March 19, 2005
WCHA Championship
Winning a Trophy, the Denver Way

By Jess Myers

Denver 1, Colorado College 0
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
No Scoring

Second Period

1-DU Luke Fulghum (21) PP
16:56 M. Carle
Third Period
No Scoring
CC: Curtis McElhinney, 58:57, 26 saves, 1 GA
DU: Peter Mannino, 60:00, 25 saves, 0 GA
Penalties: CC 7/14; DU 6/12
Power Plays: CC 0-4; DU 1-5
Attendance: 16,507
All-Tournament Team
G: Curtis McElhinney, Colorado College
D: Nick Fuher, North Dakota
D: Matt Laatsch, Denver
F: Brett Sterling, Colorado College (MVP)
F: Gabe Gauthier, Denver
F: Rastislav Spirko, North Dakota

ST. PAUL – George Gwozdecky winced just a little bit late Saturday when a reporter asked if a 1-0 win in a title game was called winning a championship, “the Denver way.”

The coach and his team had spent all season scoring goals by the bucketful, and generally erasing the notion that his team did nothing but defend the goal. But after 60 minutes, 25 Colorado College shots and no goals against, there was Gwozdecky’s team again, hoisting a trophy and sharing hugs while the scoreboard read “1-0.” All that was missing was an escort to the airport from the Boston police.

While last year’s hero, goaltender Adam Berkhoel, is toiling in minor pro hockey somewhere, it was freshman Peter Mannino providing the heroics on this evening, as the Pioneers claimed their third WCHA playoff title since 1999. All Mannino did was record his school-record third consecutive shutout, and has now kept the offensively gifted Tigers off the board for six consecutive periods.

"We're pretty disappointed that we haven't been able to get one past him, but he's always in the right position," said Tigers defenseman Mark Stuart. "I thought we made it easy on him a few times, but anytime you can't score on a guy for six straight periods, you've got to give him credit."

Almost as impressive as Mannino’s play was the Pioneers team defense throughout. While CC forward Brett Sterling was named the tournament’s most valuable player, it wasn’t for his or his team’s offensive output in the final 20 minutes on Saturday, when they were held to just three shots on the DU goal.

"A lot of people have questioned how well we can play defensively," said Gwozdecky, after his team consistently forced the Tigers wide of the slot and cluttered up the area in front of their net. "I think perhaps we answered that question a little bit."

Gwozdecky also said that in contrast to past NCAA tournaments where he has gone with one goalie (Wade Dubielewicz in 2002 and Berkhoel last season) he plans on rotating Glenn Fisher and Mannino this time around. He admitted regretting going with just Dubielewicz in 2002, when the Pioneers fell one game shy of the Frozen Four.

“There are times when you can out-coach yourself, out-think yourself and out-smart yourself,” he said. “This year, I really don’t see any reason why we have to change.”

North Dakota 4, Minnesota 2
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
1-ND Quinn Fylling (3) EV
9:23 S. Foyt
1-MN Danny Irmen (24) EV
10:30 R. Potulny, M. Howe

Second Period

2-MN Mike Howe (6) PP
6:04 B. Gordon, C. Harrington
2-ND Rastislav Spirko (16) SH
10:53 Q. Fylling

Third Period

3-ND Matt Greene (2) EV
3:03 L. Marvin, D. Stafford
4-ND Nick Fuher (7) PP
18:12 Unassisted
ND: Jordan Parise, 60:00, 25 saves, 2 GA
MN: Kellen Briggs, 60:00, 18 saves, 4 GA
Penalties: ND 10/20; MN 7/14
Power Plays: ND 1-5; MN 1-8
Attendance: TBD


The two most-mentioned players from Saturday afternoon’s 4-2 North Dakota win over Minnesota in the third place game weren’t even in the building. Sioux forward Robbie Bina remains hospitalized at Regions Hospital in St. Paul with a fractured vertebra after Friday’s collision with Denver’s Geoff Paukovich, and Minnesota forward Tyler Hirsch was out of the Gopher lineup after Friday’s strange post-game incident.

In the opening minutes of Saturday’s game, a Sioux fan was shown on the big screen holding a handwritten sign that read “Win For Robbie” and produced an impressive round of applause from fans of both teams. After the Sioux had mustered enough third period stamina to win the game, the players admitted that their teammate was in their thoughts throughout the afternoon, and may have inspired their rally to win.

“A bunch of us went over to see him this morning, and it was pretty tough seeing a guy lying there in a hospital when he should be out here with us,” said Sioux defenseman Matt Greene, who scored the winning goal. “Seeing him like that makes you push a little harder when your legs are running dry.”

While the Bina family has been tight-lipped about his specific condition, it has been speculated that Bina will undergo surgery in the coming days, possibly to fuse the broken bones.

Minnesota team officials had little information to share about Hirsch, who had led the Gophers in scoring in the regular season. Hirsch performed a bizarre on-ice stunt after the game, and didn’t attend Saturday’s game, fueling speculation that the junior forward may be dealing with mental health problems.

“Obviously with Tyler it’s some personal issues, and I don’t care to say any more than that,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said after the game. After the formal press conference, Lucia told reporters that Hirsch had gone home with his parents after Friday’s game, and the coach had not spoken to his player since, but had talked to Hirsch’s parents.

“I spoke to them this morning, but I have not talked to Tyler,” he said. “He was still asleep when I called. Obviously we’re very concerned.”

