Denver Takes a Mulligan
by Dan Myers/CHN Staff
ST. PAUL, Minn. Things just never seemed right for No. 1 Denver in its 4-3 loss to North Dakota on Friday in the second semifinal game at the WCHA Final Five: Passes weren't crisp, pucks seemed to roll of sticks and shots seemed to sail high and wide.
Credit North Dakota for some of that.
But according to Pioneers Rhett Rakhshani and Tyler Ruegsegger, most of that blame falls on DU's shoulders.
"I don't think our effort was there the first couple periods," Rakhshani said. "We picked it up a little bit there in the third period, but that causes us to not make the plays we want to make and I think it's a bit of a domino affect."
It didn't help that Denver played from behind the entire night. Chris VandeVelde put the Sioux up with a power-play goal eight minutes into the game, and UND never looked back. Early in the second, Evan Trupp scored hit first of two goals to put DU in a hole they couldn't climb out of.
Even after Matt Donovan's goal at 18:25 of the second, Trupp's second of the night — another power-play marker — came less than a minute later. That goal seemed to break DU's confidence.
"They came out hard," Ruegsegger said. "We battled back there at the end of the second and then they got a quick goal and we're down two again. That makes it tough."
"I think you saw a team that wore green tonight that really wanted it," said Pioneers head coach George Gwozdecky. "Much more, perhaps, than our team did.
"They were sharp. They played well. I give them full credit."
Early in the third, the Pioneers again pulled within one on a power-play goal by John Lee. Nine minutes later, they were on the power play again, with a chance to tie. But after a Joe Colborne shot hit the post, Trupp beat Patrick Wiercioch to a loose puck in the DU zone, zipped around him, passed behind his back to a charging Brad Malone who buried the shorty — which in effect, buried the Pioneers.
"[We need to do things Saturday] that will help out Marc [Cheverie], and not do some of the things that, strangely, we did tonight," Gwozdecky said. "Giving up the shorthanded goal, those things are kind of unique for us and was a little bit of a surprise."
Ruegsegger said Saturday's third-place game against the Badgers is for pride. With virtually nothing on the line except that, he said they'd like to get a win to get back on track before next week's NCAA tournament begins.
"It's gonna be a big game for us — we need to respond," Ruegsegger said. "That was an embarrassing effort tonight. We gotta have more pride in the crest on the front of the jersey.
"Maybe the No. 1 seed is on the line, but we need to just come out and compete. I think our team needs to be sick of not showing up for games. Sometimes this year, we're flipping a switch — we're on then we're off. We can't be doing that heading into the best part of the season."
"It's all about pride tomorrow," Rakhshani added. "We're playing for third place, but if you have pride in that crest, you're gonna play as hard as you would if it was a first place game."