Thursday, May 22, 2008

Vail Celebrates Testwuide's Captaincy At DU

From: Vail Daily
by Chris Freud

(left) From the "Golden Pond" to Magness Arena for new DU Captain J.P. Testwuide

Happy Mother’s Day, Janet.

“I usually get my mom some flowers or a card,” Vail’s J.P. Testwuide said. “I try to take her out for dinner or something fun.”

Known as J.P. or Jon Paul locally, Testwuide, a soon-to-be senior defenseman at Denver University changed up his Mother’s Day routine this year. There’s no word on whether Janet got flowers, but her son told her that he had just been named the captain for the Pioneers, the defending Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff champions, for the upcoming 2008-09 season.

“She really couldn’t believe it,” J.P. said. “She was so happy.”

Not only was Mom floored, but it was a bit of history for DU’s storied program, which has won seven NCAA titles. Testwuide is the going to be the first native Coloradan to wear the captain’s C on his sweater.

“I didn’t really realize that until someone said it,” Testwuide said. “A school reporter e-mailed me, ‘How does it feel to be the first Coloradan to be DU’s captain?’ I didn’t know what she was talking about. Once I realized that I was the first, I was like, ‘Wow.’ That astounded me. There have been a lot of good players from Colorado who have played at DU. I didn’t expect that at all.”

And so the Testwuide brothers continue add letters to their respective sweaters. J.P.’s younger brother, Mike, a junior-to-be come fall, plays forward for DU’s archrival, Colorado College, and has the assistant captain’s A on his black-and-gold jersey.

“It’s fun,” J.P. said. “He got (assistant captain) before I did. He worked so hard. He deserves it.”

The announcement from DU coach George Gwozdecky that Testwuide would wear the C for the Pioneers led to some deservedly proud local reaction.

“I really think it’s an incredible honor,” said Jim Meehan, who coached both Testwuide boys when they played for the Vail Junior Hockey Association. “It shows the amount of confidence his team has in him. I’m not surprised. I thought he had an exceptional year last year. It shows the respect the team has for him as a player and a person.”

Big Role
Testwuide replaces graduating senior Andrew Thomas as the Pioneers’ captain. Like Thomas, Testwuide is a rugged defenseman. In fact, the Vail native is the ninth-straight blueliner to wear or share in the team’s captaincy.

“J.P. is the first Coloradan to serve as team captain in the 60 years of DU hockey,” Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky said in a statement issued on the university’s Web site. “J.P. has really established himself as leader with his tremendous work ethic and passion for the Denver hockey program. He is a tough competitor that will demand a lot from himself and his teammates for our team to reach its goals next season.”

Expectations will be high Magness Arena come the fall. The Pioneers finished third in the WCHA during the regular season behind regular-season champion, Colorado College, and North Dakota. But DU swept Minnesota-Duluth in the first round of the WCHA playoffs and won the conference’s postseason tournament by knocking off North Dakota and Minnesota at the Xcell Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., for a berth in the NCAA playoffs.

“We definitely played well during the last part of the season,” Testwuide said. “We came together as a team. Put it this way, whenever you go into Minnesota and beat Minnesota, it’s a lot of fun.”

Testwuide had a hunch he might be inheriting the captaincy after serving as an assistant last year. Nevertheless, actually getting tabbed is another thing.

“I’m pretty much honored just to be the captain. It’s going to be exciting,” he said. “I think I still have to play my style of hockey. I don’t want to change anything up. You’re the player the team looks up to. You just have to be yourself.”

Trick or Treat?
Testwuide started with hockey just as most local kids do with a bit of ice time and a chair to keep upright at Dobson Arena.

“Probably my fondest memory of Vail was when I started skating,” Testwuide said. “It was with the chairs and it was on Halloween. I didn’t want to leave the ice. I can’t believe I wanted to skate over Halloween.”

Passing on the annual haul of candy that year was just the beginning. J.P. and Mike both played on the Golden family’s pond. Kirk Golden’s father, Paul, would flood his back yard each winter and the Testwuides, young Golden, Colin Kingston and Spencer Ellis and others competed in mythical Game 7s of the Stanley Cup Finals for hours on end.

Meehan coached J.P. from Mini-Mites through Squirts, and even then could tell there was something special about both brothers.

“I think you can tell who is a gifted player, even at a young age,” Meehan said. “The gist of it is that it’s not only good players with certain skills, but players who have a love of the sport that shines through. Both J.P. and Mikey were always that way, terrific players.”

J.P. played one year at the Midget (high school age) level in Vail before heading to the Northwood School in Lake Placid, N.Y. And yes, his home rink was the site of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.”

Testwuide then spent two years with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League, the American equivalent of Canadian Juniors before DU came calling.

After the tough transition from Juniors to big-time Division I hockey, Testwuide got his spot and hasn’t looked back since.

The Rivalry
As J.P. assumes the role of captain at DU, while Mike continues at Colorado College, the rivalry becomes more fierce than it already is. By all accounts, J.P. and Mike are the first set of brothers to play on opposite sides of the rivalry.

Within the Testwuide family, it’s been a good-news/bad-news scenario. Mike and the Tigers hold a 6-1-1 advantage over J.P. and the Pioneers during the two years the brothers have suited up. (For the record, Janet wears halves of DU and CC sweatshirt sewn together to the rivalry games in the interests of impartiality.)

Looking ahead to the schedule, DU opens against NCAA runner-up Notre Dame Oct. 11. Next are two games at Magness against Wisconsin, the team that eliminated DU in the first round of the NCAA playoffs. Two weeks later, J.P. and DU and Mike and CC meet in the first of two-home-and-home sets.

“It’s such a fun rivalry,” J.P. said. “I think both teams will be the teams to beat (in the WCHA). I can’t say anything about CC because it’s not good karma. Whenever the two teams play, it definitely a battle. Both teams bring their best to the table. I wouldn’t expect anything less.

“We’ve pretty much played against each other our whole lives. It just makes it that much better. We’re pretty much best friends off the ice, but we love to battle each other.”

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