Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Gwozdecky Done at Denver After 19 Seasons

The University of Denver released head coach George Gwozdecky on Monday after 19 years at the helm of the Pioneers.

“I’m extremely proud of the work that we have done to continue to build on the great Pioneer hockey tradition," said Gwozdecky at denverpioneers.com. "Our consistency of success on the ice and in the classroom over the years has been a focal point of our work and I am very proud of what we have achieved.

According to the Denver Post, Gwozdecky had been hopeful of a contract extension following the 2012-13 season. Then came a meeting on April Fool's Day with school officials, and when it was over, it was no joke. Gwozdecky was gone.

It was not known if the reason was Gwozdecky's salary demands, or the Pioneers' lack of recent success in the NCAA Tournament, or a combination of both.

DU is the only Division I men's ice hockey program to have won at least 20 games in each of the past dozen seasons. The Pioneers also won back-to-back NCAA titles in 2004 and 2005, the last Division I school to do so, although they have yet to return to the Frozen Four. They have also lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in five of the last six years, including Friday's 5-2 loss to New Hampshire in an NCAA Northeast Regional semifinal in Manchester, N.H.

DU went 20-14-5 overall this past year, and finished fourth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association with a 14-9-5 mark. The were eliminated in the first round of the league tournament and did not advance to the WCHA Final Five in Minnesota, instead gaining an at-large bid to the NCAAs.

Gwozdecky went 443-267-64 in his tenure with the Pioneers, after first serving two seasons (1981-83) as head coach at at Wisconsin Stevens-Point, and then eight seasons as head coach at Miami (Ohio). He led Miami to its first-ever CCHA title and NCAA Tournament berth in the early 1990s, and a postseason hockey trophy at the school was renamed the George Gwozdecky Blue Line Club Award last year in his honor.

In 30 seasons as a college head coach, he has gone 592-390-85 overall. He was also one of the driving forces in the creation of the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference that will began play this fall and will include both Denver and Miami among its constituents, along with Colorado College, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota, St. Cloud State, Western Michigan.

A 1978 Wisconsin graduate and a four-year letterman with the Badgers, Gwozdecky was an assistant coach with Michigan State for five years prior to taking over at Miami, and was a part of the Spartans' 1986 national championship team. He is the only individual to have won an NCAA Hockey title as a player, an assistant coach, and a head coach. He is also a two-time recipient of the Spencer Penrose Award as the top Division I men's hockey head coach in the nation.

Denver is expected to begin a national search for its new head coach immediately.

It is not known where Gwozdecky might land next if he chooses to remain in college coaching. One Division I men's vacancy right now is at Denver's former WCHA opponent Alaska Anchorage, which released Dave Shyiak last week after eight campaigns in charge of the Seawolves. The other is at Connecticut, which is moving to Hockey East in the near future and is looking for a replacement for long-time coach Bruce Marshall, who stepped down last season due to medical issues.

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