Know Your Enemy
Denver Assistant Lassonde Faces Former Team in NCAAs
by Joshua Seguin/Staff Writer
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MANCHESTER, N.H. When Denver and New Hampshire square off on Friday night in the Northeast Regional semifinal, the Denver bench will include a face that both teams are very familiar with. Before last season, longtime UNH assistant coach David Lassonde left after 17 seasons, between two stints, with the school nearest his family and home. His destination? The same position at Denver under Pioneer coach George Gwozdecky.
"Watching the games play out over the course of last week it became more and more evident with each game played that A. we would be playing them and B. we would be playing here," said Lassonde. ”Ideally, I wish it wouldn’t have happened this way, but it is what it is."
Lassonde grew up mere miles from the campus of UNH and the decision to leave was not an easy one, but it was the right one in his eye. He viewed it as a new chapter in his coaching career. His duties include defense and goaltending; the latter position also landed him the same position for Team USA in the World Junior Championships.
While an associate coach under Dick Umile at UNH, he was the recruiting coordinator. The sophomores, juniors and seniors are in some ways directly related to his stint in Durham — he had a hand in recruiting all or most of them.
"I was involved in recruiting every single one of those (UNH) players, except for the freshman class," Lassonde said. "It was good to see them earlier in the year because if this would have been the first meeting, this meeting would have taken on more meaning. Seeing them all after Thanksgiving takes the re-acquaintance part out of this matchup."
He knows what to expect out of the players that will be on the opposing team, but the players also know what to expect out of his defense, which has been an adventure for stretches this season.
The problem has been cheating up in most cases and creating a balance. A good example was the last time these two teams met.
"I have told people it was a tale of two games," said Lassonde of UNH's 6-4 win Denver earlier this season. "We got off to a real fast start, and they hung in there. We had a 3-0 lead, 10 minutes into the game, and we didn’t play the way we needed to play with a three-goal lead or a two-goal lead."
The meeting will be the Pioneers and UNH’s second meeting of the season. But that meeting in regards to this game will be useless. Both teams have played a lot of hockey since that night in November.
"A lot of things have changed since we last played, but I don’t think the way the teams play has changed since,” Lassonde said. “It is all a matter of execution this time of year.
"Once the game starts, I won’t think about it," he continued. "It is unfortunate that we will either end their season, or they will end ours. It is always difficult when you are such good friends with those people."
Being friends is one thing, but Denver will face a UNH team that has the same goal it does — a national championship. If Denver wishes to win some games in the tournament it will need to play a controlled, defensive game. Either way, Lassonde will gain some memories and nerves. Close friends become temporary enemies when the puck drops.
"A win will make us feel a lot better, and it will make them feel a lot better," said Lassonde. "Still there will be a part of you that feels for them, and they'll feel for you."