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
excuses: That's the mantra Denver coach George Gwozdecky
expects senior captain Andrew Thomas and the rest
of the Pioneers to abide this season.
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.
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE WCHA
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
“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
Great Weekend Getaway
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,
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.
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.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• 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
• 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.
of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.
Jess Myers can be reached at email@example.com.