March 18, 2005
WCHA Semifinals
Injury, Suspension Overshadow DU Win

By Jess Myers

Denver 2, North Dakota 1 OT
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
1-DU Gabe Gauthier (19) PP
4:29 P. Stastny, M. Carle
1-ND Nick Fuher (6) PP
10:03 B. Murray

Second Period

No Scoring
Third Period
No Scoring
2-DU Gabe Gauthier (20) EV
0:42 A. Veideman
ND: Philippe Lamoreux, 60:42, 30 saves, 2 GA
DU: Glenn Fisher, 60:42, 29 saves, 1 GA
Penalties: ND 6/12; DU 6/12
Power Plays: ND 1-5; DU 1-5
Attendance: 13,132

ST. PAUL – In the most controversial moment of the WCHA Final Five seminfinals, Denver’s Geoff Paukovich leveled North Dakota’s Robbie Bina with a second period check, sending Bina into the boards and eventually to the hospital. Paukovich received a two minute penalty for boarding on the play. After the game, he was assessed 60 minutes more.

About an hour after the game, won 2-1 by the Pioneers in overtime, the WCHA released a statement saying that the league’s tournament committee had reviewed the play, and had given Paukovich a one-game suspension for checking Bina from behind. The committee is made up of St. Cloud State athletic director Morris Kurtz, WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod, Michigan Tech athletic director Rick Yeo and North Dakota faculty rep Phil Harmeson, who excused himself from the decision-making process. Kurtz, McLeod and Yeo watched videotape of the play along with WCHA officials supervisor Greg Shepherd after the game, then announced the suspension.

While league officials offered no comment on the decision, Yeo told INCH that it was clearly a suspension-worthy infraction.

“We looked at the tape and it was pretty obvious that it was a hit from behind with intent to injure,” Yeo said.

Denver coach George Gwozdecky, who has been battling a cold for better than a week, opted to watch the Friday night game from his hotel room, but Pioneers assistant coach Seth Appert said the team had learned of the suspension shortly before it was released to the media.

“Plays happen fast on the ice, but we know Geoff and we know there was no malicious intent on the play,” said Appert. “There was a delayed penalty call, and there was about to be a whistle, so I think one player might have let up while the other didn’t. But we’re a part of the league and we understand their decision. The biggest thing is we’re all thinking about Robbie Bina wishing the best for him.”

Late Friday, INCH learned Bina, who was taken off the ice on a stretcher, broke a vertebra. The injury is considered to be potentially career threatening. Bina was able to speak and move his extremities after the hit and was transported to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where he was x-rayed and underwent a MRI.

Sioux coach Dave Hakstol, though obviously upset after the game, chose his words carefully when recalling his conversation with referee Don Adam.

“They said they felt they had made the right call,” said Hakstol of the initial two-minute boarding penalty. “I don’t want to talk about it anymore. We’ve got a kid in the hospital.”

Colorado College 3, Minnesota 0
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
No Scoring

Second Period

1-CC Brett Sterling (31) EV
1:57 J. Hillen, C. McElhinney
2-CC Aaron Slattengren (11) PP
6:46 B. Sterling

Third Period

3-CC Brett Sterling (32) PP
4:55 Unassisted
MN: Justin Johnson, 60:00, 19 saves, 3 GA
CC: Curtis McElhinney, 60:00, 32 saves, 0 GA
Penalties: MN 8/16; CC 8/16
Power Plays: MN 0-5; CC 2-5
Attendance: 17,794


Minnesota team officials were equal parts concerned and tight-lipped after leading scorer Tyler Hirsch put on a strange display after his team’s 3-0 loss to Colorado College. After the teams shook hands and left the ice, with fans filing out of the building, Hirsch stayed at center ice, in full uniform, and asked for a puck.

After an on-ice official handed him a puck, Hirsch asked rink maintenance men to shut the Zamboni doors, then did something akin to an empty-net penalty shot. Hirsch skated from center ice toward the empty net, fired a slap shot from between the circles (it went in) then barreled full speed into the goal, knocking the net against the end boards and landing with a hard crash.

Hirsch then skated back to center ice, left his stick on the red line, and skated off the ice, with Gopher assistant coaches waving for him to get off the rink.

Asked if he could explain what Hirsch had done and why he had done it after the game, Minnesota coach Don Lucia answered, “No.”

“That was bizarre,” said Lucia. “Let’s just leave it at that.”

Asked if Hirsch had been hurt while crashing into the boards, Lucia responded, “Not physically.”

Several reporters asked to speak with Hirsch, but were denied access to the Minnesota locker room by the team.

“We’re not going to make him available,” said Minnesota team spokesman Kevin Kurtt. “He’s obviously dealing with some issues, so the coaches have asked that you respect his privacy for now.”

No word as to whether Hirsch will be in the Minnesota lineup on Saturday.

INCH's Three Stars of the Night

3. Curtis McElhinney, Colorado College
Stopping all 32 shots he faced for his ninth career shutout was one thing, but never letting the pro-Gopher crowd of 17,000-plus never get rolling was probably more important.