INCH's Three Stars of the Night

3. Dave Hakstol, North Dakota
We give the weekend’s first honor to the league’s youngest coach, who not only was a model of class in dealing with the Bina injury, but who did amazing work coaxing three solid games out of a tired and injured Sioux club.

2. Curtis McElhinney, Colorado College
The senior stopper wasn’t perfect, but he was only one goal shy of perfection, turning aside every Minnesota shot and all but one of the 27 Denver sent his way on Saturday.

1. Glenn Fisher/Peter Mannino, Denver
Fisher played what many called his best game of the season to get the Pioneers into the championship, then Mannino won it with his third consecutive shutout. Some regional opponent is probably already having nightmares about the prospect of trying to beat either Denver goalie.


• While not exactly issuing a vote of confidence in his skipper, St. Cloud State athletic director Morris Kurtz tried to put aside the rumor that Huskies coach Craig Dahl has been fired or is about to be let go. Kurtz did not speak directly to Dahl’s status, but made it clear that if a move is to be made, it isn’t likely to happen for another two years, under the terms of Dahl’s contract. “All of our head coaches are on four-year fixed term employment,” said Kurtz. “Everything we do is procedural in accordance with our collective bargaining agreement.”

Kurtz noted that Dahl still has two years remaining on his current four-year term. Dahl just completed his 19th season as the Huskies’ head coach. His team finished in 9th place in the WCHA with a 14-23-3 record. It was just the Huskies’ second sub-.500 finish in the past nine seasons. Earlier this week Dahl's assistant, Brad Willner, learned that his contract will not be renewed for next season.

• Both of Minnesota Duluth’s hockey teams are done for the season after the UMD women, ranked No. 2 in the nation, were upset by St. Lawrence in overtime on Friday. The game’s venue may turn out to be a bigger issue than the game’s outcome, as the Bulldogs were forced to play a “home” NCAA regional game at Wessman Arena in Superior, Wis., because the DECC had a custom car show already booked for the weekend. The debate about needing a new arena in Duluth has raged for more than a decade, and this is sure to stoke the fire. Bulldog fans with a long memory will likely have flashbacks to the 1984 playoffs, when top-seeded UMD had no local venue to host the league’s playoff championship series versus North Dakota (the playoffs were held at campus sites then) due to a camping show occupying the DECC. UMD ended up renting ice time at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, and sold out two games as the Bulldogs beat the Sioux for their first playoff championship.

• Saturday night’s game between Colorado College and Denver marked the first time in more than a decade – and the second time ever – that two teams from the same state had met to decide the league’s playoff champion. In 1994, the Bradley Center in Milwaukee hosted an overtime battle between Minnesota and St. Cloud State with the Broadmoor Trophy on the line. The Golden Gophers prevailed in that one, when Nick Checco’s overtime goal solved Huskies goalie Grant Sjerven for a 3-2 Minnesota win.

• The championship game’s announced crowd of 16,507 was the largest audience ever to see Colorado College play Denver. The previous mark of 16,061 was set in December 1995 when the teams met at a sold-out McNichols Arena in Denver, in the championship game of the Denver Cup. That night, the Pioneers handed the top-ranked Tigers their first loss of the season, rallying from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2.


The food at Campus Pizza in Minneapolis is legendary among WCHA coach and media types, but not everyone can make it over from St. Paul during the tournament. Jim Rosvold, the manager of Campus Pizza and one of the great friends of college hockey, had a remedy for that problem on Friday night, and brought a few dozen pies to the official WCHA Hospitality Room at the Radisson Riverfont. As any member of the college hockey media can tell you, there’s only one thing better than post-game pizza, and that’s free post-game pizza.

To the folks who buy tickets to watch college hockey. It’s been said that Michigan fans don’t like hockey, they just like Michigan, and won’t show if their Wolverines aren’t playing. That’s apparently not the case for devotees of the Sioux and Gophers (the two most populous fan groups at the X this weekend) who turned out in droves for the CC-DU final. While the building didn’t have the raucous atmosphere fans saw for the 2004 final between Minnesota and North Dakota, it was good to see lots of butts in the seats for the title tilt.

While we did get to see a few pretty offensive plays, fans who miss the defense-first, goalie-dominated play of the NHL must have felt right at home in St. Paul this weekend. A total of 18 goals were scored in the weekend’s five games.

There apparently aren’t many math majors playing for either DU or CC. Or maybe it’s just hard to count to six in the heat of the on-ice action. Both the Tigers and the Pioneers were whistled for too many men during Saturday’s championship game.


With all four of the teams playing on Saturday assured of invites to the NCAAs (and a fifth – Wisconsin – waiting and hoping), the coaches main focus was staying healthy. That goal was not attained by all.

“We all know we’re in the NCAA Tournament, so you go into this just hoping you don’t get any injuries. Unfortunately for us, that wasn’t the case,” said Minnesota coach Don Luica, after freshman defenseman Alex Goligoski left their game in the first period with a hand injury.

North Dakota heads to the NCAAs with a host of health issues, as Bina, Brady Murray and Mike Prpich all missed significant time over the weekend, and Bina may be done not only for this season, but for his career.

Both Colorado schools emerged from the tournament healthy, and Colorado College coach Scott Owens downplayed the fact that the rivals would be sharing a plane ride back to the Front Range late Saturday.

“Anti-climactic is how I’d describe it,” Owens said of the shared transportation, adding that the Pioneers would be allowed to make some noise if they choose to. “If they hoot and holler, that’s fine. They’ve earned it.”