LetsGoDU’s Nick Tremaroli flies to Minnesota today for the NCHC’s Frozen Faceoff at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As a blogger-fan-journalist he will bring all of us live updates from the tournament as well as some behind the scenes insights into college hockey’s best tournament.
Good luck, Nick! (And remember you can’t yell for DU in the press box).
It was almost 14 years to the day that I made a similar journey to St. Paul, Minnesota for the 2001-2002 WCHA playoffs at the Excel Center from March 14th through March 16th, 2002. DU was led by a young coach, George Gwozdecky, who had been slowly building the Pioneer squad since 1994. DU was a relative novelty at the time and I remember a packed Excel Center, 75,000 attendees over three days, but no crimson and gold in sight. We did finally spot Dan Ritchie across the arena with then-AD Diane Wendt and 2-3 other fans huddled together but the huge Excel Center was dominated by Minnesota, St. Cloud and Wisconsin fans.
On March 14th, Colorado College (27-13-3) played Wisconsin (16-19-4) in the play-in game and stunned the Badgers 3-2. The Tigers were set to play the Pioneers the next day in the semis.
The semifinal games on March 15th were highlighted by an all-Minnesota showdown – the traditional hockey power, the University of Minnesota (‘the U’) versus St. Cloud State. The Golden Gophers dominated the game 4-1 and looked unbeatable. The rising Pioneers handily thumped rival Colorado College 3-0 before a relatively silent arena in the under-card to set-up the final game.
The WCHA final included the traditional power Minnesota (32-8-4) and the up-and- coming power from the far west, the Denver Pioneers (32-8-1). It is all a blur now but DU’s goalie, Wade Dubielewicz was the MVP – he stoned the Gophers that day. The Pioneers showed a calm confidence as they silenced the house loaded with maroon and gold. DU won with a final score of 5-2 to bring home The Broadmoor Trophy. Dubielewicz was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Chris Paradise and Ryan Caldwell.
I ran into the team at the airport following the tournament. The players had on their coats and ties and were carrying their over-sized hockey bags. I was struck by their quiet confidence after winning the Broadmoor Cup in Minnesota’s backyard – out numbered, and under appreciated. You could just feel that this was the beginning of something special.
Later that month on March 23rd in a bracket travesty, the higher seeded Denver Pioneers were inexplicably sent to East Lansing, Michigan for the Western Region Quarterfinals to play against the lower seeded Michigan Wolverines squad and were defeated 5-3.
The Pioneers went on to win the next two national championships. It all started in my mind at the Excel Center in St. Paul, Minnesota with that Broadmoor Trophy.
Based on personal experience, dining recommendations for Nick:
- Ted Cooks 19th Hole Bar-B-Que, 2814 E 38th St., Minneapolis, MN 55406 – Great Ribs
- Convention Grill, 3912 Sunnyside Road, Edina, MN – Best burger & chicken noodle soup in town!