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Augustoviz: From the Gwoz to the Gophers -- two sudden ends

  • Blog Post by: Roman Augustoviz
  • April 2, 2013 - 12:10 AM

I was sure it was an April Fool's joke when the "news" broke on twitter that George Gwozdecky and the University of Denver had parted ways.

Turned out it wasn't. And now Mike Chambers of the Denver Post is reporting, according to sources, that the Gwoz was fired.

Supposedly the early NCAA losses -- first game exits in five of the past six years -- were wearing on  DU's athletic braintrust. And allegedly they were having trouble agreeing with Gwoz on a contract extension. So again, according to sources, Gwoz will get paid for 2013-14, the last year left on the 12-year contract he signed way back when.

My first memory of the Gwoz goes back to 2008-09, my second year on the Gophers beat. The Gophers were on a roll -- 6-0-4 and ranked No. 1 in the country -- and had a road series at Magness Arena. They won the first game handily, 5-2 on Nov. 21. Then Gwoz mixes up the lineup, benches a few key underperforming players, and the Pioneers win the next night 4-0.

His record was amazing in that respect -- his teams never got swept in the WCHA. And I mean never. The Pioneers went several seasons without it happening. And his teams won 20 games per year like clockwork. For 12 years in a row in this current stretch.

The Gwoz was not afraid to shake up his lineup. Or to speak his mind.

And then, after the game, he came up to the press box and sat at a table with the local writers and shot the breeze. Who else does that?

I always liked him. Even though there was a bit of I'm-smarter-than-you-are arrogance to him. He didn't just give you canned answers to questions.

He'll land on his feet somewhere. Coaching job will open up after the hockey season ends. Maybe a few before it ends.

Just so he stays out of the new Big Ten Conference; he beat The Don's teams pretty regularly.

A HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL YEAR

That's what Gophers play-by-play announcer Wally Shaver called this season on the Don Lucia radio show. But was it?

The Gophers were coming off a Frozen Four appearance after a horrendous stretch of no NCAA trips at all in three years.

The Don had six of his top seven scorers back, all six of his top defensemen back and just needed a goalie. And he found one in freshman Adam Wilcox who set a program record for lowest goals-against average.

With all that, surely, the Gophers would win their sixth national title -- their openly stated goal? Nope. Surely they would reach the Frozen Four? Nope.

Win the Final Five? Nope. How about another MacNaughton Cup? They shared it with St. Cloud State.

This was an underachieving team that way too often played down to the level of its opposition. That had to get punched before responding. It was 7-0-0 after losses until losing 3-2 in overtime to Yale in the West Regional semifinal.

But it lost or tied to everyone in the WCHA except one team, 11th Bemidji State, which it played only twice.

This was the year for the Gophers to win a title, with the Bjugstads, Haulas and Schmidts. That's why Bjugtad came back, for unfinished business after flirting with turning pro. 

There was no dominant team in the NCAA field like Boston College a year ago. With 15 NHL picks, the Gophers had as much talent or more than anyone. This was their year and, yet, at the end something was missing.

They pressed on the accelerator in the third period against Yale, tied the score and gave a slight sigh of relief and the season was over. In nine seconds.

That game should never have gone into overtime.

The team with less talented wanted it more and took it.

DIFFERENT FROZEN FOUR

"Anybody can beat anybody" in the NCAA tournament, Lucia said on his Monday radio show. "It is a matter who is playing well on a particular weekend.

"Yale played well. They have a veteran coaching staff. ...  They are 4-0 against the WCHA. They earned their way in [to the Frozen Four] by beating us, beating North Dakota. They got it done this weekend. It is something we have to live with it."

The Elis or Bulldogs, Yale goes by both nicknames, beat Colorado College and Denver in overtime in November before wreaking more havoc on the poor WCHA last weekend.

Jesse Root, who scored the goal that beat the Gophers, was the West Regional MVP.

This will be Yale's first appearance in a Frozen Four in 61 years. But they have been knocking on the door. Coach Keith Allain has had them in the NCAA tournament in four of the past five seasons.

The Elis lost to the eventual champion, Boston College in 2010 and Minnesota Duluth in 2011, on two of those trips. Still their NCAA record was 3-5 all-time coming into last weekend.

When they were in the Frozen Four in 1952, the event was held in Colorado Springs, Colo., and wasn't even called the Frozen Four. Two of the best teams from the West and two from the East were invited to play. Yale lost its first game there.

Michigan beat Colorado College 4-1 for the national championship that year.

Yale is the first Ivy League team in the Frozen Four since 2003 when the NCAA tournament was expanded from eight to 16 teams.

But Yale isn't the only team new to the Frozen Four. The other three regional champions -- St. Cloud State, Quinnipiac and UMass-Lowell -- are all first-timers.

Yale draws UMass-Lowell in the semis on April 11.

"I was impressed with St. Cloud" in the Midwest Regional, Lucia said. "They played very well, very opportunistic."

Lucia drove to Toledo, Ohio, from Grand Rapids, Mich., to watch SCSU and Notre Dame, its opponent in the championship game. Don's son Mario is a freshman forward for the Irish.

"It was a long weekend," Lucia said. "[The Irish] didn't play at same level as they had before in the CCHA tournament. ... I was happy for Bob [SCSU coach Bob Motzko]. He is a friend."

Motzko was on Lucia's staff with the Gophers before taking the SCSU job.

"Anybody of the four could win it," Lucia said, referring to the teams in the Frozen Four.

 

 

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