WCHA Playoffs

DU Hopes To Build On Dramatic Comeback

From: Denver Post
by Mike Chambers

(left) DU battles the Wisconsin Badgers this weekend

Something must give for the University of Denver hockey team this weekend.

The Pioneers host Wisconsin in a best-of-three playoff series at Magness Arena, and if DU doesn't win two games - something it hasn't done against a Western Collegiate Hockey Association opponent since Dec. 15-16 - the Pioneers could be finished for the season.

But don't bet the ranch on the Badgers, the defending NCAA champions, just yet.

DU has been swept only once this season, Dec. 1-2 by Colorado College, so Wisconsin must buck an even bigger trend to beat the Pioneers twice.

"We haven't strung a couple games together like we've wanted to lately, but (last) weekend was a steppingstone for us," DU captain Adrian Veideman said. "I think you're going to see a different team beginning Friday night."

Veideman was referring to the Pioneers' wild, 5-5 overtime comeback Saturday night at Colorado College. The Pioneers stormed back from 3-0, 4-1 and 5-2 deficits, finally tying it by scoring twice in the final 36 seconds of regulation.

The tie gave DU the one point it needed to finish fourth in the WCHA, a point ahead of CC, and host the seventh-seeded Badgers.

"Darkest hour"

DU went 1-4-2 in its past seven games, but coach George Gwozdecky said the way the Pioneers ended the regular season Saturday is a great way to begin the playoffs.

"With some of the challenges our team faced over the last few weekends, and to be able to respond at our darkest hour and turn it into our finest moment, was really important," he said. "Not only am I proud of our resolve, but I believe this team can be a special team."

Fighting the forecheck

DU has been shut out in its past two games at home (3-0, twice), and Wisconsin also blanked the Pioneers 3-0 on Jan. 6 at Magness Arena.

DU won that series opener 3-1, but Wisconsin outplayed the Pioneers for most of the weekend by using an aggressive forecheck. The Badgers created a bevy of turnovers by not allowing the Pioneers to make an adequate first pass.

"Since that series, I think everybody saw what Wisconsin did and everybody we've played has tried to emulate that," Gwozdecky said. "Because of what Wisconsin did to us is why we've worked on it in practice so much and have improved in that area."

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