October 25, 2007
No Excuses for Denver in 2007-08

By Jess Myers

It’s early in the season. Denver was playing two time zones from home in an unfamiliar rink. The ice surface was smaller than the Pioneers are used to. And the game was interrupted by a lengthy delay due to bad weather outside.

WCHA Notebook

No excuses: That's the mantra Denver coach George Gwozdecky expects senior captain Andrew Thomas and the rest of the Pioneers to abide this season.

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If you were expecting to hear any of those excuses outside the Denver locker room following the Pioneers’ 4-3 loss at Notre Dame last week, it was a disappointing night on many fronts. Despite a 3-1-0 start (with wins over 2007 NCAA tourney teams Maine and Notre Dame), coach George Gwozdecky has made it clear early on that no excuses will be made for what he deems is subpar play.

After following a pair of NCAA titles with a pair of Marches spent watching other teams play on TV, and with the 2008 Frozen Four being played in Denver, Gwozdecky may be taking a more hard-line approach than before when running his team. The loss at Notre Dame produced deserved praise for the Irish from Gwozdecky, and words like “stagnant,” “poor” and “complacent” to describe his own team. In other words, tough love may be the rule in Pioneerland this season.

“I’m pretty confident we can play a better overall game,” Gwozdecky said after his team let an early 2-1 lead slip away. “I don’t think that we were prepared to play as hard a game as we needed to play. Our guys were a little bit complacent. It’s a fine line between having that mental edge and not being right on top of your game.”

Most troubling for the coach was a first period in which the Pioneers dominated in the offensive zone, but couldn’t break the game open.

“I thought Notre Dame was a little hesitant early in the game and we had great opportunities to take a much more sizable lead than we did. When you’re not sharp at burying your chances, it’s going to come back and haunt you,” Gwozdecky said. “Rather than having a two- or three- or four-goal lead after one, we had a one-goal lead and Notre Dame was able to regroup like a good team.”

As he transitions to more of a leadership role in the room and on the ice, sophomore forward Brock Trotter echoed his coach’s sentiments, acknowledging a letdown after 20 minutes.

“We played well, but we might have come out after the first period and thought it was going to be easier than it was,” said Trotter, who leads the team with two goals and two assists after four games. “We can’t let up the way we did.”

Trotter, along with fellow sophomores Tyler Ruegsegger and Rhett Rakhshani, form the offensive core of a team with high expectations, produced at least in part by the return of Peter Mannino — the WCHA’s only active goalie with a national championship ring.

“We showed last year that we can do it, but it all comes down to working hard,” said Trotter, who had a team-leading 40 points in his first full season of college hockey. He played seven games two seasons ago, but was injured and missed the rest of the 2005-06 campaign. “If we’re not working hard, the offense isn’t going to come. We’ve got a pretty deep team, but we just need to work together.”

Denver is proving once again this October to be a town of great sports passion, meaning that among the college hockey fans there, the desire to have a real rooting interest when the Frozen Four is at Pepsi Center in April is strong. In other words, if you’ve got excuses to share, don’t bother.


A Gudmandson is easy to find: While much of the attention regarding Wisconsin’s hot start has been focused on rookie forward Kyle Turris (he of the 12 points in four games), another Badger newcomer made his collegiate debut in last weekend’s sweep of Robert Morris. And when looks at how rarely rookie goalies have been used in the Wisconsin scheme, Scott Gudmandson’s mere appearance in goal for the Badgers last weekend may have been the biggest surprise in Madison.

By contrast, Brian Elliott saw very limited duty as a freshman four years ago, instead working with renowned Badgers goalie coach Bill Howard to refine his game. And two seasons ago, Shane Connelly might not have played at all as a rookie had Elliott not been injured and forced from the Wisconsin lineup for a month. So to see Gudmandson get a start in his fourth collegiate game was a surprise.

“That was done in partnership with coach Howard, in terms of where he thought he was in his development,” said Badgers coach Mike Eaves after Gudmandson stopped 25 of 27 shots in the Badgers 8-2 rout of Robert Morris. “He’s done a good job with his learning curve and Howie felt comfortable putting him in.”

Gudmandson, originally from Sherwood Park, Alberta, split time between Omaha of the United States Hockey League and Salmon Arm of the British Columbia Hockey League last season before enrolling at Wisconsin. As would be expected, his coach said Gudmandson looked nervous at the start of his first collegiate action.

