disciplined, defensive hockey continued for what seemed like an eternity with neither team giving up an inch of ice.
This game looked as though it was destined for overtime…..
Late in the third period, Wade Dubielewicz was once again peppered with a desperate attempt from UND to finally end this series, but his Roy-like clutch poise set up one of his teammates for another clutch situation. Call it redemption, revenge or Hockey God karma, DU’s captain Aaron MacKenzie would for the second night in a row, find himself in the middle of a mob as the horn sounded. However this time it would be from the friendly confines of his own teammates as they celebrated like they had just won the Stanley Cup.
With twenty seconds left, the Pioneers gained control of the puck in UND’s zone. The Fighting Sioux failed at three opportunities to clear the puck as it came to MacKenzie for his first try at a late goal. This shot was turned away but the rebound came out from the corners to Kevin Ulanski’s stick. He dropped a quick pass thought the legs back to MacKenzie at the blue line. With every DU fan in the building shouting “Shoot” MacKenzie simply put the puck on net with two seconds left in the game. This puck had eyes and somehow found it’s way though a sea of bodies and sticks and into the back of the goal. The stunned Fighting Sioux were nearly frozen in place as the crowd and the Pioneers went wild. Still needing to finish the last two seconds of the game, Wade Dubielewicz was the next to receive the mob treatment from his teammates when the final buzzer was sounded.
Date: Feb 15, 2003 DU Vs. North Dakota Score 2-1 DU
Scoring for DU:
1st: Connor James (Kevin Ulanski, Kevin Doell)
3rd: Aaron MacKenzie (Kevin Ulanski, Jon Foster)
Total Shots on Goal: DU 28 UND 33
*** Marc Ranfranz (North Dakota)
** Aaron MacKenzie (DU)
* Wade Dubielewicz (DU)
Weekend Goalie tandem Comparison:
Friday: Berkhoel 31 shots 28saves .903%
Sat: Dubielewicz 33 shots 32saves .969 %
Player Profile: Kevin Ulanski This sophomore from Madison Wisconsin is becoming one of DU’s most important unsung heroes. Even though he’s not the biggest player on the team, his hard work along the boards and in the corners has become a key ingredient for many of the Pioneers goals. Playing in key situations with some of DU’s top scores, Ulanski is often the catalyst to a good scoring chance. Ulanski is fourth on his team in points with 9 goals and 19 assist in 28 games.
Side Notes: Early in his career at DU, Aaron Mackenzie was thought of as a mostly stay at home defenseman. This year he is third in overall points just behind the always high scoring, Kevin Doell and Connor James. Most important in these stats is the fact that 4 of his 11 goals have been game winners, earning priceless points for his team.