A massive road construction project has been taking place on Colorado’s main interstate highway for over a year now. Normally, a simple one-hour drive north and south on I-25 connects WCHA archrivals Denver University and Colorado College. However the bumps, congestion and detours on this main thoroughfare have been symbolic of how the regular season has gone for the Pioneers. Injuries, Friday night jinxes, late game let downs and even more injuries have led this team on a bumpy ride into a playoff start on the road against North Dakota. When these two teams first met at the beginning of the season it look to be a possible match up for the two power houses that would battle for the WCHA title and beyond. Yet as both teams took the ice this weekend, CC was playing for noting but pride while DU was desperately battling for the ultra important home ice advantage in next weekend’s playoff rounds.
Game one: Pride versus playing it safe. This would be the question that CC’s Coach Scott Owens would have to face while filling out the line up card for Thursday nights game. Winning the McNaughton cup and securing home ice advantage last Friday, this weekends home and home match up was almost meaningless to the Tigers. Meaningless except for the fact that this is their biggest rival. Meaningless except for the fact that this would be the last regular season home game for an impressive list of seniors and possibly one junior (Peter Sejna). Meaningless except for the fact that CC took an unexpected shellacking at the hands of Mankato last Saturday night and needed to get back on track both offensively and defensively.
Before the game, Colorado College introduced all their seniors in front of the sold out crowd at the World Arena. Each of these seniors was dressed in full gear and ready to battle instead of taking the weekend off. As the game began it was clear that CC’s first priority was to get thought this series without out any injuries. The normally hard-hitting battles that take place between these two teams took a back seat to conservative, defensive play in the first period. While shots were fairly even, DU had the slight edge in scoring chances and even rang the post several times in the process.
The defensively short handed Pioneers simply could not continue to fight off the high powered Tigers as they peppered Adam Berkhoel (Chicago Blackhawks) with 20 shots on goal in the second period. Fittingly, it was two seniors that finally got two of these shots past DU’s net minder making the score 2-0 at the end of two.
Through the third period, the large Olympic size ice seemed to get bigger and bigger as CC clamped down and stifled DU, only allowing the Pioneers a total of 16 shots on goal. In the end, DU was handed it’s first shut out in over 2 years and, short of a miracle, would more than likely be playing all play off games in unfriendly territory.
Date: Mar 6, 2003 DU Vs. CC Score 2-0 CC
Scoring for DU:
Total Shots on Goal: DU 16 CC 36
*** Mark Stuart (CC)
** Joe Cullen (CC)
* Curtis McElhinney (CC)
Game two: It was also senior night for DU at Magness arena on Friday. Captain Aaron MacKenzie, Greg Barber(Boston Bruins), Kevin Doell, J.J. Hartmann, Matt Weber, Jason Grahame and goalie Wade Dubielewicz were introduced at center ice before the start of the game. As the other players came out and sat on the bench to watch the ceremony it was strikingly obvious as to what has happened to the Pioneers over this season. There were simply too many players wearing street clothes and crutches instead of jerseys and sticks. This doesn’t even take into account the players that are playing though injuries and have been in and out of the line-up though out the year.
As the first period began the student section was rocking harder than it has all season. A large group of CC fans traditionally make the trip up I-25 for every DU vs. CC match up but the Pioneer fans would not be silenced. The “blow up clapper sticks” that were handed out to the DU faithful thundered through the entire game and not a single student sat in their seats while the actions was going on. The fact that the Pioneers did a spectacular job at killing two early penalties made the fans even more enthusiastic.
Finally the hard work paid off with a power play goal for DU midway through the period. From the point, Connor James (LA Kings) skated down the slot and set up Kevin Doell who waited patiently until the perfect moment to lift the puck over the shoulder of CC’s goalie.
A few minutes late goalie Wade Dubielewicz made an unforgettable spread eagle point blank save denying league-leading scorer Peter Sejna.
Looking like it might be DU’s night they were the beneficiary of a five minute power play after Aaron MacKenzie was viscously chopped in the neck by Noah Clarke near the end of the stanza. Even with a brief 5 on 3 inside the major penalty the Pioneers could not put the puck in the net.
The viscous play of the Tigers continued in the second period as they were assessed another infraction that was very close to being another major. DU did convert on this power play successfully with a defection by Greg Barber on a wrist shot from the point by Brett Skinner (Vancouver Canucks).
Every tie that DU has had this season has occurred on Friday night and 4 of these 6 ties have resulted from comebacks by the opposing teams. The Friday night jinx, and an overworked blueline factored into the massive turn around in the third period as the CC Tigers came back to score three unanswered and one empty net goal in the third period. With the scores from around the WCHA being shown during the second intermission, it was now a fact that this would be the last time the stunned fans would get to see their team at home this season. The Pioneers shook hands at center ice after the clock ticked down and started to prepare for a brand new season in the playoffs.
Date: Mar 7, 2003 DU Vs. CC Score 4-2 CC
Scoring for DU:
1st: Kevin Doell (PP) (Connor James, Greg Barber
2nd: Greg Barber (Brett Skinner, Luke Fulghum
Total Shots on Goal: DU 31 CC 34
*** Curtis McElhinney (CC)
** Wade Dubielewicz (DU)
* Scott Polaski (CC)
Weekend Goalie tandem Comparison:
Thur: Berkhoel 36 shots 34 saves .944%
Friday: Dubielewicz 34 shots 31 saves .911%
Player Profiles: Adam Berkhoel After two seasons of sharing the net minding duties with Wade Dubielewicz, this junior from Minnesota will more than likely be the main man next season. This friendly competition between the to goalies has possibly been the best scenario for this Chicago Blackhawk prospect as the two teammates consistently matched each other’s stats over the past two years.. This year Berkhoel ends the season with an 11-5-4 record. a 2.36 GAA and a .906 save percentage.
Up next: The #7 seed Pioneers will take on the #4 seed North Dakota next weekend at Ralph Engelstad Arena in a best of three series. These two teams met for only one weekend series during the regular season in which hosts DU tied on Friday and won with two seconds left in regulation on Saturday.