DU Gets Defensive
From: Denver Post
by Mike Chambers
T.J. Fast's departure this week to major-junior hockey is an example of how it's risky to recruit young Canadians with NHL dreams to play U.S. college hockey. But the University of Denver figures to benefit from the defenseman's exodus.
The Pioneers, who begin a two-game nonleague series against Niagara tonight at Magness Arena, are deep on the blue line, and Fast wasn't among the top three at the position. DU began the season with nine defensemen and went to eight when sophomore J.P. Testwuide switched to forward.
Sophomore Julian Marcuzzi and junior Zach Blom have combined to play just 17 games, but now they will have a better opportunity to play in the six-man rotation.
"Great competitors, great team guys," DU assistant coach Steve Miller said of Marcuzzi and Blom.
Blom, from Englewood, is the son of former DU goaltending great Buddy Blom, who coaches youth hockey in Littleton.
"I've got mixed feelings," Zach Blom said about Fast's departure. "T.J. is an awesome kid, but I'm excited about the opportunity. If called upon, I know I can do the job. For a guy in my situation, you have to hope to get in, and that's what gets you ready."
With the versatile Testwuide, the Pioneers are still eight-deep at defense, and only one - team captain Adrian Veideman - is a senior, so Fast's departure will not hinder depth at the position in the next couple of years. Junior Andrew Thomas, sophomore Chris Butler and freshmen Keith Seabrook and Cody Brookwell complete the top five at the position.
Miller said the sophomore Fast's scholarship likely would be used to expand the 2007 incoming freshman class to five.
"It will give another guy an opportunity to play here, a guy who wants to be a part of our tradition," Miller said.
Veideman said he and his teammates support Fast, who played in all 39 games as a freshman but was a healthy scratch five times this season, including once for academic reasons. The 19-year-old Calgary, Alberta, native joined the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League. Fast was a second-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in the 2005 draft.
"T.J. left to pursue other things, and we support him all the way," Veideman said. "At the same time, we're here, and we have to get over the fact that he's gone. We're deep back there, and we have guys who want to be in a lineup, and they'll get a chance."
Fast, who had 11 points (one goal) in 58 games at DU, also played on the lacrosse team.
Notes: Niagara (6-3-1 College Hockey America) is riding a five-game winning streak and is 11-1-2 since Nov. 3. The Purple Eagles have two of the country's highest-scoring players in sophomores Les Reaney (22 assists, 36 points) and Ted Cook (20 goals, 34 points). ... DU is 20-0 against CHA teams. ... DU junior goalie Peter Mannino likely will start tonight.