DU Recruit John Lee Getting The Job Done In USHL

(above) DU recruit John Lee will play for the Pioneers next season

Defenseman's impact felt beyond the stat sheet

By JIM NELSON, Courier Sports Writer

WATERLOO — DU recruit John Lee is not going to wow a lot of people on a stat sheet.

The Waterloo Black Hawks second year defenseman does not center his game on scoring goals, dishing out assists or delivering big hits.

While all those things are part of Lee’s repertoire, head coach P.K. O’Handley says the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Lee is one of the best rink managers in the United States Hockey League.

And, O’Handley isn’t talking about the guy that drives the zamboni in-between periods, although Lee probably could handle that chore.

"John manages a game so well," O’Handley said. "He gets the puck out of the zone, makes great passes and sets guys up.

"John just has tremendous rink management. He knows what he can and can’t do, whether its at home in Young Arena or on the road.

"We wouldn’t be where we are today if we did not have John Lee playing on the blueline."

Lee’s game has been good for a while.

He was a Mr. Hockey finalist in Minnesota a year ago, when he split time with his high school team in Moorhead, Minn., and the Black Hawks. He appeared in 36 games overall, 27 in the regular season.

His rink management was good enough to land him a scholarship offer from the University of Denver. Lee was also drafted by the Florida Panthers in the fifth round of the 2007 NHL draft — ahead of fellow Black Hawk blueliners Blake Kessel and Drew MacKenzie.

"I’m a defensive ‘D’," Lee said. "I try to keep the puck out of our zone, make good first passes and try to contribute points when the opportunity is there."

Lee registered nine points a year ago, and followed that up with 12 points in 59 regular season games this season.

He has been paired on the ice frequently with MacKenzie, a Buffalo Sabre draft pick.

Although Denver was beckoning, Lee decided to come back to Waterloo for another season.

"It was a chance to get another year of experience and step my game up to the next level in order to play college hockey," said Lee, who committed to Denver as a junior.

Lee doesn’t have bad bloodlines, either.

Lee’s older brother, Brian, who was drafted in the first round, ninth overall in 2005, made his NHL debut with the Ottawa Senators this year after leaving the University of North Dakota early to turn pro.

Brian played 12 games with the Lincoln Stars in 2004-05 after he earned Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey Award.

O’Handley believes some day soon the two will be playing against each other.

John likes that idea.

"To get drafted last year was a huge honor. But there is a lot of hard work left to do to get there, " Lee said. "I thought we’d get a chance to play against each other in college. But that obviously won’t happen because Brian left North Dakota early.

"But it would be unreal to play against him some day in the NHL."


Chicago Steel vs. Waterloo Black Hawks

What: USHL Clark Cup playoffs, Game 2

When: Today, 7:05 p.m.

Where: Young Arena

Series to date: Waterloo took a 1-0 series lead Wednesday with a 4-1 victory.

The Black Hawks broke open a tight game with three goals, including two 13 seconds apart, by Siim Liivik and Blake Kessel in the third period. Nick Larson and Keegan Meuer also scored for Waterloo.

The Black Hawks held Chicago to 14 shots on net, and the Steel didn’t get on the scoreboard until the game’s final 22 seconds.

Camrose Wins Doyle Cup

From AJHL Website

The Camrose Kodiaks won their second consecutive Doyle Cup by defeating the Penticton Vees 4 -2 on Friday night. The Kodiaks will now represent the Pacific Region at the 2008 RBC Royal Bank Cup National Junior ‘A’ Championship in May.

The Kodiaks have won five Doyle Cup Championships in the club’s eleven year history. The Alberta Junior Hockey League has captured six of the past nine Doyle Cup titles. The Fort McMurray Oil Barons won in 2000 while the Camrose Kodiaks won in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2008.

2008 Doyle Cup Results
Friday April 18 Penticton Vees 1 at Camrose Kodiaks 3
Saturday April 19 Penticton Vees 3 at Camrose Kodiaks 4 OT
Tuesday April 22 Camrose Kodiaks 0 at Penticton Vees 3
Wednesday April 23 Camrose Kodiaks 3 at Penticton Vees 1
Friday April 25 Camrose Kodiaks 4 at Penticton Vees 2
Camrose wins series 4-1

The Kodiaks opened the scoring early with an unassisted goal from Jesse Todd followed quickly by a short-handed goal from Joe Colborne to lead 2-0 in the 1st period. Camrose took a 3-0 lead when Colborne scored his second of the night. The Vees made it 3-1 to enter the second intermission, but the Kodiaks regained a 3 goal lead with a power-play goal from Mike Connolly. The Vees scored their second and final goal of the night with just over 6 minutes remaining, but fell short to the visiting Kodiaks.

Joe Colborne recorded 2 goals in Friday’s final game and is the leading scorer in the 2008 Doyle Cup with 7 points in 5 games. Teammate Jesse Todd also recorded 2 points and was second overall in scoring with 6 points in 5 games. Kodiaks forward Joe Colborne was rated 28th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting in the final rankings for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

The Camrose Kodiaks captured their second consecutive Alberta Junior Hockey League Championship and fifth League title with a series win over the Fort McMurray Oil Barons on April 15th, 2008. The Kodiaks have succeeded to the League Final in seven of the last nine seasons, winning five AJHL titles (2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008) and five Doyle Cup Championships. The Camrose Kodiaks were the RBC Royal Bank Cup Champions in 2001 and have also claimed two National silver medals (2003, 2005).
The 2008 RBC Royal Bank Cup National Junior ‘A’ Championship will be held in Cornwall, Ontario from May 3rd -11th, 2008. The Kodiaks will kick off the Tournament on May 4th at 2:00 PM.

Watch DU Recruits On Internet Tonight

If you want to watch the future of DU hockey on the internet, tonight's Doyle Cup game between the Camrose Kodiaks and the Penticton Vees will be available on the internet for $6.95. DU recruits Joe Colborne and Shawn Ostrow play for the Kodiaks.

DU alumnus Matt Carle and the San Jose Sharks will play the Dallas Stars on VS. Network at 8 pm MST.

DU Alum Paul Stastny and the Colorado Avalanche take on the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday at 1 pm MST.

Notre Dame Takes Out Post Ad To Thank Denver

(above) The ad appeared in the Post's Sports Section today

The Notre Dame hockey program took out an ad in today's Denver Post to thank DU, the Denver Sports Commission, the Avalanche & Pepsi Center among others for a "great Frozen Four."

Needless to say Notre Dame is a class act.

McConnell Named Assistant Coach In Sioux City

From: USHL Website

The Des Moines Buccaneers announced today the hiring of Jean-Paul (J.P.) Parise as their new head coach and general manager and DU Alumnus Scott McConnell as associate head coach. McConnell has been the assistant coach of the Indiana Ice for the past two seasons.

