Wednesday, December 12, 2007

DU Fans Escape From St. Cloud Alive...Barely

.(above) The Boyz were yelling "Let's Go DU" this past weekend in St. Cloud

The Traveling Wrecking Crew Goes to St. Cloud

Thursday 12/06/2007

The key members of the Traveling Wrecking Crew, CO14ers, KScant and Mike met at DIA for the flight to Minneapolis. Even though this was a fairly short trip, we all checked bags since we were bringing extra clothing for the cold weather we would be facing during the trip. The previous day’s low temp was -17º and the forecast called for snow today.

After the thankfully uneventful flight, we made the 70+ mile trek to St. Stephen, MN which is about 10 miles outside of St. Cloud where Mike’s father, Larry, lives and where we stayed. We went to Trobec’s bar for some suds and met some of Mike’s uncles (including Uncle Ray who owns the bar) and make our plans for Friday.

Friday 12/07/2007 – St. Cloud Invasion

We had decided on Thursday night that we would do the touristy stuff on Friday including touring around St. Cloud and running some essential errands such as going to a St. Cloud State bookstore. We left Larry’s house somewhere around 11 AM and began our invasion of St. Cloud. We hit the bookstore, we explored the National Hockey Center and surrounding athletic facilities and we toured a warehouse operation run by one of Mike’s cousins. We even drove over a new bridge over the Mississippi River that had opened about a month ago! Then we realized there was nothing else to do in St. Cloud and it was only 2:30 in the afternoon. Game time was 7:07 PM. So, off to the bar we went.

We decided to go to a bar called M.C.’s Dugout in downtown St. Cloud. This is where we would meet another DU season ticket holder and St. Cloud State graduate, Tim (Tim cheers for DU most games, but is a die hard Cloudy when the two schools play). Needless to say, we were the first people of the day in the bar. We staked our claim at a table in the back where there were some electronic dart boards, ordered some hydraulic sandwiches and began an epic round of darts. During this time, Tim showed up and we made a bet – the loser of the game has to wear the sweater of the winner’s team to the Saturday game.

After the 3 ½ hour dart exposition, we headed out for the free shuttle bus to take us to the arena. The temp must have been around zero by this time. We got to the arena and picked up our tickets at will call. On this night we were to sit in the DU fan section at one far end of the ice.

It was an entertaining game with DU winning 3-2. We made several people laugh when it was announced that DU was back at full strength with our “And CC Still Sucks” chants. We also found it funny that after the announcement of every SCSU goal, the Cloudy announcer would end his call with a “Woooooooooooooooooooo”. We took note of that for Saturday.

After the win, we took the bus back to M.C.’s Dugout and went over to a bar called the Red Carpet. This place is actually a conglomeration of 9 different bars under one roof. We ended up in one called the Red Room where we waited to meet up with Jay Stickney, the DU radio announcer. Well, Stickney was slow and we decided to bail and go back to Trobec’s bar in St. Stephen so our designated driver could throw a few back.

Saturday 12/08/2007 – Hockey Day in Minnesota

We had decided the night before to make this the “Hockey Day in Minnesota”. We started out the day with a noon time girls’ high school hockey game pitting the Sartell/Sauk Rapids Stormin’ Sabres against Northern Wright County. Mike’s niece Kayla plays for the Stormin’ Sabres. It was a fun game to watch, but the good girls suffered a 5-1 defeat.

Next on the agenda was to immediately drive over to the National Cement Center to see a Division III game between the St. John’s Johnnies and Bethel College Royals. This turned out to be a great game and Bethel scored a goal with 8.8 seconds left to tie it at 3 which is also how it ended. We found out during this game that Kayla was disappointed because she thought should here us saying “And CC still sucks” during her game. Oh, well, opportunity missed.

We then drove back to M.C.’s Dugout for another marathon round of darts. Much to my and KScant’s chagrin, our throwing arms were pretty sore from the day before (yeah, that’s pretty sad). We met up with Tim again and I presented him the Paukovich sweater that he would be wearing to the game. We again caught the bus and went over to the National Hockey Center for the main event. For this game, we had seats 4 rows above the ice right across from the DU bench.

The game was pretty frustrating for 50+ minutes for us DU fans (the only highlight I had was meeting and getting my picture taken with former Huskies coach Craig Dahl). We certainly looked doomed with about 6 minutes remaining with DU losing 2-0 and Ruegs going to the box for a slashing penalty. Then things changed! Rakhshani scored a short handed goal 10 seconds into the power play. After the scoring was announced, KScant and I said, “Woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” Then with just over 2 minutes left in the game, Rakhshani tied it with a shot from behind the net that appeared to deflect off of the goaltender. “Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”. Then with 27 seconds left, Rakhshani completed his natural hat trick with the game winner. “Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo”! After some debate with KScant, I decided to chuck my DU Hockey ball cap down on the ice. This proved to be unpopular in the building. Immediately fans started booing me. Next, the whole student section started chanting “Asshole” and pointing at me. Then, I look behind me and Blizzard, the SCSU Husky mascot, is standing behind me with its arms crossed shaking its head. However, I looked up in the media area, and Stickney was going nuts pointing at us and giving the thumbs up. All was good, plus all the Husky fans were rushing toward the exits. It turns out that Mike’s dad and retrieved my hat from the St. Cloud announcer whom he of course knows – he seemed to know everybody throughout our trip.

Well, we went back to catch our bus, but evidently they didn’t like DU fans anymore and the bus took off without us. No big deal, it was only like 10 below and the bar a couple of miles away. Mike used his cell and some of his relatives who had been to the game came back and got us and drove us back to MC’s. I got my Pauko sweater back from Tim and we all went back to St. Stephen for a mellow rest of the night.

Sunday 12/09/2007 – Back to Denver

We had an early flight out of Minneapolis, so we headed out at 6:30 AM to catch our plane. The travel was fairly uneventful except that WCHA referee Don Adam sat right next to KScant and I. We told him how great a referee DU fans and players thought he was and how much we despised the CC fans who constantly insist that he’s a life form below plankton. When getting our bags, I ran into WCHA commissioner Bruce McCloud who was talking to Don Adam. I wonder if Bruce was headed to DU to “collect some funds” for the officiating on Friday Night…

All in all, a great trip with great friends.

