April 9, 2005
NCAA Frozen Four
Twin Peaks
Two terrific freshmen led Denver to a second straight national title

By Nate Ewell

Denver 4, North Dakota 1
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
1-DU Jeff Drummond (16) EV
6:15 K. Ulanski, G. Gauthier
1-ND Travis Zajac (20) PP
9:52 N. Fuher, D. Stafford
Second Period
2-DU Paul Stastny (16) PP
10:08 K. Ulanski, M. Laatsch
Third Period
3-DU Paul Stastny (17) PP
8:19 M. Carle, B. Skinner
4-DU Gabe Gauthier (26) EN
19:27 P. Stastny
ND: Jordan Parise, 58:10, 20 saves, 3 GA
DU: Peter Mannino, 60:00, 44 saves, 2 GA
Penalties: ND 8/16; DU 9/18
Power Plays: ND 1-7; DU 2-6
Attendance: 17,155

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Throughout its march to a second consecutive national championship, Denver players and coaches noted that this was a new team. Saturday night, two of the best examples of that led the Pioneers to another celebration.

Freshman Peter Mannino and Paul Stastny, part of what head coach George Gwozdecky called the best freshman class he has had at Denver, made the difference in the Pioneers' 4-1 title game victory over North Dakota. Stastny scored two of the goals, while Mannino made a career-best 44 saves, including 23 in the third period.

"They have strength, they have grit, they've got talent, courage," Gwozdecky said of his freshmen. "Look at our starting lineup and we had (Ryan) Dingle and Stastny and (An) Thomas and Mannino out there. That should tell you how highly we as a coaching staff think of our freshmen."

The title gives Denver seven in its history, tying North Dakota for the most in NCAA history.

"As you can imagine, it's a great feeling right now," Gwozdecky said. "A great feeling of satisfaction, of relief, of joy. A little bit different than it (felt) this time last year, but the same, very special."

Stastny's two goals, DU's second and third of the game, broke open a 1-1 tie after the first period. Kevin Ulanski scored the first goal of the game, as his shot from behind the goal line deflected in off of North Dakota defenseman Matt Smaby.

Travis Zajac's third goal of the weekend tied the score for the Sioux. Zajac, who joined Stastny and Mannino as the third freshman on the all-tournament team, deflected Nick Fuher's shot from the point past Mannino on a North Dakota power play.

INCH's Three Stars

3. Matt Carle, Denver
The Pioneers' best defenseman put on a show to set up Stastny's second goal.

2. Paul Stastny, Denver
Stastny hadn't been at his best during the NCAAs, but his first two points of the tourney included the championship game winning goal.

1. Peter Mannino, Denver
We gave our nod to Gabe Gauthier for Most Outstanding Player of the tourney, but Mannino was tonight's best player. His 23 saves in the third period, with no goals against, were a championship game record for saves in a period.

Denver had five of its six power play opportunities in the second and third periods. Stastny cashed in on a pair of opportunities to provide the 3-1 lead, Denver's seventh and eighth power-play goals of the weekend.

His first actually appeared to deflect in off of Smaby, who was covering him in the slot. On the second, set up by some brilliant moves entering the zone by defenseman Matt Carle, he blasted past Jordan Parise before the North Dakota could move to his left.

From there the Pioneers withstood a furious North Dakota offensive charge. Time and again the Sioux couldn't beat Mannino, who made 23 third-period saves.

His best stop actually came a little more than 15 minutes into the first. He stopped a deflection by North Dakota's Erik Fabian, then gloved Fabian's rebound bid while lying flat on his back. The officials reviewed the play briefly to see if it had crossed the goal line.

In the third, he made a great glove stop on a Drew Stafford wrist shot through a screen with 6:39 to play. From then on the puck never seemed far from his crease, and 14 of his 23 stops in the period came on Grade A opportunities from the slot.

Related Links

Notebook | Comparing the Champs

Video Interviews
Ryan Dingle
Matt Carle

"He really played like he had been here before," said senior forward Kevin Ulanski. "He showed great composure at the end of the season and proved he could play in the big game."

North Dakota had no regrets after its effort.

“He stood on his head," said Zajac. "Also, DU played a great game. They played like a championship team. We just didn’t get the breaks tonight. We had a lot of shots on net, but we just couldn’t get to some of them. They did a good job of tying us up. Our guys played a heck of a game, it just didn’t turn out for us.”

"It looked once or twice there that we had him beat five-hole and all of a sudden the whistle blows, he stands up and the puck's underneath him," defenseman Matt Greene said. "I mean, it disappeared. ... Tonight we were working hard, we thought we deserved it, but he came up great in net, so that's the way it goes."

In the end, Mannino and Stastny embraced their teammates and huddled around the national championship trophy. Although it was a second title for most of their teammates, they celebrated with the excitement of newcomers – and two of those newcomers were a big reason they could cheer.

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