Parise is the father of Zach and Jordan Parise. Both are former standouts at the University of North Dakota and are a part of the New Jersey Devils organization.

McConnell was a four year player at the University of Denver and a member of the 2004 NCAA Championship team. As an assistant coach with the Indiana Ice in the USHL, McConnell helped lead the Ice to the 2007 USHL Final Four and was named to the coaching staff of the 2008 USHL All-Star Game.

Two DU Recruits Move Up In CSS Rankings

From: NHL.com & DU Athletics Website

The final rankings were released today for the NHL's Central Scouting Service Listing of the top 210 North American prospects for the NHL Draft in June. Two DU recruits moved up nicely in the rankings from the Mid-Season Report. David Carle moved up from #74 to #60 and Joe Colborne moved up from #30 to #28. This is the first time in recent memory that DU has had two players ranked in the Top 60.

Carle helped Shattuck-St. Mary’s to the USA Hockey Tier I Under-18 national championship this season. The 6-1, 185-pound skilled defenseman tallied 45 points on 10 goals and 35 assists in 55 games for the Sabres, who defeated Team Illinois 5-1 in the championship game and finished the season 42-11-3. Carle tallied six points on three goals and three assists in the national tournament.

Colborne recently was named the 2008 playoff most valuable player of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. The high-scoring forward led the Camrose Kodiaks to their second consecutive AJHL title by leading all playoff scorers with 16 points on eight goals and eight assists. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Colborne led the Kodiaks to the AJHL regular-season title by leading the league in scoring with 90 points on 33 goals and 57 assists in 55 games.

The Rankings were determined at the NHL Central Scouting meetings which took place in Toronto, tasked with deciding the final North American rankings for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Central Scouting called in its top scouts – 10 in all – and crammed them into the Conn Smythe Board Room at the League’s Toronto office to decide the order in which top draft-eligible talent.

It was a long and grueling process for the scouts, who have spent the entire season wandering across North America to assess these young men. But, for those that aren’t involved in the day-to-day grind that entails, these meetings are an eye-opening look into the names that will dominate the NHL Entry Draft discussions for the next three months.

Most often, scouts offer opinions on players – even those outside their area—without even consulting notes. Stats are provided and are usually spot-on. Heights and weights are thrown out without hesitation and college commitments, if applicable, are at the tip of the tongue.

Not impressive, you say? Well let’s remember almost 300 North American skaters are in play when the meeting opened up Wednesday morning. So, think again.

The other interesting thing that comes out of these meetings is the ability to gauge where players stand against their peers from other leagues. Each full-time Central Scouting scout is asked to see numerous games outside his region to be able to cross-check the opinions offered by the primary scouts.

Paper Reports Colborne To Receive Major Award

From: Edmonton Sun
by Johnathan Huntington

PENTICTON -- Expect Camrose Kodiaks' forward Joe Colborne to be named Canadian Junior A hockey player of the year. This award is presented annually to the best Junior A player throughout Canada.

Although there is no official word on the award, Sun Media has learned an announcement is expected soon.

Projected to be a first-round NHL draft pick this year, the lanky centre finished second in the AJHL regular-season scoring race with 90 points (33 G, 57 A in 55 games).

In the playoffs - entering last night's Game 4 of the Doyle Cup - the six-foot-four Calgary native has 20 points in 21 games.

Committed to the University of Denver next fall, the 18-year-old was an 90-95% average high school student.

Colborne is one of seven finalists for the award, which is officially called the RBC-Canadian Junior A Hockey League Player of the Year.

DU Stars Of Tomorrow Shine In Pacific Showdown

(above) DU fans can expect to see Joe Colborne creating traffic in front of the net next season

DU recruits Joe Colborne and Shawn Ostrow tallied goals as the Camrose Kodiaks are one win away from winning the Doyle Cup for the second consecutive year. Camrose defeated the Penticton Vees by a score of 3-1 Wednesday night. Colborne tallied the game winning goal in the first period, while Ostrow added the insurance marker with a beautiful goal in the third period. Ostrow toe-dragged the puck on a 2-on-1 and beating Vees goaltender Alex Evin.

Game 5 is set for Friday night at the Penticton Memorial Arena at 7:00 pm (local time). This best of seven series featuring the Enerflex Cup Champion of the AJHL and the Fred Page Cup Champion of the BCHL will be played in Penticton, BC for the remainder of the series. The winner of the 2008 Doyle Cup will represent the Pacific Region at the 2008 RBC Royal Bank Cup National Junior ‘A’ Championship in Cornwall, Ontario from May 3rd -11th, 2008.

DU Professor Wants To Ban "Bikini Boot Camp"

(above) When DU "Bad Boy" Professor Sheila Schroeder was last spotted by the DU Clarion newspaper and on LetsGoDU she was being led away in handcuffs from the Denver Clerk's office after they wouldn't recognize her "marriage" to partner Kate Burns

Since its the offseason and we're a little light on content, we've had to dig a littler depper than usual to keep our audience distracted while we figure out how many days until the NHL Draft takes place. We like bikini's so this litlle nugget caught our eye.

First her marriage wasn't recognized by the Denver Clerk & Recorders Office. Now DU professor Sheila Schroeder has turned her attention to the Coor's Fitness Staffers in the Ritchie Center. Her letter in this weeks Clarion is good for a laugh, considering the source.
Dear Editor,

I have tried repeatedly to get the attention of Coors Fitness staffers on the issue of their Bikini Boot Camp.

I've written letters and talked to folks in person, but no one there seems to understand how naming a class Bikini Boot Camp perpetuates notions of status quo femininity, feeds into the culture of female bodies as spectacle and hastens serious and potentially deadly health issues of anorexia and bulimia.

In my last failed attempt to get them to change the name of this class to something less focused on body image and more focused on health, I was told they 'ran the name by female staffers' who didn't find a problem with the name.

Had the decision-makers at the Fitness Center attended any of the Misogyny Conference held in recent days on our campus, they might have discovered that both women and men are subject to misogynistic thinking because the culture as a whole devalues women.

I implore the Fitness Center, which does so many things right, to consider changing the name of this class.

The name simply perpetuates experiencing women only as bodies and not as full human beings.


Dr. Sheila E. Schroeder
University of Denver Mass Communications and Journalism Studies Professor

Colborne Jumps Up To #23 On ISS Draft List

The lastest International Scouting Services' ranking of top draft-eligible prospects for the NHL's 2008 Entry Draft, listed DU recruit Joe Colborne as the 23rd top prospect.

Colborne had been ranked 29th or 30th in most of the I.S.S. Rankings this season, so the latest rankings released on Apil 15th represents a move up the list.

