NCAA Frozen Four Notebook
Our comprehensive championship game notebook
begins with a look at Denver's captains
Jess Myers, James Jahnke and Mike Eidelbes
Gauthier leads the NCAA Tournament with nine points.
Ohio – As he sat half dressed in a locker room in Ohio,
contemplating winning his second national championship in the
final game of his college hockey career, Denver assistant captain
Kevin Ulanski’s thoughts went back to a lonely rink in Montana.
After a stellar
hockey career at Madison (Wis.) West high school, Ulanski ended
up playing for the Billings Bulls in the America West Hockey League.
He says it was about as far from college hockey stardom as one
isn’t exactly the hotbed of junior hockey,” Ulanski
said. “It’s amazing I even got here, coming from the
AWHL. I’m not even sure that league is around anymore.”
had a pair of assists in the title game, shared the humble path
to college hockey with fellow captains Matt Laatsch and Nick Larson,
all of whom came to DU as walk-ons. On Saturday, that trio hoisted
the game’s top trophy once again, and reflected on how far
knew our leadership had to be good this year, and hoped we’d
get on a roll after Christmas,” Laatsch said. “Instead
it seemed like we got some momentum in October and it never really
on an amazing run for the DU seniors, which started when they
played limited roles on the team’s 2002 run to the WCHA
regular season and playoff titles when they were freshmen.
about it – not only two regular season titles and two playoff
titles, but two national titles in our four years,” said
Laatsch. “In hindsight, coming to DU was the best decision
of my life.”
to Gabe Gauthier, the leadership supplied by the captains this
season was as important as any of the goals or saves the team
recorded en route to the NCAA repeat.
guys were truly special leaders for us, the way they came to the
rink every day and were business-like,” Gauthier said. “We
faced a lot of challenges, but the leaders we had kept everyone
composed and kept everything in perspective.
reflects who they are as people and as players who have worked
hard and earned everything they’ve gotten. The hearts they
have can get any bigger.”
SO, SMABY NOT
fairly well, North Dakota defenseman Matt Smaby had one of the
worst games he could have imagined Saturday.
the brutal luck of basically scoring twice on his own team –
including Denver’s championship-winning goal – and
it all happened on national television on college hockey’s
think words would do justice (to how I feel),” the sophomore
said through watery eyes. “It feels terrible. It’s
first own-goal technically wasn’t one, officials determined
more than an hour after the game. Less than seven minutes into
the contest, rushing DU forward Kevin Ulanski slid a pass from
the left of the Sioux crease toward the middle. The puck didn’t
hit its intended target, but it did hit the broad side of Smaby’s
skate and ricochet toward a mostly open net. It would have gone
in on its own, but Denver forward Jeff Drummond tapped in the
puck a millisecond before it crossed the line, giving him credit
for the goal, the Pioneers a 1-0 lead and Smaby a slight reprieve
from an own-goal. But it didn’t change the fact that Smaby’s
skate played the lead role in the play.
Sioux tied it up at 1-1, Smaby’s second own-goal swung the
momentum of the game Denver’s way for good. On a power play
at the 10:08 mark of the second period, Ulanski ripped a shot
from the point that pinballed in front of the net and went in
hard off the crossbar behind helpless Sioux goalie Jordan Parise.
The goal was awarded to DU forward Paul Stastny, who was battling
Smaby in front of the net. Stastny said afterward that the puck
hit his butt. Replays were inconclusive as to whether it then
hit Smaby, but he admitted to INCH afterward that the puck went
in off his knee.
a shot from the point and it was going wide,” Parise said.
“So I was looking over to the boards to see where the puck
was going, and the next thing you know, I heard it go off the
crossbar. I don’t know where it hit Matt.”
those bounces, Smaby, a 6-foot-5, 220-pounder from Minneapolis
with three points this year, is doomed to be remembered as the
guy who basically scored twice as many goals against his own team
in the national title game as he potted into the correct net all
season. People will forget that he actually played pretty well
against the tough Pioneer attack Thursday and that the only reason
anybody is writing about him today is cruel fate.
bad for Matt because I thought he played an unbelievable game,”
Parise said. “Neither goal was his fault. The first goal,
he was blocking a passing lane. The second goal, he was doing
what he was supposed to do and blocking out. When you have a guy
doing what he’s supposed to do twice, and people looking
at him because the goals were scored, I feel really bad for him.”
to shake off the own-goals the rest of the game, but he was only
tried to keep playing because that kind of stuff happens in hockey,”
he said. “But it was the national championship, so it was
kind of hard to forget. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong
AND HEARD AT THE SCHOTT
of college hockey's most colorful characters was almost denied
entry to Value City Arena Saturday. Legendary Michigan State fan
"Goofus" was detained at one of the rink's entrances
for a few minutes as security personnel contemplated whether to
let him bring in his one-man band instrument which features a
cymbal, tambourine and cowbell. Goofus – who had purchased
a ticket for his instrument – won over the security detail
with a stirring rendition of "You Are My Sunshine,"
which drew a round of applause from the dozen or so bystanders
who stopped to watch the exchange.
did a solid job hosting this year's Frozen Four, but it'll always
be a football town. Case in point: when Denver's Adrian Veideman
and North Dakota's Matt Greene were sent off the ice for roughing
minors 2:31 into the first period, the press box public address
announcer explained the duo had been cited for "offsetting
weather in Columbus for the Frozen Four was phenomenal, and a
number of fans wore shorts to Value City Arena for the championship
game. We're not sure of the last time that happened at the championship
game, but it certainly wasn't St. Paul three years ago.
