Adam Berkhoel leads Denver to the NCAA Championship

By Michael DeMeyer





Adam Berkhoel leads the Denver Pioneers to a NCAA Championship

Chicago
Blackhawks goalie prospect Adam Berkhoel
made 24 saves in a goaltender duel as the Denver Pioneers shut out and upset
the Maine Black Bears 1-0 in the NCAA Championship game Saturday. Detroit Red
Wings prospect Jim Howard shut out the Pioneers for two periods, but one goal
was all that the Pioneers needed. It was the first National Championship for
the Pioneers since 1969, when former Blackhawks captain Keith Magnuson was
playing for them. 

 

Berkhoel,
an eighth round selection of the Blackhawks in 2000 (240th overall),
was also named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA playoffs. Berkhoel had
to fight through a two-man advantage as the game drew to a close, but Berkhoel
stopped everything Maine could shoot at him. 
Berkhoel had two shutouts in his last three games. It was only the third
Championship game shutout ever for the NCAA, and the first since 1972. 

 

During
the regular season, the 22-year-old was 23-11-4 with 2.52 GAA and a .916 save
percentage. Berkhoel is making his case for the Chicago Blackhawks, who already
have goaltenders Michael Leighton, Craig Anderson, and Adam Munro in the big leagues already,
last year’s collegiate goaltender of the year Mike Ayers waiting for a contract, and CHL prospects Mike Brodeur and Corey Crawford a few years away from the Blackhawks. It will be
a very fierce battle in the next few years to see who will make it as the two
Blackhawks goaltenders. 

 

PROSPECT
NOTES

 

Blackhawks
forward Tuomo Ruutu was named the
NHL Rookie of the Month for the month of March. Ruutu had eight goals and eight
assists for sixteen points in the month. He beat out Columbus forward Nikolai
Zherdev to win the honor. After a nightmarish first half of the season, where
he only collected 5 points, played on an injured knee, and played on the fourth
line, Ruutu turned his game around, and finished the season with 23 goals and
21 assists for 44 points. The 21-year-old first rounder of the Blackhawks in
2001 (9th overall) seems to be the power forward that the Blackhawks
had been lacking. After the trades sending Steve Sullivan to the Predators and
Alexei Zhamnov to the Flyers, Ruutu moved up to the first line, where he found
chemistry with left wing Eric Daze and center Tyler Arnason. He led the
Blackhawks in goals (23) this past year (2003-04), though will probably receive
no consideration for the Calder Trophy due to his slow start, but he may find
Selke trophies as consolidation in a few years. 

 

The
Chicago Blackhawks did not win the 2004 NHL Entry Draft Lottery on April 6. A
win by the Blackhawks would have given them the first pick overall, and a win
by Pittsburgh would have given them the second pick overall.  However, luck was not on the side of the
Blackhawks, and the lottery was won by the Washington Capitals.  This dropped the Blackhawks down to the
third pick in the draft.

 

In
the Western Hockey League Eastern Conference semifinals, Colin Fraser’s Red Deer Rebels leads Mike Brodeur’s Moose
Jaw Warriors three games to two in a seven game series. So far in the series,
Fraser, a third round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2003 (69th
overall), has three assists, is a +1, and has eleven PIM. The 19-year-old was
part of the deal that sent center Alexei Zhamnov to the Flyers. Brodeur has
stopped 136 of 148 shots, and was named the first star on Wednesday and was
named second star on Friday. Brodeur, 21, was a seventh round pick of the
Blackhawks in 2003 (211th overall). 

 

Corey
Crawford

and the Moncton Wildcats lead the PEI Rockets three games to one in the QMJHL
semifinals in a seven game series. Crawford was named the first star in both of
his last two games, stopping 141 of 150 shots so far in the series. Crawford
was recently named the QMJHL Defensive Player of the Year, and is one of the
top candidates so far in the Blackhawks race for starting goalie when Jocelyn
Thibault leaves. Crawford, 19, was a second round pick of the Blackhawks in
2003.

 

In
the SM-Liiga Finals, center Jari
Viuhkola
and Kärpät Oulu lead TPS Turku in the SM-Liiga Finals two games to
one in a best of five series. Viuhkola, a sixth round selection (158th
overall) of the Blackhawks in 1998, has one assist for Kärpät so far in the
series with two PIM. The 25-year-old lead Kärpät in points during the regular
season, and has seen his stock go up dramatically as a result. The Blackhawks’
management will definitely keep an eye on him during the Blackhawks training
camp next year. 

 

The
Norfolk Admirals’ playoff bid is in peril. Having lost to the Hershey Bears in
their season finale on Saturday, the Norfolk Admirals can only make the
American Hockey League playoffs if the Bears lose to the Philadelphia Phantoms
on Sunday.