NOTE: Upon arriving back home, I listened to Stickney’s radio call of when I through the hat on the ice. He acknowledged the Traveling Wrecking crew was responsible for said hat on the ice and was the source of the student’s “booing”.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Latest DU Millionaire Returns To Magness Arena

(left) Matt Carle

From: Denver Post
by Mike Chambers

Donning fresh stitches on his chin but still grinning from recently signing a four-year, $13.75-million contract extension with the San Jose Sharks, former DU defenseman Matt Carle returned to his old stomping grounds last weekend while preparing for tonight's game against the Avalanche at the Pepsi Center.

Carle, who in April 2006 became the Pioneers' first Hobey Baker Award winner as NCAA player of the year, watched Saturday night's DU-North Dakota game at Magness Arena with Sharks teammate and former Wisconsin forward Joe Pavelski.

"I follow these guys very closely and they're off to a heck of a start," Carle said of the Pioneers, who are 10-4 after splitting a weekend series against the Fighting Sioux. "It's good to see them doing so well with such a young team."

San Jose hasn't played since Thursday's 3-2 victory against the Avs in California. Carle can't explain it, but the Sharks decided to fly into Denver on Saturday, giving Carle, a native of Anchorage, Alaska, three days in his adopted hometown.

"I love coming back to Denver," said Carle, took a puck off the chin during practice Saturday morning. "Being away from Anchorage for 10 years now, I kind of consider this home."

Carle already has played in 132 NHL games, including 22 in the Stanley Cup playoffs. In three seasons at DU, he played in 112 games, producing 122 points, fourth most in program history for defensemen.

Last season, he had 11 goals and 42 points in 77 games as a full-season rookie, and made the NHL's all-rookie team along with former DU teammate Paul Stastny of the Avalanche.

Carle joined Dion Phaneuf (2005-06) as the only defenseman to collect 40 points as a rookie since 1997-98, and the only rookie defenseman to score 11 goals since 1993-94.

Carle has made time to recruit for DU, including trying to persuade his little brother, David Carle, to join the Pioneers next fall. David, a defenseman for the vaunted Shattuck St. Mary's prep team in Faribault, Minn., has a planned visit to DU in February, after he checks out Boston University, Boston College and Michigan State.

"He's a smart kid, and pretty independent," Matt said. "I try to advise him as best as I can, but it's hard because I'm so biased."

So, how good is David Carle?

"He's better than me," Matt said with a straight face.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Joe Colborne Helps Little Kids

(left) The kids had a great time seeing the Stanley Cup and playing hockey with the Team Canada West players last week at the World junior A Tournament in Trail, British Columbia

During the World Junior A Tournament in Canada last week several fans were on hand to have their picture taken with the Stanley Cup and skate with the host team Canada West players for an hour.

The story below was written by a parent on the Hockey's Future Message Board, about incoming recruit Joe Colborne.

I saw your article, and I thought that I would let you know about my son's experience meeting Joe Colborne. Full credit to the Canada West coaches and players who took time from their busy schedule to offer coaching and encouragement to an Atom hockey team from Trail.

The experience started when my sons Atom team (my son is 9 years old) won a draw (lottery), and got to practice with the Canada West team. My son could barely sleep the night before the practice, he was so excited. When the kids hit the ice, the players from Canada West went around and asked the Atom kids to be their partners for some drills.

Joe Colborne asked my son if he could be his partner. He said his name was Joe, and was hoping that my son could show him some skills (what a great sense of humour). Joe (as did all the players) spent 30 minutes showing the kids some tricks and offered help in shooting, passing, and checking. Joe was really encouraging, and complimented my son on the quality of wrist shot he had for his age. He showed him how to take passes off of the skate, how to make proper backhand passes, and even showed my son how to tie up the stick and pin your opponent in the corner.

Joe then asked my son if there was anything special that he would like to learn. My son told Joe that he was not very good at scoring on breakaways, and did he have a tip. Joe asked what he usually did on breakaways, and he answered "the wrist shot." Joe told him that he might want to try deking the goalie once in a while, and went on to show him his favourite deke. Joe showed him how to pull the puck over to the backhand and tuck it upstairs (both players are left hand shots).

The next 20 minutes were given to a scrimmage. The Canada West players made the kids feel great. When a kid made a move for the net, defenceman inexplicably fell over creating all kinds of breakaways. Somehow the goalie opened up and let these tiny shots score. The kids had a riot beating the big guys.

The highlight of the night for my boy came in the shoot out at the end. When it was his turn, he raced for the net. He tried the deke to the backhand that Joe had taught him earlier in the practice. Don't ask me how, but the backhand went in top shelf. It was a moment my son will always remember. Joe Colborne will be his favourite player for all time.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Pioneering Spirit Article On Tyler Ruegsegger

Candace Horgan

DENVER (Oct. 31) — Midway through the second period of a game with Minnesota-Duluth early in their season, the Denver Pioneers were tied 1-1. The Pioneers, who missed qualifying for the 2006-2007 NCAA tournament by one win, have approached this season knowing how important every game is, especially in the ultra-competitive WCHA.

Right after Peter Mannino made a big save on a partial breakaway, sophomore assistant captain Tyler Ruegsegger spied his linemate, Rhett Rakhshani, grabbing the puck along the left side boards. As Rakhshani started to backhand it out of the zone, Ruegsegger sped out of the zone, trying to get a step on Duluth defenseman Evan Oberg.

As the puck landed in front of them, Ruegsegger and Oberg fought for position, skating through the neutral zone. Just as Ruegsegger got his stick on the puck, Oberg, falling down, hauled him down at the Duluth blue line.

Ruegsegger quickly popped to his feet while Oberg lay on the ice, took two strides to the left side circle and backhanded the puck to Anthony Maiani in the slot. Maiani fired it into the open net, sparking the Pioneers to a 5-1 victory.

It is this kind of singular, gritty effort that led Pioneers’ coach George Gwozdecky to name Ruegsegger an assistant captain in his sophomore season.