International Scouting Services ranks players from all over the world and is used by NHL teams to judge talent. ISS evaluates, analyzes and ranks players aged 16, 17 & 18 years old. The latest ranking virtually assures that Colborne will be selected in the First Round of the 2008 NHL draft held in June in Ottawa, Canada.

Avalanche Player Enjoys DU Hockey Game

(above) DU fans (L-R) Royce, Todd, Steve and Mark pose with Avalanche player Adam Foote (black shirt) this season at Magness Arena

When Colorado Avalanche player Adam Foote (black shirt) was spotted at a DU hockey game at Magness Arena, the DU fanbase sprung into action for a quick photo.

Foote mentioned that he loved the quality of college hockey and said that he was really enjoying the game and should go more often. Foote won two Stanley Cups for the Avalanche in 1996 and 2001.

Colborne Nominated For CJAHL Player Of The Year

The Canadian Junior A Hockey League (CJAHL) has announced the seven finalists for the RBC - CanadianJunior A Hockey League Player of the Year. One finalist was selected from seven of the CJAHL’s member leagues. Camrose Kodiaks forward Joe Colborne is the AJHL nominee.
JOE COLBORNE - AJHL (Camrose Kodiaks) The AJHL’s second-leading scorer during the regular season (33G 57A 90P), Joe Colborne has solidified himself as a top prospect for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft with a 2007-08 season that included a gold medal at the 2007 World Junior A Challenge, two assists in the CJAHL Top Prospects Game, a spot on the AJHL South Division All-Star Team and a trip to the National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team selection camp.

Off the ice Colborne carries himself with the same poise he shows on the ice, as the Calgary native is active in local schools, reading to children and tutoring those that need help with their school work. Despite missing more than three weeks to join Team Canada West for the 2007 World Junior A Challenge, Colbornewas able to sustain his 90% average, a testament to his drive not only on the ice, but off it as well. .

Committed to the University of Denver for the 2008-09 season, Colborne will bring the same leadership qualities to NCAA hockey that he brought to the AJHL for the past two seasons, helping his team win a league championship in 2006-07 and 2007-08.

2nd Game Doyle Cup - Camrose 4 Penticton 3 OT

The Camrose Kodiaks beat the Penticton Vees 4-3 in OT on Saturday night to take a 2-0 series lead in the Doyle Cup. DU recruit Joe Colborne led all scorers with 1 goal and 2 assists. Shawn Ostrow was pointless. The series now shifts to Pentiction with Game 3 on Tuesday night.

Box Score

1st Game Doyle Cup - Camrose 3 Penticton 1

On Friday night in the opening game of the Doyle Cup between the Camrose Kodiaks and the Pentcton Vees, Camrose won 3-1. DU recruit Joe Colborne had an assist on Camrose's third goal, a PP goal. DU recruit Shawn Ostrow did not make the score sheet. Incoming UND recruit Brett Hextall of Penticton led everyone in penalty minutes with 6. He had one unsportmanlike penalty and two elbowing penalties.

Game 2 is tonight in Camrose. If Penticton wins tonight, Game 3 will be on Sunday in Camrose. If Camrose wins tonight, the series will shift to Pentiction for the remaining games. Camrose are the defending Doyle Cup Champions.

Box Score

Best Seat In The House Photographs DU Recruit

(above) Best Seat In The House Blog captured this photo of 2009 DU recruit Paul Phillips (on right) and teammate Matt Tomassoni working on their sticks before their playoff game this week. Phillips plays for the Cedar Rapids Roughriders, who were eliminated from the USHL playoffs on Wednesday.

Stastny's GWG Propels Avalanche Over Wild

(above) DU alum Paul Statsny (right) celebrates his game winning goal with teammates Peter Forsberg and Milan Hedjuk last night

From: Denver Post
by Adrian Dater

ST. PAUL, Minn. — DU Alum Paul Statsny's first career playoff goal came at important juncture of the Avalanche's playoff series with the Minnesota Wild. Despite being dominated for most of the first two periods, the Avalanche beat the Wild 3-2, taking a lead of the same margin in the Western Conference quarterfinals.

Avs coach Joel Quenneville probably deserves a verbal bouquet or two for making some lineup adjustments after the second intermission. He moved Peter Forsberg back onto a line with Milan Hejduk and Stastny, and moved Wolski back onto a unit with Joe Sakic and Andrew Brunette. The Avs started to play more cohesive hockey in all three zones again and finally put some pressure in the Wild's end.

"We had to do something, because things weren't going our way," Quenneville said.

Wild defenseman Sean Hill took an interference penalty at 3:10, tackling Ryan Smyth in the corner. It was Colorado's first power play in 17 minutes, and the Avs took advantage at 5:06. Wolski, alone in the right circle, one-timed a slap shot past Backstrom to the short side, after a saucer crossing pass from John-Michael Liles. In hockey parlance, Liles' pass is known as a "pizza," and Wolski dug into it.

"I was just happy to get some time on the power play, and I just want to try and make the best of my opportunities," Wolski said.

Liles said: "Woolly's a talented player and definitely has the ability to make shots like that. He made a great shot. But that was definitely Theo's night. He played unbelievable. Right now, we're just going to go back and shore some things up and come out ready to go on Saturday."

Stastny's beautiful backhand goal, at 6:25, turned out to be the game-winner, as Brian Rolston scored on the last of his eight shots with three seconds left. It was Stastny's first point of the series, but perhaps the prettiest goal of any so far. In one motion, Stastny corralled Hejduk's hard lead pass and lifted the backhander home.

"It's good for the confidence, but as long as we got the win, that's all that matters," Stastny said. "They played real tough against us tonight, and we're going to have to be better the next game if we want to win."

Brock Trotter Called Up To Montreal Canadiens

(above) Brock Trotter earlier this year with the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs

Western College Hockey Blog mentioned that Brock Trotter was among six players called up to the Montreal Canadiens after Hamilton was eliminated from the AHL playoffs. The Canadiens haven't issued Trotter a number as of this morning but he is listed on the official playoff Roster.

Before joining the Hamilton Bulldogs on February 7, Trotter played 24 games with DU in his third season with the NCAA team, he was leading the Pioneers with 31 points in 24 games (13 goals, 18 assists), posting a plus-12 rating and 65 shots on goal. The 20-year-old centerman compiled nine points (3 goals, 6 assists), a plus-2 rating and four penalty minutes in 21 games with Hamilton this season.

Montreal leads their first round playoff series with Boston 3 games to 2.

