MINNEAPOLIS — If it wasn’t already abundantly clear from their shared histories how close Denver coach George Gwozdecky and Miami coach Enrico Blasi are, that story got another chapter in the makeshift media room at Mariucci Arena.
First, Gwozdecky took his turn in emotionally describing his relationship with his former player and assistant coach. Then Blasi did the same about his mentor.
At one point, Gwozdecky choked up, saying after a pause that it’s the end of the year and that he doesn’t like losing.
“It’s a little bit like coaching against your son,” Gwozdecky said. “I hate losing to a family member, but if you’re going to lose, it hurts less because we’re losing to a classy program and a classy coach like Enrico Blasi.”
Blasi played for Gwozdecky at Miami and coached under Gwozdecky at Denver.
“Coach and I go back a long way,” Blasi said. “Everyone makes a big deal about us playing each other, but when we talk during the week, we don’t talk about hockey. … He’s been like a second father to me.”
Denver got back two key players for Friday’s game.
Tyler Bozak returned after missing 21 games with a knee injury, having last played on Dec. 12 against Minnesota State. Bozak, who topped the Pioneers in scoring in 2007-08, was again DU’s leading scorer at the time.
J.P. Testwuide, meanwhile, injured a leg last weekend during the WCHA Final Five and was not initially expected to play.
Bozak got on the scoreboard in his return, assisting on DU’s first goal and scoring the Pioneers’ second.
“I felt really good out there. It was just nice to get out there with those guys again,” he said.
Testwuide was held without a point, but his contributions hardly went unnoticed.
“I’ve coached a lot of tough hockey players over the years,” Gwozdecky said. “I don’t know if I ever coached a more physically tough guy than J.P. Testwuide. He shouldn’t have played today. His knee is real bad.”
Friday’s result evened the all-time series in the NCAA tournament between these two teams — their first and only previous meeting at nationals was a 3-2 Denver win in the first round in 2004.
The Pioneers managed only 18 shots on goal, their lowest total of the season (previous low: 20, done twice).
Justin Mercier’s first-period goal for the RedHawks was the 50th of his career to lead all current Miami players.