COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was surprising to most that Denver and Colorado College combined for eight goals in Thursday’s first semifinal, as Denver came out on top, 6-2. More surprising, stunning even, was the fact that all eight goals came on the power play.
Denver finished the game 6-for-12 with the man advantage, while CC was 2-for-8. For the Pioneers, the six-goal breakout was almost miraculous considering the fact that entering the game, Denver had scored just three times in its last 48 attempts with the man advantage over an eight-game span.
“It’s rare when you play a game where you have that many goals scored and none of them are even-strength,” said Denver coach George Gwozdecky. “Our power play has not been capitalizing of late. We’ve had some good chances but we’ve not been able to put the puck in the back of the net.
“We’ve worked on it a little bit more over the last couple of weeks. I don’t know if tonight was a result of that but we seemed to get the puck to the net a lot better than we had.”
For the record, not only did Denver score on half its power-play chances, more than half of the club’s shots on goal (16 of 29) came with the man advantage.
Missing: Dynamic Duo
Alert Gotham City: Batman and Robin are missing. Well, not exactly.
Hockey’s dynamic duo, Colorado College’s Sterling and Sertich, were almost nonexistent offensively for the Tigers in Thursday’s national semifinal loss to Denver.
Neither scored a point, but historically, maybe that shouldn’t surprised. Combined, the pair had just two points against Denver in five meetings this season, as Sertich scored two goals.
The Day The Music Died
There’s probably nothing more specific to college hockey than the pep bands that provide entertainment and rally their faithful. So it was strange in Thursday early semifinal not to hear the sounds of blaring trumpets and beating drums at Value City Arena.
Neither Denver nor Colorado College has a hockey pep band that travels with the team, meaning that the time between whistles was filled with modern pop music pumped into Value City Arena’s sound system rather than the welcome sounds of “Buttercup,” “Sweet Caroline” or “Iron Man.”
Thankfully, the sounds returned for the nightcap as both Minnesota and North Dakota brought with them their bands.
Skinner-ing them Alive
Denver defenseman Brett Skinner proved his playmaking abilities in Thursday’s opening semifinal, scoring four assists, good enough to tie the record for a national semifinal. Seven times a player has had four helpers in a semifinal, though not since Rensselaer’s Adam Oates accomplished it 20 years ago against Minnesota-Duluth.
Mustard With That Hot Dog?
With less than four minutes left in the game and the victory well in hand, Denver’s Ryan Dingle skated in alone on a breakaway. Instead of shooting or making a move on the goaltender, Dingle decided to attempt to showboat. He lifted the puck onto the blade of his stick and attempted to fire it over the goaltender’s shoulder, lacrosse-style.
Instead, though, Dingle looked like a goat, firing a shot well over the net that barely hit the top of the glass to stay in the rink.
“It’s a play that we don’t recommend,” said Denver junior Gabe Gauthier. “It was a mistake and [Dingle] apologized for it.
“Even though he’s a freshman, he has to recognize that, but people do make mistakes. As a team, we’ll forgive him and I don’t think he’ll make that type of mistake again.”
All joking aside, Gwozdecky appeared none too happy with Dingle’s move, screaming at the freshman on the bench immediately after the play and showing a look of disgust as the move was discussed in the postgame press conference.
The fact that all four participants came from the WCHA, along with the fact that Columbus is not necessarily a universal hockey destination like, say, Minneapolis, Boston or Milwaukee, may have been the reasons that a Frozen Four game failed to sell out for the first time since 1999.
The announced paid attendance for Thursday’s first semifinal was 17,116, while the second semifinal had a slightly smaller number of 17,094 — though more actual fans were in the seats. Capacity of Value City Arena is 17,500.
Still, this year’s tournament should rank in or near the top five all time. Boston’s two most recent tournaments (1998 and 2004), Minnesota (2002) and Buffalo (2003) all will sit ahead of Columbus. Milwaukee’s average of 17,375 will be close.
Reunited and it Feels So Good
There are probably plenty of NHL players who miss hanging out with their teammates due to the current NHL lockout. So it’s no surprise that ESPN’s top hockey broadcast team of Gary Throne, Bill Clement and Darren Pang all looked more than happy to be reunited to call this year’s Frozen Four.
The trio worked the regional tournaments as well, though Thorne and Clement covered games in Worcester and Pang called Grand Rapids.
Besides being able to throw in the game’s top announcers, ESPN also used some of its top camera technology. That included cameras inside each net, remote-controlled cameras behind each net and a “dasher cam” that slid along the sideboards on one side of the ice to give television viewers a never-before-seen perspective of the game.
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Ed Belfour, who has plenty of time on his hands these days with the NHL lockout, was spotted in the stands Thursday night taking in the North Dakota-Minnesota game. Belfour is a former All-American for North Dakota and led his club to the 1987 NCAA championship.
Belfour holds the all-time mark at North Dakota for wins in a season. His 29 wins in the 1986-87 national title season is four better than the second-best total of 25. That season was Belfour’s only one with the Sioux, as he left after his rookie year to join the Chicago Blackhawks.
Beauty on Ice
It’s rare enough for fans outside WCHA arenas to see skating cheerleaders, but Thursday’s second game gave the opportunity to see two squads on the ice together as both Minnesota and North Dakota brought their on-ice cheering sections to Columbus.
Personal pick for the money went to the Minnesota squad, which not only was larger in numbers and did more impressive tricks, but also executed costume changes, switching from skirts to dancers’ pants and short belly shirts.
It’s a good thing, though, that the second semifinal was not a blowout as the male population at Value City Arena may already have had a hard time concentrating.