DJ Powers Interviews Eric Ehn For LetsGoDU

(above) Peter Mannino and Air Force player Eric Ehn chat during the Skills Competition last Friday

YouTube Video of Ehn's Nifty Penalty Shot at Skills Competition

Editors Note: D.J. Powers of Hockey's Future.com & Future Considerations.com writes articles about NHL prospects. In the past she's written exclusive articles for LetsGoDU about DU hockey alums at the Snoopy Old-Timers Tournament and interviewed former Pioneer Adrian Veideman. As the Frozen Four approached we asked her to write an article or two with a DU theme for us to publish in LetsGoDU. Yesterday she interviewed DU Captain Andy Thomas. Today's interview is with Air Force star Eric Ehn.

Q & A with Eric Ehn
By: DJ Powers
Special to Let’s Go DU

Eric Ehn has just completed a stellar career at the Air Force Academy that included being the first player in the program’s history to be named a Hobey Hat Trick finalist in 2007. He helped guide the Falcons to two consecutive Atlantic Hockey tournament championships and with them berths into the NCAA Tournament. He finishes a record-setting career at the Air Force Academy with 146 points in 133 career games. Earlier this season, Ehn missed 14 games due to a leg injury. During last Friday’s Skills Challenge at the Pepsi Center in Denver, he was named the Top Skills Performer.

Following the Skills Challenge, Eric Ehn took time out for this interview.

Q: First of all, how are you doing?

EE: I’m doing alright. I’m starting to get my health back, which is nice. It makes sports possible, which I love.

Q: How is your leg?

EE: It’s a little sore after this. I did some skating. I love to come out and skate and have fun out here, so I paid the price a little.

Q: I know that you were in the puck relay and you seemed to get around those pylons or whatever they call those things really well.

EE: Oh, those things were a little sneaky there around the red line, but I navigated it fine there apparently, but I almost went down. It was a lot of fun. Man, we got smoked. I’m not sure why. I think their (East team) cones were a little tighter or something like that.

Q: So what else were you in tonight?

EE: I was in the fastest skater competition, for me – not a chance! (Laughs) But I was in the breakaway, so that was fun.

Q: Tell me what it’s like for you to be here skating again and having that camaraderie again?

EE: That’s the one thing that you don’t realize that you miss so much, is the guys and hanging out with them after the game. Then they give you a weekend of it and kind of tease you a little bit. It makes you realize that you need to get on another team fast because these experiences disappear.

Q: You’ll be leaving the Air Force Academy soon, so what’s next for you?

EE: I’ll be serving in the Air Force and if hockey opportunities present themselves, I’ll try and follow them.

Q: Do you have an (Air Force) assignment yet?

EE: Yeah, Santa Barbara, CA

Q: So what will you be doing?

EE: I’ll be in space and missiles training. I’m not sure which avenue that they’ll be sending me down yet, but it should be interesting and definitely informative.

Q: So where will you be stationed at?

EE: Vandenberg.

Q: How long will you be stationed there?

EE: For a year and then I’ll get reassigned.

Q: Are any of your teammates going with you?

EE: Yeah, five of them…or four of them.

Q: Really? So who is going with you?

EE: (Ian) Harper, (Bryan) Becker, (Josh) Print and (Matt) Charbonneau

Q: You mentioned hockey opportunities earlier. Have you had anyone calling you?

EE: Not that I know about. You’d have to ask Frank (Serratore)

Q: When you do leave the Academy, what are you going to miss the most aside from attending and playing for them?

EE: I’m going to miss the guys and the camaraderie. You get used to the four-year dorms and always having your buddies around. That’ll be tough to start a new life and a new lifestyle, but I think I’m ready for it.

Q: What will you take with you from the Air Force Academy experience, both on and off the ice?

EE: I think that there are too many things to throw my finger on one thing. But if I had to say something, It would be just maturity and getting prepared for life. They do a really good job of presenting you with difficult situations and stresses on your life, and time management becomes key. You really got to have your ‘X’s and ‘O’s together and cross your ‘T’s and dot your ‘I’s It’s mostly positive stuff. They just kind of test you all the time to make sure that you’re ready.

Q: Finally, now that you’ll be leaving the Academy soon and after everything that you’ve accomplished there, what would you like to be best remembered for?

EE: I don’t know. I guess the poster that we had this year kind of summed it all up really well – Championship Foundation. All the seniors are pretty proud to have been there for the back-to-back (Atlantic Hockey) titles. We’re happy that there are championship teams, and just kind of living at the Air Force Academy now. That’s something. We’re struggling with recruiting, deficits that we have to other schools, and standards whipped up on that level. But if we get some more championships under our belts, hopefully the program will stay strong.

LetsGoDU-USCHO Posters Game A Big Success

Top Row (left to right): GLM, shrader, brianvf, Lord Sidious, MNS, Bakunin, Mowers10, Eric
Bottom Row: pgb-ohio, The Darkness, Quizmire, Geist, con1977, MEg, BCEagle

(above) Several Posters Game T-shirts were spotted at the Frozen Four

(above) Players wore the jerseys of their favorite school, which added to the "all-star" feel of the event

(left) The official logo of the event

Just hours before the National Championship game in the Pepsi Center, a different brand of hockey took place in DU's beautiful Magness Arena. In front of 6,400 mostly empty seats, some of the most ferocious internet posters in college hockey participated in the annual USCHO.com Posters Game. The pace was slower and less skilled than the Notre Dame vs. Boston College championship affair, but was just as passionate and enthusiastic.

Witnesses described the game as a rousing success and not without it's share of great moments and a couple of low lights as well.

The game featured the home team (white jersey) Baconators and the visiting team (dark jersey) Vagalanche. The Vagalanche defeated the Baconators 8-6 and were lead by Geist and shrader who each had two goals. brianvf and MAV each also had a goal and MNS had a few assists in the game. The Baconators had a hat trick from DU's USCHO beat writer Candice Horgan and two goals from Lord Sidious.

The Who's Whining Now Blog handed out post game awards and recognition.

This year for the first time, the ice time was sponsored and donated by LetsGoDU and several DU alums. The entire event was organized by Denver based hockey writer Theresa Spisak.

In 2009 the game will be held during the Frozen Four in Washington D.C.

DJ Powers Interviews Andy Thomas For LetsGoDU

(above) After the Skills Competition at the Frozen Four, DU Captain Andy Thomas sat down with hockey journalist D.J. Powers to talk about hockey, DU and his future

Editors Note: D.J. Powers of Hockey's Future.com & Future Considerations.com writes articles about NHL prospects. In the past she's written exclusive articles for LetsGoDU about DU hockey alums at the Snoopy Old-Timers Tournament and interviewed former Pioneer Adrian Veideman. As the Frozen Four approached we asked her to write an article or two with a DU theme for us to publish in LetsGoDU. The first interview was with DU Captain Andy Thomas. Tomorrow we'll run her interview with Air Force star Eric Ehn.