2. Gabe Gauthier, Denver
The Pioneers’ offensive sparkplug scored both of his team’s goals and had a third waved off. He said the first goal was nothing special. And the second goal, that put the Pioneers in the title game? “That one was very special,” he said.

1. Brett Sterling, Colorado College
The nation’s leading goal scorer is widely regarded as the second-best player - after WCHA most valuable player Marty Sertich - on the Colorado College hockey team. That wasn't readily apparent on Friday night, after Sterling scored twice and added an assist.


• Former Minnesota Duluth and Michigan Tech coach Mike Sertich, while watching the North Dakota-Denver game with his daughter and granddaughter, reflected on the win-win situation he’s in with one of his recruits (Colin Murphy) and one of his nephews (Marty Sertich) among the 10 finalists for the Hobey. Having coached three previous Hobey winners while at UMD, Sertich said he sees the makings of a solid Hobey candidate in Murphy.

“There are a lot of similarities to the other guys I coached, character probably being the top one,” said Sertich. “With all of the adversity a player like him has gone through, the character evolves. In the end, that’s what the Hobey is all about.”

Still, Sertich said if he had to root for one of the two to get the award, family would come first.

“I’d probably pick Marty,” he said. “I’ve known him longest.”

• Chad Hommes of Andover, Minn., must have felt like he won the lottery just by walking in the rink on Friday. Hommes was selected as the one-millionth fan in the 17-year history of the Final Five when he passed through the arena turnstile, and was showered with prizes. Hommes will receive a trip to the 2006 Frozen Four in Milwaukee, a ticket package for the 2006 Final Five in St. Paul, and was handed a sweater from each of the five teams participating this year. Hommes said the honor was overwhelming.

• Colorado College’s shutout of Minnesota marked the first time in nearly two full seasons that the Gophers had been held scoreless. Minnesota last got shut out on Oct. 10, 2003 by Maine in the Maverick Stampede in Omaha. Friday was also a rare Xcel Energy Center loss for the Gophers. They’re now 11-4 all time in the building.

• Former St. Cloud State star Brett Hedican and Minnesota Duluth’s 1994 Hobey winner Chris Marinucci dropped the ceremonial first puck before the game and answered questions from reporters afterwards. Hedican’s wife, 1992 Olympic figure skating gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi, was on hand as well. Sadly, nobody got the chance to ask Hedican who is the best skater in the family. We’re sure he’s never heard that question before.


Friday’s win was the 400th of Denver coach George Gwozdecky’s career behind the bench. The 2-1 overtime triumph versus North Dakota gave him 250 wins at DU added to 150 more at Miami (Ohio) and Wisconsin-River Falls. Gwozdecky was typically low-key about the milestone afterwards. “It’s just a number,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s any more important than number 9 or number 199 or number 399. It just tells me I’m getting old.” Although Gwozdecky admitted that he’d like to achieve one coaching victory milestone before the end of the 2004-05 season. “I’d like to celebrate win number 405 before the end of the season,” he said. “That would be pretty special.”

A tip of the hat is due to the folks who play hockey on the Left Coast. When the WCHA’s post-season awards were announced, three of the league’s top six forwards hailed from the Los Angeles area, and all three Californians have made their presence felt in the tournament thus far. Wisconsin’s Robbie Earl (from Los Angeles) scored on a highlight film-worthy play on Thursday, Denver’s Gabe Gauthier (Buena Park) scored both of his team’s goals in the Pioneers 2-1 Friday win, and Colorado College’s Brett Sterling (Pasadena) scored two of his teams goals on Friday evening.

Mother Nature did ticket sales no favors on Friday, as the Twin Cities were pelted by a day-long snowstorm. There’s a generations-old legend in Minnesota that the metro area always gets a blizzard during the state high school basketball tournament. Sure enough, with the preps dribbling at Target Center in Minneapolis, the white stuff showed up en masse again.

We’ve mentioned this before – several times – but what’s the deal with Colorado schools and their lack of bands? Somewhere within sight of the Rockies, we’re almost positive one could find a few trumpets, maybe a trombone, and a drum or two. And while we like to hear Metallica and Linkin Park blasted over a good sound system as much as anyone, would it kill our friends from DU to bring along folks to play their school song one of these years? Of course, that rule doesn’t apply for CC, which has no school song.


Saturday night’s championship game tickets should note that the contest starts at 6:37 Mountain Standard Time, as the league’s two Front Rangers will square off for the Broadmoor Trophy. While what will happen on the ice will be interesting for sure, what will happen in the skies above Nebraska later on might make for a better story.

The Tigers and Pioneers shared a charter flight from Colorado Springs to the Twin Cities on Wednesday, and will share the same plane back to Denver late Saturday night. That means that roughly 90 minutes after battling each other for the WCHA playoff title (the de-facto tie breaker after the teams split the regular season crown) one of those narrow airplane aisles is all that will separate the combatants for the trip back to Colorado.

“The flight home will probably be a little bit more interesting than on the way out, but at least they have two sides to the plane,” said Brett Sterling.

In the third place game, both Minnesota and North Dakota will likely try to stay healthy above all. There’s a chance that the border rivals could meet again in the West Regional in Minneapolis next weekend, so don’t look for either Don Lucia or Dave Hakstol to give away too many secrets.