March 27, 2009 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Coach Beats Mentor, Miami Advances

RedHawks' Blasi gains emotional win over Gwozdecky's Pioneers

by Dan Myers/CHN Staff

MINNEAPOLIS — Denver head coach George Gwozdecky was asked the same question earlier in the week, and it still seemed to catch him off guard following the Pioneers' 4-2 loss to Miami in a West Region semifinal Friday at Mariucci Arena.

It was his wife, earlier in the week, asking him what it would be like to coach against Enrico Blasi, a former player of his when Gwozdecky was coach at Miami years ago.

Asked for his thoughts following the game, Gwozdecky, whose team defeated Miami in 2004 in the first NCAA matchup between these two, became visibly emotional.

"It's like coaching against your son," Gwozdecky said, and then paused. "He was not recruited by a lot of schools, because he was so small. But we saw something in him that would be beneficial for our program at Miami. He was one of those huge, huge, granite building blocks of that program ..."

Again, his voice trailed off.

"There's no question, though, size aside, you could see his passion, his fire and his leadership ability.

"I hate losing to a family member," Gwozdecky continued. "But, if we're gonna lose, it hurts less to a classy program, a classy coaching staff and a class guy like Enrico Blasi."

Blasi, too was emotional when trying to put into words his thoughts.

"Coach and I go back along way. ... Everybody makes a big deal about us playing against each other but when when we talk during the week, we don't really talk about hockey," Blasi said. "He's been like a second father to me.

"We had a good time last night, we spent some time together. At the end of the night, we both said someone was going to be disappointed, and if you have to be disappointed, it might as well be to someone you love."

It was evident early early Friday that Blasi and Gwozdecky are close. Whenever Denver gained control of the puck, a Miami player seemed to know where he was going with it.

When the Pioneers tried to cycle in the corners, it was almost always a RedHawk player coming free with it.

"We coach a very similar style and system," Blasi said. "When you practice against that all week and all year, you get used to it. Our guys were ready."

Asked if he was outcoached by his former player, Gwozdecky continued to heap praise on Blasi.

"Geez, I hope so," Gwozdecky said. "I think a lot of people questioned him the first couple years, but how do you question the success they have had? How do you question them coming into this building and beating us? Beating a number one seed? And really doing so methodically, giving us all kinds of problems?

"They had us very well scouted. This is not the time of year to make excuses about injuries. They just did a much better job of limiting our scoring chances and took advantage of a lot of the mistakes we made. They were the better team."

Without Boston College in the tournament, the RedHawks will have a chance to secure their first Frozen Four Saturday when they play in the West Region final. The Eagles had ended Miami's season three years in a row, including the last two in region championship contests.

"As a senior, Boston College has had my number for three years," said RedHawks forward Justin Mercier. "All of our guys, all the way down to our sophomores, we all have NCAA tournament experience and we can taste it out there. It fuels us."

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