April 9, 2005
NCAA Frozen Four
Comparing the Champs
How would the 2005 champs stack up against last year?

By Joe Gladziszewski

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Nobody in this year's WCHA playoffs or NCAA Tournament proved that they could beat this year's Denver Pioneers. We wondered aloud after the game if the team that could do the job was last year's Denver Pioneers.

The 2005 National Champions were a much deeper, focused team that had to face high expectations set by the 2004 club. That team's key to success was to deflect expectations and pressure with a laid-back approach.

Most of the opinion around the Denver club is that this year's team is a better team. We asked three senior forwards about it in the immediate aftermath of their second straight national championship.

Jeff Drummond took a diplomatic approach.

"I'd say we're equal, that's the safe way," he said. "I'll call of those boys that were here last year and they were a huge part of our success."

Luke Fulghum reflected on this squad's consistency and high level of play throughout the season in giving the nod to the 2005 edition.

"I'd have to say this year. We really had a confident year. We really played to our standard and our ability all year long and didn't slip up one bit.

Kevin Ulanski showed his short-term memory was sharp and understandably said that this year's team would win, but knew he'd hear about it from the likes of Ryan Caldwell, Max Bull, Conner James, and Greg Keith.

"That's a tough question," Ulanski said. "It's two different teams, and I don't know. Now that I'm on this year's team I have to say this year's team. The seniors last year will kill me."

INCH caught up with Adam Berkhoel, who was on the team bus after the Gwinnett Gladiators defeated the Augusta Lynx 3-2 in ECHL action. He was given a chance to defend the honor of the 2004 Pioneers.

"I have to say last year's team, because I was on that team," Berkhoel said. "We were a defensive team and this year's team was a more offensive team."

Berkhoel, by the way, made 20 saves in the Gladiator win (the second-most important sporting event in Augusta, Ga., this weekend). He'd be a difference maker in this hypothetical matchup, squaring off against Peter Mannino between the pipes. The 2005 Pioneers would need to find a way to get some pucks past the red-hot veteran goalie.

We'll never get to put these teams on the ice against each other, which leaves the debate to be continued by these special Pioneer groups for years to come over beers on barstools. When that happens, nobody loses.

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