“He’d be the first one to tell you that he felt pretty nervous,” Eaves said. “It looked like he wasn’t too sure on some of the pucks. To his credit, a lot of those pucks were floated in there like knuckleballs.”

Gudmandson settled down and brought the crowd to its feet late in the game with a save that had fans and coaches gushing afterward.

“It was really fun for him to make that glove save in the third period,” Eaves said. “The crowd gave him that little bolt of appreciation and that’ll do wonders for his confidence. A goaltender’s confidence is about 50 percent of his equipment, and if he’s got that going for him it really helps him perform better.”

No word as to whether there’s a Connelly/Gudmandson goalie tandem to come in Madison, but with the Badgers enjoying an early week off, their army of fans has another reason to feel good about the rookies so far.

Great Weekend Getaway
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Minnesota Duluth at Denver

We’ll know much more about how real Minnesota Duluth is on Sunday morning, after the Bulldogs have visited Denver for a two-game set. Alex Stalock is defending the Bulldogs’ net better than ever before, and the scoring is by committee, but they’ve yet to play outside the DECC. Home games are nice, but win or two in Magness would get a few more folks to pay attention.

While You're There: Rumor has it there’s some kind of tournament (or something) for baseball happening at Coors Field this weekend, and it’s supposed to attract big crowds. In other words, if you’re planning to frequent the bars and restaurants in LoDo, it would be a good idea to get there early. Doing anything around noon, for example?

Stick Salute

Though Michigan Tech forward Malcolm Gwilliam still has some work to do to prove he’s not a one-game wonder, his five-point night versus Minnesota State Saturday was a nice spark on a team that’s desperate for scoring.

Bench Minor

It had been almost 10 years (Jan. 16-17, 1998) since St. Cloud State was swept in a weekend series at the DECC. While the Bulldog defense deserves credit, we’ve got to lay some blame at the feet of the Huskies offense for picking a bad time to go cold in the 2-1 and 4-2 losses.


After Wisconsin put up 15 goals in sweeping Robert Morris last weekend, it’s no surprise that the Badgers’ 22 goals this season are tops in the nation. Slightly more surprising is that Alaska Anchorage, with 18, is second in the country. Sophomore forward Kevin Clark is leading the way for the Seawolves. He’s atop the team scoring chart with eight points thus far, and has a seven-game point streak dating back to last season.

• Offense is definitely at a premium for Minnesota State, which scored just one goal while getting swept at Michigan Tech last weekend. The Mavericks’ 2-0 loss Friday marked the first time in MSU hockey history that the Mavs had been shut out in their season opener. After two games, sophomore forward Trevor Bruess is the only Maverick with a point thus far, having scored an unassisted goal in the team’s 7-1 loss to Tech Saturday.

• With two road losses at Colorado College last weekend, Minnesota matched its total of road setbacks for the entire 2006-07 season. The Golden Gophers were 11-2-1 in their opponent's building last season, with losses coming at Wisconsin and St. Cloud State. Minnesota starts the season 0-2-0 in the WCHA for just the second time in the past 14 years.

• Speaking of the Tigers, Colorado College may have found the solution for Minnesota’s scary-good power play, which has befuddled coaches and goalies for years. In the Tigers’ sweep of Minnesota in Colorado Springs last weekend, the Golden Gophers were 0-for-11 with the man advantage. The Tigers’ “secret weapon” may be a pretty easy to spot, however — freshman goalie Richard Bachman (he of the perfect soap opera villain name) stopped 61 of 63 shots he faced over the weekend.

• Former North Dakota goalie Jordan Parise got to see one of his records fall in person last weekend. Parise, now in the New Jersey Devils’ system, saw some of the Fighting Sioux action last weekend in Boston, which included Jean-Philippe Lamoureux shutouts of Boston College (0-0) and Northeastern (3-0). Parise started the 2005-06 season with shutouts of Miami (3-0) and Northeastern (6-0) to become the first Sioux goalie to open a season with two straight blankings. This weekend Lamoureux made it three in a row. In the 1953-54 season, Sioux goalie Gerald “Spike” Schultz shut out Michigan Tech in four consecutive games to set the current school record. Lamoureux can break it by blanking those same Huskies twice this weekend.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report. Jess Myers can be reached at jess@insidecollegehockey.com.