(left) Mannino & Thomas guarded DU's net for four years together

Q & A with Andy Thomas
By: DJ Powers
Special to LetsGoDU

Defenseman Andy Thomas just completed an outstanding four-year career at the University of Denver, having served as team captain this past season. Thomas, a 2004 draft selection of the Washington Capitals, was became one of the Pioneers most reliable and durable defensemen. He appeared in 161 career games, posting 26 career points (six goals, 20 assists). Thomas’ 161 career games ties him for seventh all-time in the program’s history, while his 278 career penalty minutes ranks him eighth all-time. During the Skills Challenge last Friday at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Thomas won the Shooting Accuracy title, hitting 3 of 4 targets in the playoff round after going 4-for-8 in the opening round.

Following the Skills Challenge, Andy Thomas took time out for this interview.

Q: First of all, you were great out there tonight.

AT: Thank you

Q: So tell me about all those events that you were in, and how it all went for you tonight.

AT: I think Coach Gwozdecky wanted to put me into as many skills (events) as I could be in, just so I can keep improving myself, because I knew that I would screw up one or two of them if I didn’t do well. (Laughs) The hardest shot competition didn’t go great and obviously the breakaway relay didn’t either. It was a lot of fun and this is really great for Colorado.

Q: C’mon, Coach Gwozdecky was giving you some preferential treatment, right?

AT: (Laughs) Maybe, maybe, but I would never say that. That’s for sure.

Q: So how has the weekend been for you?

AT: Hectic. It’s been real busy. Obviously living here in Denver makes it a lot easier. It’s been pretty structured and pretty rigorous. I’ve been spending a lot of time here at the rink and have been watching some great hockey. I saw the crowds yesterday and two terrific hockey games, it was so great.

Q: Now, I’m going to ask you a real painful question

AT: Go ahead. I’ve probably been asked it before.

Q: How is it for you personally to be here at the Pepsi Center during the Frozen Four without your (DU) team among the four teams playing here this weekend?

AT: It’s tough. We had a lot of freshmen this year. We had 11-12 freshmen and it’s disappointing. At the end of the day and at the end of the season, there’s only one team really happy. Every team is kind of in the same situation. We won the (WCHA) playoff championship and the Broadmoor Trophy and can’t really beat that, especially with so many young guys. If you’d told me at the beginning of the year that we would’ve done this well, then I’d have told you that I’d definitely have been satisfied.

Q: Winning the WCHA Playoff Championship had to have felt pretty good, especially since everyone seemed to be predicting either North Dakota or CC winning it.

AT: Yeah, we were playing great hockey, but in the end [NCAA Tournament], we ran into a team (Wisconsin) that didn’t have much to lose. We played Wisconsin real tight, but gave up six goals. So we kind of beat ourselves that night. But we went into the WCHA tournament with a lot of confidence and we were successful there.

Q: So what happened against Wisconsin in the regional aside from the fact that you guys lost in their house?

AT: Yeah, that was tough. It adds a whole new element to it. But they play good hockey and great playoff hockey. They’re very well coached and have a good goalie, so it was tough.

Q: But that sounds just like what you guys have.

AT: Yeah, and that’s the funny thing. They play a much similar defensive style. They can get all the pucks to the net and they play real physical. They played with a lot of emotion and they had a lot of rest coming into that weekend.

Q: Having served as captain of the Pioneers this year and going through the many adversities that you guys went through, how were you able to handle it all and bring the guys together game in and game out?

AT: We just kept reminding each other and kept reminding all of the guys on the team that adversity happens, whether it’s injuries, sickness or personnel losses. We obviously faced some injuries and some personnel losses, but we battled through it. We have a lot of great, young guys that have a lot of energy who were very, very understanding, very attentive and really took what I, the other captains and coaches said to heart. Everyone says that I have a real hard job with 11-12 freshmen, but they made my job so easy because they were like clay to mold. Looking at the next three or four years, Denver hockey is going to be very, very good.

Q: Now that you’ve wrapped up your career at DU, what are you taking from it going forward?

AT: Well, I’m a Capitals draft pick, so we’ll see what happens in the next month or two here. The best part is that I’ll be getting my degree pretty soon. That’s exciting to have that chapter of my life coming to a close and we’ll see what happens. Obviously getting an education from Denver isn’t too bad.

Q: Speaking of the Capitals, have they been in touch with you since the (DU) season has ended?

AT: Yeah, there’s been a little bit of contact, but they’re real busy with the (NHL) playoffs and they’re going to be busy for the next however many weeks, which is great that they’re back in the playoffs and having more success. It’s a long summer and they have my rights until August 15, so it’s a big waiting game. I’m starting to realize that now. (Laughs)

Q: So is the wait really tough?

AT: It is because you want to know what your future is going to hold for you, and what’s going to come next. It’s so hard to wait, especially in terms of hockey and professional sports. But the nice thing is I know that I have my degree from Denver to fall back on.

Q: Something that I asked one of your former teammates, Adrian Veideman earlier that I’ve gotta ask you is in your career at DU, how many oranges and how many lemons did win? [Orange & Lemon YouTube Video]

AT: I counted them like three days ago, and I had two oranges and five lemons in my career.

Q: So when did you win your oranges?

AT: My sophomore and junior years. In this past year, I came real close once, but I’m alright with it. That helmet got pretty uncomfortable a couple of times. (Laughs)

Q: Finally, now that you’ll be leaving DU soon, what would you like to be best remembered for?

AT: The pride that I had playing for Denver and the fact that I truly cherished every second that I wore the jersey. I’m thankful because towards the end of this year, I really realized that it was coming to an end. I just want to be remembered as a person who was very appreciative of all the people that have influenced me. It’s tough and it always has to come to end, even though you don’t want it to. I just want to be remembered as a person who was passionate about, appreciative of, and really takes a lot of pride in Denver and Denver hockey.

Q: Do you feel that the team has become like a second family to you?

AT: Oh, absolutely. They took a chance on me when I was 18 and Coach Gwozdecky threw me right into the fire.

Q: In covering the DU old-timers at the Snoopy Tournament, one thing that I discovered was the team really is like one big family.

AT: Yeah, guys like Jim Wiste, Cliff Koroll, Ron Grahame and all the names. A lot of those people have had a big influence on me since my career started at Denver. And even former captains like Ryan Caldwell and Matt Laatsch I credit a lot to for taking me from where I’ve been to where I’ve gotten to now. So yeah, it really is a family here. If you’ve worn the jersey, you’d understand.

Q: So for you, it’s more like an extended family.

AT: Absolutely and they’re people who would do anything for you too.