“I think how he plays, how he carries himself in the locker room, all scream of his tremendous leadership capabilities,” said Gwozdecky. “He’s an intelligent player who plays extremely hard, a difficult guy to play against. He’s not a real vocal individual, he’s not a guy that gets up and makes a lot of speeches, but just the way he lives his life, the importance that school and hockey have in his life, and how he carries himself, are a shining example for all of his teammates to follow.”

Ruegsegger, who grew up nearby in Lakewood, Colo., started playing hockey at age five, inspired in part by a cousin who had taken up the game. He played in the Arvada Hockey Association at first, then started playing in Littleton.

Ruegsegger, like many hockey players, was a two-sport athlete initially, playing baseball over the summer. However, at age 12, he started to concentrate entirely on hockey.

“I loved playing baseball growing up and at one point kind of had to choose between hockey and baseball, and hockey obviously won that. I started doing some summer teams, stuff like that, and you really couldn’t commit to both sports. [Hockey’s] just my passion; hockey’s the game I love. I love everything about it, the game, the speed, the quickness. Playing it’s fun and that’s probably why I chose it.”

Shortly after he started playing, the Avalanche moved to town from Quebec, and like many kids his age that had a big impact.

“I think when I started there was the Grizzlies, the IHL team,” said Ruegsegger. “They obviously had a big impact and then when the Avs came absolutely, no question, it made a big impact and increased hockey here. And obviously I grew up following Denver as well; we had season tickets for quite a while and I grew up wanting to play for them and then got the opportunity.”

As Ruegsegger approached high school age, he and his family realized that Colorado had limited hockey opportunities for teenagers, and if he wanted to step up to the next level, he would have to play somewhere else. After considering the USHL, Ruegsegger finally chose to attend Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minn.

“We were looking at prep schools, and academics have always been really important to me and Shattuck was a place that has great hockey, obviously, and great academics as well,” said Ruegsegger. “What also made it easy to choose Shattuck is that my mom, my sister and I moved there and my dad stayed here with his business; he’s got a business here, and he flew back and forth every weekend. So the fact that he could get back and forth every weekend was huge.”

Ruegsegger’s mother and sister Rebecca still live in Faribault; Rebecca is in 11th grade at Shattuck and plays goal for the girls’ prep team.

While at Shattuck, Ruegsegger competed with future North Dakota players Jonathan Toews, Chay Genoway, and Taylor Chorney, winning a national championship with them. While they never really tried hard to get him to go to North Dakota, playing against them, he says, is interesting.

“They knew I was from Colorado, so they knew I was always going to probably go to Denver if I had the chance. It’s always fun playing them though. It’s crazy, because you go out and you’re battling guys you won a national championship with. It (winning the national championship) was great, one of the best experiences of my life for sure. Not only the guys on the team that you get to play with and become friends with, they’re now your lifetime friends, but my coaches there, Tom Ward and Jon Austin were phenomenal coaches and phenomenal people too. I learned a lot that year about life and hockey.”

Ruegsegger had always wanted to play at Denver. However, according to Gwozdecky, it was the defection of Paul Stastny that brought him to Denver as a freshman last season.

“The original plan in recruiting him, when he decided to come to Denver, after he graduated from Shattuck he was going to play a year of Junior A hockey, with the River City Lancers in the United States Hockey League, and that was the plan right up until the spring of that year, when we realized that guys like Paul Stastny, there was a good chance of him moving.

“So, at that time, we changed our plan, and in a conversation with him and his father, we said, ‘We’d like you to come here, if you feel you’re ready,’ because we felt he was ready based on the improvement we had seen over the year, and it’s worked out extremely well.”

For Ruegsegger, coming to Denver was a dream come true, and, as sentimental as it sounds, just putting on the jersey is what he remembers most fondly from his first year.

“You know, coming in here it really was living a dream; just to have the opportunity each game to go out there and do that was something special. With the teammates, and the guys, the way I was treated as a freshman, that’s something I’ll remember my whole life. When I came in here as a freshman I just wanted to work as hard as I could. You know, when you do that, hopefully you get opportunities, and Coach has really blessed me with opportunities in the last year.”

During his first season, Gwozdecky came to rely on Ruegsegger’s playmaking and offensive capabilities. Ruegsegger finished fourth on the team in scoring last year, and midway through the season Gwozdecky moved him to the point on the first power-play unit, a position Ruegsegger had never played. However, Gwozdecky felt Ruegsegger’s skills made his move there an easy choice.

“Playing a position like that, especially right where he’s at, requires real good on-ice vision, the ability to make decisions under pressure from the opposing team, you have to be an excellent passer, and you have to be able to shoot the puck hard, and your catch and release skill has to be excellent. Those are all things that Tyler has.”

Asked about playing the point, Ruegsegger again stresses the team concept. “You know, I just came in one day to practice and that’s how it was set up. I like it. I like being back there with ‘Buts’ (Chris Butler). Anywhere on the power play I feel fine, but I’ve had some success doing it that way and no matter what, sometimes you change things up and if you get some success you go with it so it’s worked out well for us so far.”

Of course, the season ended in disappointment for the Pioneers, as they failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament. That the West Regional was held in Denver added to the feeling. With the Frozen Four in Denver this year, the team has set a goal of returning to the tournament.

“Last year, you know, the regionals were here and we weren’t able to make it and it was a terrible feeling, especially when it’s in your backyard, so this year that’s definitely one of our goals, to make the tournament and then if you get to the Frozen Four it’s a great opportunity for us.”

In his sophomore year, Ruegsegger has stepped up as a leader and a player. He currently centers the first line with Rakhshani and Maiani, and looks to help the freshmen, and his teammates, succeed in any way possible.

After any game, win or lose, Ruegsegger always talks about his teammates and the skills of the other team. It would seem like a cliché if he weren’t so sincere about his belief in team play, something Gwozdecky echoes when asked about how he decided to pair Ruegsegger with his current linemates.

“He makes everybody he plays with better; that might be the ultimate compliment you can pay any athlete, that no matter who you play them with, they make those people better, not only by how they play, but how hard they play, their skill level, their sincerity, and with Tyler, it’s all about team. It’s not about him, it’s about the team, and he plays so hard to help his teammates have success.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Ruegsegger is excited about helping the large freshman class adjust to college hockey, and do anything possible to help his team reach the Frozen Four.