Denver media faced two deadlines Saturday night. First, they had
to file their stories. Then, they raced to the Port Columbus International
Airport to get out of town and back to the Mile High City before
a spring storm bears down on the city with up to a foot of snow.
The Pioneers' team charter flight was set to leave Ohio around
1:30 Sunday morning.
captain Matt Laatsch said that prior to the start of the season,
he considered pulling a Mike Eruzione-esque farewell to hockey
if the Pioneers repeated as national champions.
somebody if we win this thing again, I might just drop my skates
at center ice and call it a career," said Laatsch, who said
he'll try to pursue professional playing opportunities.
of homage, injured DU sophomore forward J.D. Corbin ripped a page
out of the Scotty Bowman scrapbook by donning his skates for the
Pioneers' on-ice celebration.
to be out on the ice with my skates on," said Corbin, who
broke his collarbone in a freak accident during Wednesday's practice
at Value City Arena. "I didn't want to put 'em on too early
because I didn't want to bring any bad luck. When there was like
a minute left, I figured we were pretty good so I came down [to
the locker room] and put 'em on."
third-period dustup between Denver’s Michael Handza and
North Dakota’s Mike Prpich was sparked when the latter grabbed
the water bottle off the net behind Pioneer goalie Peter Mannino
and helped himself to a drink.
he said something to Mannino…then I came a little closer
and saw he was drinking out of his water bottle,” Handza
said. “I gave him a couple of slashes to the wrist and a
punch to the head and told him not to do it again.
it wasn’t the national championship game, he might have
of the biggest hustle plays of the night came well after the final
horn had sounded. DU senior forward Luke Fulghum was wrapping
up a television interview at one end of the rink when he noticed
his teammates gathering for the traditional post-title game photo
with the national championship trophy. Fulghum nimbly sidestepped
the tangle of TV cords that were strewn about the ice, but failed
to notice the runner laid out for the post-game awards ceremony.
He tripped on the carpet and crashed to the ice, but quickly got
up no worse for wear.
want to miss that picture,” Fulghum said. “I piled
on in there and took a little digger, but obviously I’m
not feeling anything right now.”
creative sign of the weekend, courtesy of a Denver fan in one
corner of the arena: Win or Lose, We Don't Live in Grand Forks.
Late in the third period, the word "Lose" had been blocked
out with white tape.
2004, when Gauthier watched the final seconds of the title game
tick off from inside the FleetCenter penalty box (check out our
Time Travelers), he was with his teammates on the bench for
the climactic moments this time. He said that he prefers the view
from the players’ side. “My heart wasn’t pumping
quite as much in that last minute this time,” Gauthier said,
recalling the frantic final seconds of his team’s 1-0 win
over Maine, as the Pioneers killed a 6-on-3 power play. “It’s
definitely better for my inner body to end the season on the bench
instead of in the penalty box.”
credit to a fan in a Minnesota State, Mankato, sweater, who we
didn't see Thursday when we compiled our Sweaters
in the Crowd cocktail napkin.
as Denver's Gabe Gauthier waited to be interviewed after the game
by ESPN's Erin Andrews: "C'mon. You're cutting into our beer
State’s media relations staff, headed by the superb Leann
Parker, was hospitable, accommodating and all around fantastic
throughout the week. And the crew went above and beyond the call
of duty several times, including unearthing an INCH computer cord
that was accidentally left at the rink Friday night. Thanks, guys.
big thank you to the staff at O'Shaughnessy's Public House, a
watering hole near Nationwide Arena. They hosted a festive collection
of Friends of College Hockey Friday night.
Carlson, the Hockey Humanitarian
Award winner who did a beautiful rendition of the national
anthem at the Hockey East semifinals, was ready and willing to
sing tonight, but the NCAA opted to turn to the North Dakota band
instead. The Sioux did a terrific job, but it was a missed opportunity
to highlight a terrific award winner.
center-ice video boards unfortunately didn't cut away from an
ESPN piece on Geoff Paukovich's hit from behind on Robbie Bina
that fractured Bina's vertebra in the last meeting between these
teams. It was an important angle for the TV broadcast, but didn't
need to be seen in the arena.
wasn't the ice trouble that plagued the last Frozen Four in Ohio,
but having to replace two panes of plexiglass in the first period
who lose seven seniors from Saturday's lineup, will enter next
season looking to become only the second team to win three consecutive
titles (Michigan in 1951-53).