DU Recruit Just An "Average Joe"

(above) Joe Colborne was MVP of the AJHL Playoffs

From: Calgary Herald
by Kristen Odland

Good luck trying to find anyone in the town of Camrose who thinks DU Recruit Joe Colborne is just plain average.

Two years in a row, the 18-year-old Camrose Kodiaks centre had his Alberta Junior Hockey League post-season experience end with all the marbles.

But this time, he capped off his second AJHL title with a 2008 playoff most valuable player award on his shelf.

"We call him the 'Average Joe' or the 'Big Jumbo Joe,'" chuckled Camrose head coach Boris Rybalka Wednesday afternoon, a day after the Kodiaks finished off the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in a best-of-seven AJHL final series. "He just stays calm and doesn't let things rattle him. He's very humble and knows that whatever he gets, he's going to have to work for.

"The day he makes pro, he knows he's going to have to work even harder to keep getting what he deserves."

Colborne, one of eight Calgary-area players in Camrose, notched the Kodiaks' first marker Tuesday night -- to snap his own five-game scoring drought -- on the power play. The goal came in the Kodiaks' 2-0 Game 7 victory that earned them a fifth AJHL title.

"The biggest thing for us is, yeah, we just had a big win," pointed out Colborne, who has played on a line for most of the season with Calgarians Mike Connolly and Jesse Todd. "To win the league is huge, but our goal is not complete yet.

"It was a lot of fun what we've had so far, but we can't be ready to celebrate just yet because we have a long ways to go."

The next step is the Doyle Cup series for the Alberta/British Columbia title starting Friday in Camrose against the Penticton Vees.

Winning that would secure them a spot in the junior 'A' championship, the Royal Bank Cup, in Cornwall, Ont., starting May 3.

Colborne and a handful of this year's group nearly went the distance in 2007 when Prince George, B.C., hosted nationals, but were ousted in a marathon fifth-overtime period by the hosts in semifinals.

Now, with an added 20 pounds of muscle on his six-foot-four frame, he's already prepped for the long haul.

"I feel like a completely different player this year than last year," said Colborne, bound for the NCAA's University of Denver this autumn. "With the slightly larger role I have on the team this year . . . you just feel a lot more comfortable."

Not only did he wrap up the playoffs with eight goals and eight assists in 18 games, Colborne finished No. 2 in AJHL scoring during the regular season with 90 points (33 goals and 57 assists) in 55 games.

But another dangling carrot at the end of the season is the 2008 National Hockey League draft.

Colborne's name has shown up all over web rankings having been pegged at No. 30 in the NHL's Central Scouting mid-season rankings since January and currently holds the No. 23 stake on the International Scouting Service list.

Likely, he'll be scooped up some time in the first round.

"And he deserves it," added Rybalka. "Yet, he has to stay focused.

"Just because people say things out there and are projecting him (to draft highly), he has go and prove it.

"Everyday he has to wake up and show why he deserves it and why he is one of the best players in Canada."

DU Recruit Led USNDP Under-17 Team In Assists

(left) Drew Shore is a 6'2 190 lbs. forward from Englewood, Colorado

From: USA Hockey's Website

DU recruit Drew Shore
(Denver, Colo.) won't be a Pioneer until the 2009 season, but he racked up an impressive season for the U.S. national team. Shore led the U.S. National Under-17 Team with 25 assists this season, while ranking second on the team with 38 points. The forward also netted three shorthanded markers, good for second on the squad.

Shore helped lead the US Under-17 Team to record 30 wins, earning the National Team Development Program’s fifth consecutive berth in the North American Hockey League’s Robertson Cup Playoffs, and posting a 7-4 mark in international competition, highlighted the U.S. National Under-17 Team’s accomplishments in the 2007-08 campaign.

Colborne Named AJHL Playoff MVP

From: Alberta Hockey League Website

The Alberta Junior Hockey League has awarded Camrose Kodiaks forward & DU recruit Joe Colborne the 2008 Playoff MVP. Colborne and the Kodiaks captured the 2008 Enerflex Cup on Tuesday Night after eliminating the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in Game 7.

Colborne completed the 2008 AJHL Playoffs tied for first overall in League Scoring with 16 points (8 goals, 8 assists). Colborne contributed to the Kodiaks success as the top line center, and a key component of the Kodiaks powerplay and League leading penalty kill. He finished the 2007-2008 Regular Season with 90 points in 55 games, second overall in League scoring. The 18 year-old from Calgary, Alberta is currently in his second season with the Kodiaks. Colborne was also instrumental in advancing the Kodiaks to the 2007 Doyle Cup and capturing the 2007 AJHL Championship.

Colborne was ranked 30th among North American skaters by the NHL Central Scouting Rankings in January 2008, and has the potential to be selected in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Joe Colborne has committed to attend the University of Denver for the 2008-2009 season. Colborne excels as a student at Battle River Online High School, an institution within Camrose Composite High School, where he attains a 90 - 95% Grade Point Average. “Anything less than 95% is a disappointment for him,” said Camrose Assistant Coach Miles Walsh. “Nobody (in Kodiaks’ history) has ever ever touched those grades.”

Colborne Named MVP As Kodiaks Win AJHL Title

(above) When you're too young to grow playoff beards, the blonde hair coloring comes in handy for the Camrose Kodiaks

From: Edmonton Sun
by Jonathan Huntington

CAMROSE, ALBERTA -- DU recruits Joe Colborne and Shawn Ostrow led the Camrose Kodiaks to a 2-0 victory over the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in Game 7 last night. Colborne scored the game winning goal and was named playoff MVP with a league-high eight goals. Ostrow was credited with several physical hits that set the tone of the game for Camrose.

Colborne and Ostrow ensured this group of Kodiaks didn't get labeled as chokers after blowing a 3-1 series lead.

The victory means the Kodiaks will battle Penticton (the BCHL champs) in the Doyle Cup - a series the franchise has never lost in its 11-year existence.

The Doyle Cup - which will determine the Pacific Region representative in the national Junior A tournament - will start Friday night in Alberta.


Camrose now has back-to-back AJHL titles and has continued its streak of winning all five championship games on home ice.

The victory also marks the second straight league title for York in a Kodiaks' uniform.

After setting a punishing physical tone to start the first period, the Kodiaks opened the scoring for the first time in five games when Colborne beat Eric Potvin on a screen shot from just inside the blue-line on the power play.

The tally at 14:40 of the second period marked Colborne's first point in the last five games in this series.

By the end of the opening 20 minutes, Camrose had delivered a whopping 34 hits - 25 more than Fort Mac.

While there were several highlight-reel collisions, Shawn Ostrow delivered the two best Camrose hits - on Robert Nocera into the goal post and on Ryan DeVries.

But the tide started to turn in the second period of the deciding game of the Enerflex Cup series, when the Oil Barons began to buzz around York's net.