“I love the role I have this year, and I’m thankful for that role I have, and I want to use it to help the team out as best I can. Whether that’s getting goals or creating turnovers on the forecheck or making great defensive plays, it all plays a part. You can’t focus on one area or the other; you have to be a complete player to help the team win.”

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Stastny Media Transcript - NHL Player Of The Week


(left) DU Alum Paul Stastny was named NHL Player Of The Week

DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon with the National Hockey League's Public Relations Department. And I'd like to welcome you to our call. Our guest is Colorado Avalanche Forward Paul Stastny. Thanks to Paul for taking the time today to answer your questions and thanks to the Avs' public relations staff for helping to arrange the call.

Yesterday Paul was named the First Star for the opening week of the season after leading all NHL scorers with eight points on four goals and four assists as the Avalanche posted two victories in three starts. In the season opener in Denver on October 3rd, Paul recorded his first career NHL hat trick as the Avs defeated the Dallas Stars 4-3. After being held off the scoresheet the following night in Nashville, he finished the week by recording one goal and four assists in a 6-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks.

Last year Paul was runner-up to Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin for the Calder Trophy as the National Hockey League Rookie of the Year after posting 78 points on 28 goals and 50 assists playing in all 82 Avs games. He was also tied with linemate Milan Hejduk with six winning game goals. Thank you, Paul, for taking the time to answer questions.

Q: It's always hard to predict how a young player coming out of U.S. college makes the adjustment to the NHL. Some take a long time and some take a very short period of time. Can you pinpoint why there doesn't seem to have been the steep learning curve that some young players have had, why it seems to have gone so relatively smoothly for you?

STASTNY: I don't know if it was quick. But I was in college for two years. And so when I came up, I was already 20, 21. Pretty mature for my age, and it was easier for me, maybe because I was a little smarter. Some of the things you can't teach I got from my dad. Playing with better players I think makes it a lot easier for me, just knowing that you can give and go. They think the way I do and it makes it that much easier.

Q. Last year, during the spring, the Niedermayer brothers talked about how much they enjoyed playing together and winning the Stanley Cup together, and both your father and uncles had a chance to play with each other. Do you speak to your brother about that in your hockey playing lives, to play together and have a chance to win a Stanley Cup together?

STASTNY: We talked about that growing up. I think we're both trying to battle for jobs in the NHL and hopefully one day if we're both fortunate our paths might cross. I think the two happiest people would be our parents besides me and my brother. But that's the only thing we've talked about. Can't really predict or look forward to that because you never know if it's going to happen.

Q. You're playing for basically the same franchise that your father played for. Do you have any memories of Quebec and when you were growing up?

STASTNY: Yeah, not too much. Not hockey specifically. I remember growing up, the cold winters and playing on the ponds right across the street from where we lived, going to the rink, just me and my brother. Obviously it was fond memories. Then when I went back there for the Quebec Peewee tournament, it really showed up. My dad was there.

Q. Do you remember how old you were when you started to realize what hockey legends your dad and uncles were, any stories that stick out? And can you describe growing up in St. Louis with your brother and how competitive you were with each other?

STASTNY: As I got older, I think just from hearing from other people, obviously my dad and uncle are two humble guys. Just from hearing from other people how respected of a player my dad and uncles were, how good of players they were. As you get older you start reading stuff and seeing more highlights. I was probably 15, 16, right around there, when hockey started getting serious. Growing up in St. Louis, I think it's changed from the moment - from day one from when I've been there the last 12, 13 years hockey has been growing big. Me and my brother have been best friends and working out and doing everything side by side for the last seven, eight summers. One big reason I'm here is we compete against each other and we're always trying to do what we can to help each other out.

Q. I think there's a sense around the league that last year you guys scored a lot of goals, but this year you might be more dynamic. Is there a sense around the team that you're the sort of team that is capable where no lead will be safe, that you have the ability to get four goals a game?

STASTNY: I think we're just - we can't think like that, because when we do that's when we end up getting in trouble, we're playing the high and taking too many chances. We're focused on playing defense. And like you said, with the players we've added offensively, we know we can score. If we're playing a tight game or open up game, I think we're comfortable playing both ways.

Q. How has the attitude in the dressing room changed from last year to this year? Is there a sense that this team has all the tools necessary to make a real serious run at the Cup?

STASTNY: I don't know. I think it's a lot similar to the way it ended last year with the run we went on. And it's a loose atmosphere. And obviously it's well ran by the coaches down to our captains leading the way. Obviously we're having fun out there, and we're working hard. But I think when it comes game-wise we're just trying to focus on one game at a time instead of looking forward to halfway down the year or the next couple of games. I think we're taking it one at a time. We put ourselves in a better position once the season rolls around.

Q. Playing in the WCHA, what did that do to prepare you for the National Hockey League and playing now with the Avalanche?

STASTNY: I think the WCHA was really good for me, a big stepping stone to where I am now. Just obviously it shows - obviously when I was there it was top-end competition all around, from the first place team to the 10th place team. It's starting to show more and more now with more guys leaving school early. And I think it's getting the respect that maybe it finally deserves.

Q. On that team you've got a future Hall of Famer in Joe Sakic, can you talk about what kind of a mentor he's been to you, if in any way he has been?

STASTNY: Yeah, I think he's been good. He's a quiet guy. I think once you get to know him he opens up. If I ever needed little questions, small questions answered, he's always there to help me. Obviously he's making sure I'm having fun out there, always saying little jokes about my old man when they played together. But I think it's more of you just watch the way he presents himself the way he is on and off the ice and you learn more from that than just asking him questions.

Q. You were born in Quebec, raised in St. Louis. There was a story that was making the rounds in the spring that because you hadn't played internationally for either Canada or U.S. you were sort of an international free agent, and then ultimately opted to play for the U.S. So I guess my question is, one, was that true that you had a choice? And, two, if so, why did you decide to play for the Americans?

