January 14, 2004
Denver is Home Sick

By Jess Myers

 WCHA Notebook

This week's schedule
National TV Schedule

AHA/CHA Notebook

Denver coach George Gwozdecky recently considered his team’s 0-6-1 home record in conference games, and was as puzzled as anyone by the struggles. When asked for an explanation, he was brutally honest.

“I don’t know,” said Gwozdecky. “The only thing I can come up with is that when you’re successful, it’s because your regulars are healthy, and generally our regulars have been healthy when we’re on the road.”

The Pioneers, who still hold a top-10 spot in all of the national polls, are off this weekend, and hope to use the time to try to get healthy and ponder what went wrong last weekend. Denver was swept at the hands of Minnesota Duluth, getting shut out 1-0 on Friday and losing a 6-3 shootout on Saturday.

Gwozdecky had close to a full squad both nights, but noted that several players were inserted into the lineup despite nagging injuries that kept them from giving a less-than-full effort.

“A player like Gabe Gauthier, who is very important to our team, demanded to be in the game, but he honestly couldn’t do much,” said Gwozdecky. “Situations like that have been a challenge for us.”

An even bigger challenge would be faced this weekend if the schedule Gods hadn’t granted the Pioneers a weekend without games.

“If we had to play a game tonight, we’d have at least six regulars out of the lineup,” said Gwozdecky on Wednesday. “So this is turning out to be a good week to rest and get some of our guys back.”

The coach said he expects he team to be something closer to full strength when the Pioneers host Alaska Anchorage on Jan. 23-24.


Subtraction by Addition for the Badgers? – Breaking up is hard to do, but reuniting may have been even harder for the Wisconsin Badgers recently.

With coach Mike Eaves and several key players at the World Junior Championships, the Badgers did fine, going 2-1-1 and moving into first place in the WCHA. But when they were back to full strength last weekend, the Badgers struggled at home versus Michigan Tech, splitting with the Huskies and seeing their 13-game conference unbeaten streak snapped in the process.

Eaves and company returned from Finland late on a Tuesday night, and went right back to work the next day prepping for the Tech series. In hindsight, some have suggested that Eaves might have considered giving himself and his just-returned players a day to get rid of the jet lag.

On Friday, Tech out-played the Badgers for two of the three periods, and appeared to have tied the game in the third period before a controversial call cost the Huskies a goal. Wisconsin won 4-2. On Saturday, the Huskies were clearly the aggressor, overcoming an early 1-0 deficit on the strength of two Chris Conner goals to win 3-2.

Some Badgers said the recently re-stocked lineup was a hurdle that the team struggled to overcome.

“We’d played the last four games without those extra guys, so them coming back and having only one practice with them was a little curveball thrown at us,” said Badgers captain Dan Boeser. “But that’s no excuse. We had played 18 games with those guys in the lineup, so we should know how to do it.”

With their home series versus Notre Dame not starting until Saturday, Eaves wisely gave himself and his team two days off after the Tech series.

Great Weekend Getaway
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Colorado College at Minnesota Duluth (Fri.-Sat.)
The past two defending MacNaughton Cup champs (North Dakota and Denver) have had to go on the road for the playoffs the following year. With their offense suddenly MIA, the Colorado College Tigers find themselves at risk of making it three traveling champs in a row. CC managed just one goal last weekend in a home series with Minnesota, and now has to travel to face the surging Bulldogs, winners of their last four. UMD won with defense last Friday in Denver (a 1-0 shutout) and with offense on Saturday (a 6-3 come-from-behind effort) and may be intent on staking a serious claim to a spot in the WCHA’s upper echelon.

While You’re There: If you’re looking for a good pre-game meal and you like your Mexican food served “Midwest style” (which means light on the spices and heavy on the cheese) check out Hacienda del Sol on East Superior Street. The gorgeous backyard patio is closed for the winter, but inside they’re serving outstanding food, margaritas and 10 different Mexican beers. The full menu is even available on-line.

Stick Salute

To the Wisconsin Badgers, their fans, and their band. If you can stand inside the Kohl Center, hear the Badger band play “Varsity” as 12,000-plus sway and sing, and not get chills, check yourself for a pulse. While Badger hockey home games lost a great deal of atmosphere when the program left Dane County Coliseum for the bigger on-campus facility, there’s still something special about a hockey trip to Madison.