It actually appeared the visitors tied the game with 7:30 left in the middle frame but the referee tandem of Curtis Nichols and Dion Pollard claimed the whistle had blown before the puck crossed the line.

That decision led to Fort Mac assistant coach Nick Roberts to snapping at one official in pure frustration.

But showing determination that was clearly lacking through most of Games 5 and 6, the Kodiaks refused to die in the third period.


Alex MacLeod delivered the knockout blow just 1:36 into the third period when he beat Potvin on a long range slap shot that should have been stopped.

Fort Mac stormed Camrose goaltender Allen York in the final seven minutes, with Nocera having the best chance to score - but York somehow trapped the puck between his blocker and his body to take away a sure goal.

The victory marked the second time in three years that Camrose defeated Fort Mac in Game 7 of the AJHL final series.

DU Recruits To Battle In Game 7 Decider Tonight

(above) DU recruit Joe Colborne

From: Edmonton Sun
by Richard Wright

DU Recruits Joe Colborne and Shawn Ostrow will lay it on the line tonight in a deciding Game 7 for the Alberta Junior Hockey League championship for the Camrose Kodiaks. It's interesting to think history might come full circle in Camrose.

Back in April 2005. The Kodiaks, featuring former Pioneer player T.J. Fast, were basically fish out of water in the AJHL's championship series against Fort McMurray, facing certain death after going down 3-1 in the best of seven tilt.

The Kodiaks managed, however, to do the near impossible and clawed their way back into the series, eventually winning Game 7 at home.

Forward Mason Raymond (Minnesota Duluth), who has just finished his rookie campaign with the Vancouver Canucks, was a treat to watch in that series, as were a host of other players. But Raymond's late goal in Game 6 in Fort McMurray simply drained all hope of an Oil Barons win. Fort McMurray went into Game 7 in Camrose and had no chance.

So, the question now is, do the Barons get to return the favour tonight back in the same place they fell on their faces just three years ago?

Less than a week ago, and facing their own 3-1 deficit, few would have thought it possible. But that's the way it goes.

No one ever predicts a team so far back in a series can make it back into the land of the living. It's not until this point of the comeback - Game 7 - that the believers start chirping again.

Fort McMurray has the momentum, but they don't have what Camrose had in '05, which was home ice for the deciding game.

College Hockey News Praises Denver Frozen Four

(above) Boston College players salute their fans in the Pepsi Center on Saturday night
Photo Credit: Melissa Wade
From: College Hockey News
by Adam Wodon

DENVER — There are always quibbles with every tournament. Fans can quibble with the pairings, the teams, the criteria, the calls that went against their team. The media types quibble with some arena issue, or the lack of ring dings at the press meal.

But all in all, this was a fantastic NCAA tournament, capped by a fantastic venue for the Frozen Four. The Pepsi Center and the city of Denver really did a good job with the event. There can always be improvements, but the setup was strong and the city responded.

It was particularly nice to see the Pepsi Center full for the championship game. In some cities, fans leave in droves after their team doesn't win, and the after-market doesn't fill all the spots. But this year, the arena was packed for the title game, and it was a great atmosphere. Credit the city patrons and the fans of losing teams that stuck around.

Inside College Hockey.com Weighed In As Well

A Mile-High stick salute to the NCAA, the Denver Metro Sports Commission, and the University of Denver for the job it did in organizing this year’s Frozen Four. If it wasn’t the best-run Frozen in recent memory, it’s very high on the list. Special mention to University of Denver media relations director Erich Bacher, one of the college game’s really good guys.

DU's Latest Millionaire Alum Inks Contract

(above) The Buffalo Sabre signed DU's Chris Butler to a large contract over the weekend
Photo Credit: S. Victoria
From: Buffalo News
by John Vogl

Chris Butler flew from Denver to Buffalo on Saturday for a workout with the Sabres, woke up Sunday to sign his first professional contract, then flew back across two time zones to get back to school. You’d think he might want to spend today celebrating or getting some rest. Nope.

Butler knows that first-year defensemen can make an impact in Buffalo, and he’s determined to be the next one.

“I can’t wait to start working out tomorrow,” Butler said Sunday on his way to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

The Sabres brought in Butler for a physical over the weekend, and the 21-year-old from the University of Denver left town as the newest member of the organization. The Sabres signed him to a three-year deal worth $1.73 million. The first year is worth $560,000 and the last two years are worth $585,000 each.

Butler was in Buffalo last summer as part of the Sabres’ rookie development camp. There were informal chats about joining the team after his junior season, and those turned to formal negotiations as soon as his third season at Denver ended.

“When talks started about 10-12 days ago, I got really excited,” Butler said.

Butler is the type of all-around blue-liner the Sabres have been using the past few years. He was the Pioneers’ top-scoring defenseman with three goals, 14 assists and a plus-10 rating. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder also led the team with 110 blocked shots.

Butler was named second-team All-America West after helping Denver win the playoff title in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

“I think Chris is a player, and we’ve seen it at the college level and in the conditioning camps, who’s well on the path of being a very good professional,” Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said. “He’ll be a very good addition.”

The Sabres selected the native of St. Louis in the fourth round of the 2005 entry draft. He played two seasons with fellow Sabres prospect Tim Kennedy for Sioux City of the USHL before joining Denver.

The Sabres’ defensive depth has been severely tested the past few seasons, so Butler should have a chance to make his NHL debut in his first year.

“He’s excited about the opportunity,” Allain Roy, Butler’s agent, said by phone. “Buffalo’s not overly deep on the blue line, so it’s a good situation.”

First-year pro Mike Weber became a mainstay on the blue line during the Sabres’ failed playoff push, and with three unrestricted free agents on the roster (Dmitri Kalinin, Nolan Pratt and Teppo Numminen), there might be room for more young players.

Regier said he planned to continue talks with Kennedy today and wants to start negotiations with Boston College’s Nathan Gerbe, who led his team to the national title Saturday.

Photos From NCAA Skills Competition

(above) "The Colorado Contingent." Thomas, Mannino & Air Force's Eric Ehn (#16)

(above) Mannino starred for the West in the shootout

(above) Thomas won the Accurate Shooter Competition for the West

(above) More than a few jaws dropped when Andrew Thomas stopped the clock at 4.55 in the fastest skater competition

More Skills Competition Photos
Photo Credit: S. Victoria

Thomas & Mannino Notch Up One Last Victory

(above) DU legends Andy Thomas and Peter Mannino performed one last time in front of the Denver faithful at the NCAA Skill Competition on Friday at the Pepsi Center
Photo Credit: S. Victoria
From: University of Denver Website

DENVER – University of Denver seniors Andrew Thomas and Peter Mannino helped the West squad to 13-6 win over the East at tonight’s NCAA Frozen Four Skills Challenge at Pepsi Center.