STASTNY: I could play either one since I hadn't played in any IIHF competitions. But I think I had maybe a better opportunity or I think the U.S. wanted me and maybe looking to the future, my brother already played for the U.S. So like you said it's always a dream of ours to play together and maybe one day we'll play together in an international event like that. But obviously they gave me an opportunity and you can never turn that down.

Q. Can you talk about how intense it was as you approached the streak last year, the record?

STASTNY: (Chuckling) it wasn't too bad until I got to 13, 14 games. Until then I didn't even think about it then I started hearing about it all the time. I think it wasn't something I was worried about, just because we kept winning it made it that much easier. Obviously when your team is winning and you're having fun, I think everything was rolling smoothly there. Obviously no one on my team or in this organization gave me added pressure. So I think it was something that was maybe a little easier said than it actually appeared.

Q. Obviously you had all summer to think about how your sophomore season would get kicked off. It's been a great start for you. Can you talk about how good it feels to pick up where you left off?

STASTNY: It's always good to know you get a good start to the season. Always in the past I've been a slow starter, but obviously you adapt and you learn - I learned a lot last year, and I trained a lot harder this summer thinking this year would be a lot harder than last year. Now everyone knows you. You can't get away with little things anymore. I think I prepared myself pretty well this summer.

Hockey Media Day Transcript

From: DU Athletics Website

DENVER - The University of Denver held its annual hockey media day today in the press box at Magness Arena. Head coach George Gwozdecky and senior captain Andrew Thomas met the media. Gwozdecky and Thomas shared the following with the Denver media:

Head coach George Gwozdecky:

Opening Statement: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s great to be back for our new season. It’s nice to see all of you here. I will basically mimic what Erich said about our new partnership with AM 1510 Mile High Sports Radio. I think it’s a great partnership and it’s going to allow us to be on the air on a consistent basis, not only with hockey but with our basketball program and also our continued relationship with FSN Rocky Mountain, which has been so successful in the past.

Probably like every coach and every team at this time of the year, we are looking forward to the start of the season. We’ve had an opportunity to play one game and that was on Sunday night against the University of Calgary. We saw some good things happen and probably more importantly we got a chance to view our freshman for the very first time. We have a number of freshmen on our team, as you’re all probably aware. Almost half our team is made up of freshmen due to not only successful graduation rates, but also because of the early exodus of some of our players to the professional hockey ranks. Just to think right now that Paul Stastny would have just been starting his senior year at Denver if he were still with us, but we’re pleased to see Paul and many of our other players moving on to their pro careers, whether it’s in hockey or otherwise. The one thing that I’ve told our team since day one when we came back to school here is that our biggest goal is to become a team.

On Goaltender Peter Mannino: Peter Mannino is going to be carrying the mail, and we have some young guys backing him up. Marc Cheverie is a very talented young goaltender. It will be very similar to a few years ago when Adam Berkhoel was a senior and Glenn Fisher was in his freshman year. Peter is going to mentor Marc very similar in many ways as what Adam did for Glenn. That is a position that we all know is the most crucial on a hockey team, and we’re very pleased to know that Peter is going to be with us. He is the most talented and potentially the best goaltender in not only the WCHA but the country. And we know that as skaters, if we make a mistake, Peter will be there to cover up for us.

On the Blueline: Our blueline will be led by preseason All-American Chris Butler who is back for his junior year, along with our anchor, our rock on the back of the blueline in senior captain Andrew Thomas. They will really be the key guys to run the show on the blue line.

On the Forwards: Up front we’re going to rely on our underclassmen similar to last year. Rhett Rakhshani, Brock Trotter and Tyler Ruegsegger were the three guys who really gave us a boost last year. When they went well, so did we. They kind of got fatigued down the stretch, especially in the month of February. When our opponents learned how to play against Denver and started to shut down our freshmen, our consistency wasn’t as good as it had been. Our success was a little bit more challenging, but there’s no question that those three guys are going to be bolstered by some other people.

On the Maine Series: We’re looking forward to having the University of Maine here, not so much because of the 2004 National Championship game but in 2005 we had to travel out there and start the season off with a series in Orono. It did not go very well. There were a lot of conditions that worked against us, but nonetheless, we remember those two games and the outcome of both and hopefully we get the chance to turn the tables on them this weekend. We are certainly looking forward to playing against a national power like Maine and a well respected team like the Black Bears.

With so many new faces, does it change your approach or what you expect out of the guys heading into the season?: There is a lot more teaching going on with individual and skill instruction as well as systematic instruction, which is keeping us busy. I think our captains also realize the work that needs to be done to bring this group together as a team. There is a lot of building of a team that has to be done.

Impact of "older" freshmen, was that a plan?: Age rarely is a deciding factor in who we recruit and how we identify players. I think sometimes age may be a factor with guys who blossom late or develop early, but no the age level of a number of our guys had nothing to do with us recruiting them. It was dependent on their skill level and their academic status and if they were the kind of character that would fit into our program.

Compare this team’s raw talent to previous teams’: We had a much larger senior class both in 2004 and 2005 than we do this year. Our senior class has four players, three of which have played on a regular basis. Tom May, Peter Mannino, Andrew Thomas and Zach Blom make up our senior class. The real difference in the leadership is that we had so many more seniors in those two championship teams, which really offers a greater advantage, especially when you have the amount of talent that those two senior classes had.

Senior captain Andrew Thomas:

Opening Statement: First of all I’d like to thank you all for coming, you guys do a great job in supporting us all year long, and I think that if anyone saw this past Sunday it shows a lot of promise. Having 12 freshmen this year, our biggest challenge this year, as coach said, is getting everyone acclamated, getting everyone on the same page, so after four weeks of Captain’s practice and obviously this past week, having the coaches on the ice, it’s been a challenge. But, it’s also really exciting because we’re starting to get guys really used to the routine and with having 12 freshman is something nice to see. Being an Eastern kid I’m excited for this coming weekend, having Maine coming to town, maybe a little redemption from a couple years ago when we went up there to visit them.

Andrew could you talk about how much of a rock Pete (Mannino) could be in the nets, based on his experience? Well Pete’s a gamer, and I don’t think it’s a question of him changing his play at all, I think it’s just keeping it up. I think our responsibility and the pressure lies in the defensive corps and rests on the forwards in really supporting Pete as much as we can because he’s our rock, he’s going to be our go-to guy this year, but like I said the emphasis is definitely put on us.

