It’s only been a couple weeks since Denver head coach George Gwozdecky tabbed junior netminder Wade Dubielewicz as his goaltender for the remainder of the season.
And after Dubielewicz’s performance at the WCHA Final Five this weekend, Gwozdecky’s decision is making him look pretty smart.
“I’ll tell you what,” Gwozdecky said. “Wade Dubielewicz is the best goaltender in the nation, period.
The coach might be right. Dubielewicz backstopped the Pioneers to their first postseason championship since 1999 and in the process was named Most Valuable Player of the Final Five.
He stopped 26 shots Friday afternoon as Denver shut out Colorado College 3-0, and then made 38 saves in the Pioneers’ 5-2 over Minnesota in the title bout Saturday night.
“This weekend as a lot of fun,” said Dubielewicz following the celebration. “We really wanted to win this tournament; all the accolades are like icing on the cake.”
A cake that has a few layers. Not only did he earn MVP honors at the Final Five, he was named first team All-WCHA on Thursday, and one of the ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, which will be presented during the Frozen Four.
Dubielewicz’s rise has been a guided one. For the majority of Denver’s season, he split time with Adam Berkhoel. Heading into the Final Five, Dubielewicz had appeared in 22 games, while Berkhoel saw time in 18.
Gwozdecky made the decision to go with Dubielewicz, whose 1.68 goals against average led the league, in the playoffs. Both goaltenders knew their coach was only going to go with one down the stretch, but their camaraderie didn’t turn to competition.
“It was bittersweet,” said Dubielewicz. “I was happy to get to play, but Adam had such a great year that it was hard to be happy.”
“We have the best goaltending tandem in the entire country and Adam Berkhoel, who had an outstanding year, is one of the reasons we are here,” added Gwozdecky. “If Adam was on any other team in the country he would be the starting goaltender and they would be riding him through the playoffs.”
Berkhoel’s numbers are second to only one goalie in most statistical categories. It just turns out that that one is on his team.
Dubielewicz’s record now stands at 20-3. He is stopping almost 95 percent of the shots he is seeing to go along with that minuscule GAA, and has helped carry his team to into the NCAA tournament with his play the past two weekends.
However, Dubielewicz, like the rest of his teammates, knows that the job is not yet done.
“From day one we had three goals,” he said. “We wanted to win the WCHA playoff, get a first-round bye and win the national tournament. We accomplished two of them tonight.”
Number three will start in Ann Arbor, Mich., where Dubielewicz and the Pioneers will go into the first round of the NCAA tourney as the West Region’s top seed. If the netminder continues to resemble a brick wall, the Pioneers might need another layer on that cake: one that holds a much bigger prize.