Bench Minor

To ex-St. Cloud State freshman Brent Hill, for his bizarre and ill-advised decision to leave college for the “greener” pastures of major junior hockey. Hill bailed on the 12-7-3 Huskies to play for the woeful Regina Pats (who were 14-26-3-2 when Hill came on board). Apparently, no young man can resist the siren’s song of Saskatchewan in January. As Dr. Phil might ask, “What were you thinkin’ partner?”


Michigan Tech senior wing Brett Engelhardt got a lucrative kind of revenge last Saturday in Madison. In the second period of the Huskies' game at Wisconsin, with the Badgers leading 1-0, Engelhardt chased Wisconsin goalie Bernd Bruckler behind the net after a loose puck. Bruckler steered the puck away, then applied a glove-hand slap to Engelhardt’s face, in full view of referee Pete Friesema, earning a roughing penalty. On the ensuing power play, Engelhardt launched a low shot from the top of the right circle that beat Bruckler on the stick side, tying the game.

• In an effort to avoid verbal abuse from North Dakota fans, Alaska Anchorage coach John Hill didn’t put ex-Sioux Chris Fournier in his starting lineup last Saturday in Grand Forks, opting instead to start freshman Joe Bourne’s line. Bourne is not used to starting, and therefore was a little thrown off when he was on-ice for the playing of the national anthem. The Anchorage Daily News reports that Bourne was so nervous that he forgot to take off his helmet during the song, and didn’t realize that he should be sans headgear until the song was nearly over. “I realized it about, ‘Home of the brave,’” Bourne told the paper. “By then, it was too late to take it off. I was rattled.”

• In its year-long tour of the 50 states, Sports Illustrated is featuring North Dakota this week. It should come as little surprise that in a poll of NoDak sports fans, the Fighting Sioux hockey squad was listed as the most popular college team in the state, and the University of Minnesota was listed as the most-hated college rival. The publication’s web site features an archive story about the 1987 NCAA title and a great photo of the post-game celebration from 1997 when North Dakota beat Boston University 6-4 in Milwaukee for the school’s sixth national championship.

• In this communication-crazy world we live in, WCHA supervisor of officials Greg Shepherd got a lesson in what it means to be "too available" last weekend. While having a bite to eat at a Madison watering hole after the Friday night Wisconsin-Michigan Tech game, Shepherd's cell phone rang, displaying a Colorado number. Thinking it might be someone from the league office, Shepherd answered the call and got an earful from a disgruntled Colorado College fan, upset about the officiating in Friday's Minnesota-CC game. It turns out that Shepherd's cell phone and pager numbers had been accidentally posted on the WCHA's official web site. Don't bother looking. They've since been removed.

• Anyone who thought Minnesota’s disastrous start was a sign that the Gophers would go quietly this season had better look at the standings again. Heading to a series at Minnesota State, Mankato this weekend, Minnesota is on a 9-1-2 run and the Gophers are averaging nearly 38 shots per game in their last dozen contests. If the Mavericks goalies aren’t sharp from the start, this could get ugly.

• While Minnesota State, Mankato has struggled in the won-loss department (the Mavericks head into their weekend series with Minnesota on a 1-7-2 streak), the trouble can’t be blamed on the efforts of Shane Joseph. After a sluggish start to the season, the senior forward has assumed the on-ice leadership role that was expected of him. Currently on a six-game scoring streak, Joseph has taken over the team’s scoring lead and was named to the all-tournament team at the Sheraton/Bank North Classic a few weeks ago despite his team’s two losses. CSTV named Joseph its student-athlete of the month for December.

Gophers defenseman Keith Ballard didn’t wear a suit and tie during Friday’s win at Colorado College, but job interview attire might have been appropriate. Ballard, whose NHL rights are owned by the Colorado Avalanche, was watched very closely by Avs’ scout Michel Goulet, who was in attendance at Colorado Springs World Arena, and who talked with Ballard after the game. Apparently, the extra attention was no problem for Ballard, who scored the game-winning goal. Ballard was drafted 11th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2002, but his rights were traded to Colorado in exchange for former Badgers star Steve Reinprecht.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.

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