Do you feel old, now with so many kids around you, in terms of both age and experience? Well having been a freshman at 18 and only being 21 now, it is strange looking around the locker room and seeing so many freshmen faces. I don’t think it’s a question of age having Tyler Ruegsegger as sophomore assistant captain, I think that in itself speaks miles. Age just really hasn’t been a factor for us the past couple years. Like Coach said, we throw freshmen right into the fire. I was one of them three years ago, but we’re excited, regardless of age, freshman are freshman, they still have some learning to do.

What kind of captain are you going to be? I mean you had (Matt) Laatsch as a freshman, (Matt) Carle and Gabe (Gauthier) as a sophomore, and Adrian (Veideman) a year ago, what kinds of things have you drawn from those guys? Playing off of what Coach said, the richest tradition we have at Denver is always that put forth by the captains, all the way back from Keith Magnuson to Cliff Koroll who have influenced me a great deal. What I’ve noticed is that none of them mimic each other, they all established their own identity as a captain. I think that with the support staff that I have with Chris (Butler), J.P. (Testwuide), and Tyler (Ruegsegger), I think that makes my job a lot easier because they can delegate responsibilities. I can delegate the pressures that are put on a captain. Thankfully I have them there, but I’ll do anything I can to help the team: on the ice, off the ice, helping freshman with any questions they have, but really carrying the load when I have to, putting it on my shoulders and saying "follow me, this the direction we’re heading."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Snoopy Senior World Hockey Tournament - Part 4

Link: Part 1 - DU vs. Central Massachusetts
Link: Part 2 - DU vs. Univ. of Michigan Alums
Link: Part 3 - DU vs. Canterbury Ghosts (Canada)
Link: DU Pioneers Team Roster

Editor's Note:
DJ Powers of Hockey's Future was in California last week covering the Snoopy Senior World Hockey Tournament. She agreed to write a series of articles for LetsGoDU about the DU Pioneers, an alumni team made up of former DU players from the Murray Armstrong era. We can't thank DJ enough for her outstanding coverage of the event.

The Tournament was founded by Peanuts creator Charles Schultz in 1975 and brings together hockey players between the ages of 40-75. (Video Link about Tournament)

(above) The "DU Cheerleaders" (clockwise from top right: Lynnae Koroll (Cliff Koroll's wife), Marie Harrison (Don Cameron's wife), Dolly Schneider (Bob Peers' wife) and Chris Kushner (Bill Goodacre's girlfriend). Between them is the original 1968 DU National Championship banner.

Pioneer Pride: A Portrait Of Camaraderie

by DJ Powers
Staff Writer - NCAA Hockey

Santa Rosa, CA. - Ask anyone who plays the sport of hockey what makes it so great and the reply you'll likely get is the family bond that is born from the lifelong friendships forged through the many battles together.

While each hockey family is unique in its own way, you'd be hard pressed to find one that is as closely knit as the Denver Pioneers that recently played in Santa Rosa, CA.

No, these DU players don't have names like Peter Mannino, Geoff Paukovich or Keith Seabrook. Instead, you'll find names like Ron Grahame, Don Cameron and Bob Peers. It is a group of men that consists of mostly members of DU's Original Dynasty that played under the legendary Murray Armstrong.

These Pioneers played in the weeklong Snoopy's Senior World Hockey Tournament that took place at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena (aka Snoopy's Home Ice) in Santa Rosa, CA on July 15-21. The Pioneers won two games, but lost a heartbreaker to the University of Michigan Alums in overtime 5-4.

Tournament History

The Snoopy's Senior World Hockey Tournament, now in its 31st year, is the brainchild of the late "Peanuts" creator and hockey devotee Charles M. "Sparky" Schulz (1922-2000). Schulz himself played in this tournament as a member of the Diamond Icers. Since it's inception in 1975, the tournament has been played every year except in 2001.

Over the years, the tournament has drawn participants from not only across North America, but also from around the world as well. This year, the tournament featured a team from Austria. In past years, countries such as Australia, Finland, Japan, Norway and Switzerland have all been represented at the tournament.

The tournament is comprised of teams ranging in age from 40-75 (with a few exceptions). The teams are placed in age divisions (40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, and 70-plus) named after the various "Peanuts" characters. Each division is made up of four teams. If there is more than one division in a particular age group then they are classified according to playing level, with "A" being the highest level. This year, the tournament featured 52 teams playing in 13 divisions.

Among those who have participated in this tournament over the years include many former National Hockey League players, such as current University of Michigan head coach Red Berenson, former Philadelphia Flyers great Mel Bridgman and DU alum Cliff Koroll.

Denver in the Snoopy Tournament

The current Denver Pioneers were originally called the Denver Centennial Stars. They were among the tournament's original teams back in 1975. In their inaugural appearance, they finished third in what was then known as Division I.

"We were called the Denver (Centennial) Stars before we were the Pioneers," said Bob Peers. "We became the Pioneers four years ago in 2004."

Today, the "new" Denver Centennial Stars also play in this tournament. This year, they competed in the 45-49 "Schroeder" Division and featured two DU alumni in Bill White and Bill Young. Like their elder Denver counterparts who played in the 60-64 "Marcie" Division, the Centennial Stars also captured silver in their age division.

The driving force behind the Denver Pioneers team is Don "Cammy" Cameron, who has played with the Denver team for over two decades. Bob Peers, another longtime Denver player, has also been instrumental in the recruiting aspects for the team.

The idea behind the Denver team for the tournament was actually derived from the original University of Michigan team (now known as the 60's) that the Pioneers have competed against for a number of years. Cameron says that he would like to continue to build the Denver Pioneers team from within the DU hockey alumni community and achieve what the Michigan 60's have both on and off the ice. But as he explains, the process is long and sometimes frustrating.

"What happened a few years ago was that there wasn't enough commitment in the 55 year old group. I thought that maybe I could do something with the alumni at DU that were in that age category and put a team together. We had 12 guys in that group and maybe about five or six guys were DU alumni. That's been the focus from here on out, to try and have DU alumni play in this group. That's been probably five years ago and it continues to grow. Ultimately, we want to raise money for the DU hockey program. That's what we're trying to do. It allows us to give back to the program. It's evolving and all of us on the team feel good about what we're doing.