Thomas claimed the accuracy shooting contest by winning a playoff against the East’s Luke Flicek (Army). Thomas hit 3-of-4 shots in a playoff after going 4-of-8 in the opening round. Thomas also clocked a time of 4.55 seconds in the fastest skater competition, while Mannino stopped 7-of-8 rapid fire shots and 3-of-3 penalty shots.

Denver head coach George Gwozdecky and former DU assistant coach and current Miami head coach Enrico Blasi served as co-coaches for the West. Former DU assistant and current RPI head coach Seth Appert was one of two coaches for the East.

Buffalo Sabres Officially Announce Butler Signing

(above) Chris Butler (#4) agreed to terms with the Buffalo Sabres over the weekend

From: Buffalo Sabres Website

Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier announced today the team has agreed to an entry-level contract with University of Denver defenseman Chris Butler. As is club policy, terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Butler (6'1'', 195 lbs.) was named 2008 RBK Hockey/AHCA Division I Men’s All-American West second team this season after leading Denver to its 15th WCHA title. The Sabres fourth-round selection (96th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Butler scored three goals and 17 points while blocking a team-high 110 shots in 41 games for the Pioneers.

The St. Louis, Missouri native appeared in 115 games over three collegiate seasons while majoring in business. He registered 21 goals, 46 assists, 66 points and 108 penalty minutes during that span.

Chambers Reports That Butler To Sign With Buffalo

(Above) Chris Butler to sign a professional contract with the Sabres
Photo Credit: S. Victoria

Mike Chambers of the Denver Post was the first to report in his Blog that Chris Butler is leaving DU to sign with the Buffalo Sabres.

Chambers was able to interview Butler from Buffalo via cell phone.

Best of luck to Butler in the pros. DU fans will follow his progress in the professional ranks with keen interest. He'll always be a Pioneer on and off the ice.

Butler joins Matt Carle (San Jose Sharks), Ryan Dingle (Anaheim Ducks) and Geoff Paukovich (Edmonton Oilers) in leaving DU after their junior season. Two years ago, Paul Stastny signed with the Avalanche after his sophomore season.

The Story Behind Denver Landing The Frozen Four

(above) Jon Schmieder, executive director of the Metro Denver Sports Commission, helped land the Frozen Four in Denver

by Clay Latimer
There was no room for quiet contemplation Thursday night at the Pepsi Center.

It was opening day of the Frozen Four hockey tournament, Michigan and Notre Dame were in overtime, 18,000 fans were on their feet, dueling student bands were blaring away, and thousands of puckheads from across the Frost Belt were grinning like school kids on holiday.

Watching it unfold was Jon Schmieder, executive director of the Metro Denver Sports Commission, the group that lured the first national championship game to the Pepsi Center - Boston College meets Notre Dame tonight - and the first in Denver since the 1990 men's Final Four at McNichols Sports Arena.

By Sunday morning it will all be over. Either the Fighting Irish or Eagles will be getting ready to leave with the championship trophy, and ESPN will be packing its cameras.

But Schmieder still will be hustling, still working the phone to persuade big wheels in other sports to come to Denver.

Hockey has come a long way since 1961, when the NCAA tournament averaged 4,832 fans a game at the old University of Denver Arena, and in 1976, when 5,311 watched the final at DU.

Yet 11 of the past 12 Frozen Fours have been sellouts - Anaheim, Calif., in 1999 was the exception - and in 2010 players will lace up their skates at Ford Field in Detroit, an NFL venue that will seat about 70,000.

In fact, hockey usually ranks third on the NCAA's list of most profitable tournaments, behind the men's Final Four and College World Series.

"The Frozen Four was in Utica (N.Y.) my senior year (in 1962)," Michigan coach Red Berenson said. "It was the difference between one of the lowest professional leagues and the NHL. There wasn't a lot of fanfare - it was pretty much a nonevent. There was no TV coverage, no video, no interest. . . . It's night and day compared to what it was then."

Today, there are 59 Division I teams, 19 more than in 1990. Nearly one-quarter of current NHL players come from college programs. And the competition to host the Frozen Four is more intense than ever, with the NCAA seeking arenas that seat at least 18,000. It received 13 bids for the 2009 event, with Washington, D.C., the eventual winner, sending 10 representatives.

When Schmieder made his pitch five years ago, he drew on Colorado's rich hockey heritage - the first 10 tournaments took place in Colorado Springs - to offset the fact Denver has eight professional sports teams, a potential problem should the University of Denver, Colorado College and Air Force fail to qualify, which turned out to be the case.

"We said that by the time 2008 comes around, the college hockey championships 'will not have come to Colorado in 32 years. Yet this event was founded in Colorado, birthed in Colorado.' Our closing pitch was: 'This is our tournament. This is our event. It's time that it comes home.' The committee said: 'You know, I think you're right.'

"This event was sold out almost a year ago. We only distributed 2,800 (tickets) inside the state. The other 15,000 and change are outside the border of this state, (many) to people who make the trip every year. These are people who say, 'I'm going to Denver regardless of who's playing, because I want to see good hockey. I want to see Denver and I don't want to break my string. I've been to 10, 11 in a row.'

"This is their vacation. This is their Final Four, their Super Bowl. I know the Colorado Avs and NHL would (refute it), but this is the biggest event in hockey every year."

Roy Hilts certainly agrees. The 47- year-old Maine resident has attended all but one Frozen Four since 1994, joining a nomadic party that also includes fans from Minnesota, Wisconsin, St. Cloud State, Providence, North Dakota, Cornell, Michigan . . .

"I'd say there's probably 1,000 people from Maine here," he said. "I come just because it's great hockey. They're not getting paid - so there's no incentive to play hard every shift except love of the game."

Big attraction

Will 70,000 fans show up for the 2010 Frozen Four title game?

It's possible, because college hockey's marquee event will be played that year at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions. A temporary rink will be placed in the middle of the football field, with a seating plan that could bring fans right up to the glass.

"If you can get the kind of fan following in your sport, why not do it?" Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said. "It's not just about revenue; it's about selling the sport and having as many fans as possible get to see it."

Added Michigan coach Red Berenson: "It could be an unbelievable event."

In 2001, a crowd of 74,544 watched Michigan play Michigan State on a temporary rink in the middle of the Michigan State football field, despite near-freezing temperatures.

But if neither Michigan nor Michigan State advance to the tournament, many worry there will be thousands of empty seats. Purists might not like the idea, either. But the Frozen Four isn't afraid to venture into new territory; the 2012 event will take place in Tampa, Fla.

"They're pushing the envelope," said Jon Schmieder, executive director of the Metro Denver Sports Commission.