Monday, December 22, 2008

#8 Maine vs. Denver

Who: Maine vs. Denver
Where: Fleet Center, Boston, Massachusetts
When: April 10, 2004
Final Score: 1-0 Denver

The game to decide the 2003-2004 national championship was a classic goaltenders battle between Denver's Adam Berkhoel and Maine's Jimmy Howard.

It didn't start as out as that amazing of a game. Maine scored first, but had a man in the blue paint on the opposite side of the crease, which happened to be illegal that year in the NCAA's rotating rulebook. Denver's Gabe Gauthier would score a powerplay goal about midway through the first period to give Denver a lead. It didn't seem spectacular at the time, but it would end up being the last goal scored that season.

It wasn't for lack of trying on Maine's part though. With 2:09 left in the game, Denver's Matt Laatsch took a hooking penalty and 35 seconds later, Gabe Gauthier literally grabbed the puck and tried to throw it out of the zone, resulting in a delay of game penalty. Maine pulled Jimmy Howard to get a 6-on-3 advantage, and what resulted was the craziest 1:30 of hockey that I've ever seen. Maine threw just about everything but the kitchen sink at Denver with six guys just blasting away at the net, while Denver had their three guys huddled around Berkhoel trying to throw their bodies in front of every shot. I was on the third level of the Fleet Center right behind Berkhoel, and despite not having a rooting interest in either team, I was up off the edge of my seat, nearly leaning over the balcony watching with excitement.

Maine had some amazing chances, and to this day, I'm still not quite sure how the puck stayed out of the net, but Berkhoel and DU's penalty killers found a way to get it done and win the national title.

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