What I would like to see us do is to somewhat emulate what Michigan has been able to do. They have a good number of their guys who are alumni and they have some ringers that they've brought in. One thing that Michigan has done so well is that they're a totally endowed program. I think when you see the Michigan team altogether with their fans and the camaraderie that they have, it's pretty special. We feel that we have the same thing. Our camaraderie takes a backseat to no one."

While the majority of players are DU alumni, there are players that were brought in from other teams and leagues. Some have even played in previous Snoopy Tournaments with other teams. Newest addition Bob McDowell is one such example. McDowell, who is from Calgary, joined the DU team about a week before the tournament started. McDowell previously played for two Snoopy Tournament teams from his home city – the Waisters and the Old Buffaloes. The latter team also participated in this year's tournament.

Defensemen Bob Brawley (who played at Michigan State) and Blake Emery, along with forwards Peter McEwen and Jim Fieldy have all previously played with the Pioneers and have played with many of the DU alumni in other hockey tournaments over the years.

One of the more intriguing team recruiting accounts is the one behind how former adversary Bill Goodacre came to join the Pioneers.

There are opponents and then there are the Colorado College Tigers. As any DU fan is well aware of, no team is loathed more than their archrivals from down I-25. So to have a former enemy wearing your team's colors makes one wonder how it's possible. However, Goodacre isn't your average former CC Tiger.

"I love the DU guys. They're all great," Goodacre proudly intoned. "It's a heckuva compliment that they asked me to play with them."

This is not the first year that Goodacre has played on DU's tournament team. In fact, his tenure with the team goes back to the Centennial Stars days. What may further surprise both DU and CC fans alike is the fact that Goodacre is an ardent supporter of both programs.

Being given the opportunity to be a part of the DU hockey family during the weeklong tournament offered glimpses into what makes the Denver Pioneers so unique. The many fascinating and sometimes hilarious stories and recollections that were shared made it all the more incredible.

One of the funniest stories had to do with former Spartan Bob Brawley. One evening, while talking about the next day's golf game, he tossed around some par and handicap numbers that no one else seemed to understand and could only be deciphered by a Michigan State-educated statistician. The following morning, Brawley went out and won the golf game.

Then there was Wayne Smith, who could always be counted on to lighten and liven up any gathering. If it wasn't a story that he was entertaining everyone with, then it was his rendition of Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman".

While there were many light-hearted moments throughout the week, there was also a few that made you take pause. The most moving moment was listening to Cliff Koroll when he spoke about his best friend and teammate, Keith Magnuson. "Maggy", as Magnuson was affectionately called, was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 2003. The two men played hockey together for many years and were even best man at each other's weddings.

As Koroll lovingly spoke of Maggy, his face lit up while at the same time it seemed to mask a very personal sadness.

"He would've loved to play in this tournament. Our hockey careers paralleled each other's because we both played in the Saskatchewan Junior League together, then at DU and then again with the Chicago Blackhawks. We were closer than brothers."

In addition to the hockey, the tournament also provided a chance to reunite with old friends and teammates both on and off the ice, make some new friends, and simply have fun and enjoy life.

"For me, playing with these guys that I didn't have a chance to play with, and learning from them and about their skills and their reputations is the best part about it," said goaltender Ron Grahame, the youngest member of the team.

"This is the finest group of post-collegian teammates that I've ever been associated with," added Smith.

"I think it was excellent. It was a chance to renew friendships," said Blake Emery. "The fact that we're still alive for the next one is a good thing. Hopefully we're all here next year because once you get past 60, some of us are on borrowed time."

One of the more interesting discoveries was the fact that very few wives and girlfriends made the trip to Santa Rosa. The ones who were there made the tournament even more enjoyable for everyone.

" It's been really good," said Marie Harrison, the wife of Don Cameron and a DU alum herself. "I always end up being the 'hockey mom'."

" It's better than last year," added Bob Peers' wife, Dolly. "I love hockey. It's competitive and I don't like to see them lose."

One of the most memorable events was the Wednesday game between DU and their tournament nemesis, the University of Michigan. Since becoming the Pioneers, DU has beaten the Wolverines only one once in 2004, so revenge was very much on the minds of the Pioneers.

In the stands near the players benches was the Michigan cheering section complete with choreographed cheers, a chorus of kazoos playing "(Hail to) the Victors", and an obnoxiously sweaky noisemaker that eventually got on everyone's nerves.

Sitting in the stands across the ice, and not to be outdone was the DU cheering section. A slightly smaller but no less raucous group proudly clad in crimson and gold jerseys and waving matching pom-poms with the original 1968 National Championship banner draped on the wall behind them for all to see.

Both cheering sections had no shortage of enthusiasm or energy. And insults directed at the other team were abundant throughout the game. If you didn't know otherwise, you'd think that the game was being played at either Magness or Yost. The only thing missing were the respective schools' bands.

The scene on the ice was as electric as it was off of it. This was the game that both teams wanted equally to win and it showed. Short of a player ejection and maybe an all-out brawl, it had just about everything that one would expect from a fiercely contested game between two of college hockey's most celebrated teams. There was a lot of end-to-end action, great goaltending, many goals scored and of course, some bad blood.

In terms of the tournament itself, it was truly one of the best and most exciting matches. It also drew one of the largest crowds for a game that did not involve a locally based team.

It is often said that experience is the best teacher. But when the lessons taught are as unforgettable as the process of learning them, it makes the experience that much more special. The time spent with this group of remarkable men, along with their wives and girlfriends, was about far more than just getting a DU hockey history lesson. It was about having a better understanding of and appreciation for what it means to be alive and to be a Denver Pioneer. It's the preservation of a storied tradition that started over two generations ago. It's about the passion and respect for the game, the team and each other. It's about the camaraderie and the competitive spirit within. Never did its players in 'me, myself and I' terms describe the team. It was always in 'we, our and us' terms.

Perhaps Ron Grahame summed it up best in the simplest yet most eloquent term – "Pioneer Pride".

That's what it's all about. And to the men who don the DU colors in this tournament each year, that's the way it should be because anything less would be unacceptable.

Author's Note: Special thanks to Lisa Monhoff and the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center for their cooperation in the gathering of historical tournament information for this article.

A very special thank you to Bob Peers for his invaluable insights and assistance that helped make this article possible.
"It's a great day for hockey" - "Badger" Bob Johnson

Monday, April 16, 2007

Berkhoel Continues To Learn From The Past

Pioneer Playoff Hero Overcomes Incredible Adversity

From: Dayton Daily News

by Tom Archdeacon

DAYTON, Ohio - The conversation was about his early hockey days and that prompted an innocuous question.

"So where does your talent come from? Who in the family passed on the athletic gene?"

Adam Berkhoel — the goalkeeper who played in the NHL last season, the guy who has led the Dayton Bombers to Sunday's playoff opener against Trenton, the team's first postseason appointment in five years, the guy just named the best goalie in the ECHL — sat in silence for a few seconds and then decided to raise his stick and let this shot in:

"We could go into a whole other story here if we wanted to," he said quietly. "I was adopted when I was an infant. And the truth is my birth mother was murdered."

There was more silence, then the qualifier: "I don't know everything about it. Some of it I'm still learning."

While that's part of his story, it's certainly not the whole story, and what the 25-year-old wanted understood was that Jim and Tina Berkhoel — who adopted and nurtured him and his older brother, Eric — are in every sense of the word, his true mom and dad:

"They raised us all our lives. They're the ones who turned us into who we are."

So who is Berkhoel?

He's a guy who handles whatever comes his way:

• At age 16, he learned from his parents what had happened to his birth mom, whom he'd always known had passed away, but not the details.

• Three years ago — in his first pro season — he endured a pair of medical problems, either of which could have killed him.

• This year with Dayton, he's routinely handled those 100-mph pucks coming in at him, registering five shutouts in 43 games and a save percentage of .910.

"He's the guy who's provided this team with a solid foundation," said Derek Clancey, the Bombers' associate head coach. "You have to have a real mental toughness to be a goalkeeper of his calibre. Right from the start this year, we knew we had something special in Adam Berkhoel."

'Secure as a family'

Berkhoel never before has mentioned his adoptive past in print and after he did for this story, he called back home to his mom in Woodbury — a St. Paul, Minn., suburb — and let her know.

Tina reassured him that was fine. "We're secure in us as a family," she said. "And we've always wanted the boys to know their past when they were ready for it."

Although Adam said he's never talked to his birth father, he recently met his biological maternal grandparents:

"I know our birth mom was from a small town in Minnesota and played college basketball ... I heard that some company came in and worked on a grain elevator in town and when the job was done, I don't know if they were partying or what, but they found her (body) the next day.

"I don't want to upset anyone, but one day when everybody's ready, I'll find out everything I can."

He said questions arise when you least expect them — like when he's had to fill out medical forms requesting his family history.

That was the case in 2004, he said, when he was called up to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League: "I developed a staph infection in my hip socket. It probably started with a hematoma from a shot (on goal) and I got really sick."

Taken straight to surgery, he ended up losing 20 pounds and was out of hockey 2½ months.

"When they put a PICC line in my chest, they nicked my heart and that gave me an irregular heart beat, too," he said. "It was tough going for a while."

And it got tougher.

When he returned — with the Gwinnett (Ga.) Gladiators in the ECHL — he lasted a week until the skate blade of a tumbling teammate severely sliced the left side of his neck, near his jugular.

"It was pretty scary," Berkhoel said. "There was blood all over. It took 25 stitches, but I wore a plastic neck brace and played again."

Tina wasn't surprised: "You know that old saying about 'when the going gets tough?' That's Adam. The harder things are, the more he rises to the moment."

Early hockey passion

That's a lesson Mom had to instill after a setback in his very first hockey venture.

"He was about 7," Tina laughed. "A neighbor got him some hockey equipment and Adam was so proud until he went out for the team in Woodbury ... and got cut.

"He came home and said, 'Mom, I'm a loser.' I said, 'You are not!' We called the Stillwater (Minn.) team, they took him and it's just gone from there."

Not that she didn't have some initial doubts:

"He wanted to play goalie, but I figured he'd be sick of it after a year. I said, 'We're not buying pads yet. You'll have to use some from the association.' He ended up with these old brown pads filled with horse hair that kept leaking onto the ice. I figured that'd do it, but he loved it."

She and Jim began organizing fundraisers to outfit all the association's goalies and soon hockey was a family staple.

She described how the boys would put on roller blades outside and once Adam set up in front of the homemade wooden hockey goal her husband had built, Eric would "shoot on him for hours."

As a teenager, Adam led the Twin City Vulcans of the USHL to the Junior A national title. The Chicago Blackhawks made him their eighth-round pick in the 2000 NHL draft, but he opted for the University of Denver, where he won the NCAA title in 2004.

Plying the minor-league ranks since college, he was called up to the Atlanta Thrashers last season, debuted in Madison Square Garden and played nine games.

When the Thrashers didn't re-sign him this season, he was picked up by the Buffalo Sabres who — with no ECHL farm team of their own — shipped him to Dayton.

"Last year was a dream come true," Berkhoel said. "Once you get a taste of (the NHL), you want to get back so bad. Now it's just a matter of showing people I still have what it takes."

Reaches out to kids

You'll get a ringing endorsement of that from plenty of folks here, especially Leigh Roland. The two will marry June 30 back in Woodbury, where Adam's bought a house near his parents.

Family and home are big with him. He and his brother talk by phone almost daily.

His parents buy Bombers' games off the Internet so they can watch, and every chance he gets, Adam reaches out to kids back in Woodbury.

Tina told how he'd befriended a local youngster whose father had recently died: "Adam would call him to see how he's doing, leave him tickets for his games and he even put on a clinic for the boy and his hockey team ... That's just a good heart."

Some of it may have to do with his distant past — the part of which he's still learning — but it certainly is deeply rooted in the way his parents raised him.

Like Clancey said: "Right from the start, we knew we had something special in Adam Berkhoel."

Monday, January 1, 2007