Vail’s Testwuides face each other again
Vail, CO Colorado
By Chris Freud
Colorado College and Denver University hockey meet for the 271st time Saturday night at Magness Arena in Denver.
The Tigers and Pioneers have battled it out dating back to 1950 with DU holding a 152-106-12 advantage, but the last three years of this feud have been unique. For the first time in the storied rivalry, a pair of brothers have been facing off against each other ” Pioneers captain Jon Paul (J.P.) Testwuide and Tigers assistant captain Mike Testwuide, both of them Vail natives.
While the schools battle it out for The Gold Pan, the trophy awarded to the school which wins the yearly season series, the Testwuide brothers have their civil war with J.P. in DU red-and-white and Mike in CC black-and-gold.
“When we’re skating around (in pregame warm-ups), we’ll give each other a wink.” Mike says. “We make sure we know each other is there.”
“We’re always going at it,” J.P. adds. “Anytime when I’m on the ice, I know where he is.”
Saturday night’s regular-season finale for both teams is also could well be the last meeting of the Testwuide boys, barring a rematch in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association tournament later this month or in the NCAA playoffs. J.P. is a senior and Mike a junior.
J.P. and Mike and their teams enter with a shot at the MacNaughton Cup, the regular-season WCHA crown. Both have aspirations for the upcoming league playoffs as well as the NCAA tournament. And as usual, their parents, Janet and Paul, will be in the stands watching this all unfold.
Captain, my Captain
J.P.’s season started in May when DU coach George Gwozdecky tapped him as the squad’s captain for the 2008-09 season. J.P. is the first native Coloradan to wear the C for DU.
It’s heady honor to have the C stitched on your sweater when you’re a Squirt or an NHL player. At DU, J.P.’s the captain of a team which has seven national titles (including consecutive crowns in 2004 and 2005) and 12 WCHA tiles and 15 more league playoff championships, the last one coming last spring.
If that weren’t enough to live up to, the last player to wear Testwuide’s No. 11 was some guy named Paul Statsny, who plays with the Colorado Avalanche.
So one can forgive J.P. for looking down to his left at that C once in a while.
“It’s been kind of what I thought it would be,” he said. “There have been times where it’s been tough to manage people and players, but overall, I like the responsibility. I enjoy the challenge of being that guy.”
J.P. fits the mold of a DU captain, the previous nine have all been blueliners. His numbers aren’t flashy, representative of the ever-important presence of a stay-at-home defender. That having been said, going into last weekend’s series at North Dakota, J.P. had logged career highs in goals and assists (3-10) and, most impressively flashes a team-high plus-16 rating.
Urgency is the theme for J.P. This is his senior year. His college career could be over in few than two weeks in the first round of the WCHA tournament” unlikely, but still a motivational tool ” or preferably with a blaze of glory in the Frozen Four at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C.
“I live with (senior teammates) Julian Marcuzzi and Pat Mullen and we talk about it on a daily basis, how fast the four years have gone by.” J.P. says. “It was just a moment ago we were freshmen coming into the college experience. Everyday, we say we want to make the most out of it.”
Turning the corner?
While DU has been a steady presence in the top 10 all season, Mike and the Tigers down in Colorado Springs started the season as No. 1. While such an early-season designation doesn’t mean much, it was a logical one.
CC won the MacNaughton Cup in 2008 ” Mike 1, J.P. O, on that count, more on that later ” and burst out to a 4-0 start last fall. Then the Tigers got a case of the splits.
“The season has been pretty up and down. We’ve been inconsistent,” Mike says. “We were picked to win the league and started the first couple of weeks No. 1. That’s a lot of pressure. We started playing inconsistently on Friday nights.”
And since teams play two-game series during the regular season ” the exception being DU-CC because of proximity of the campuses ” Mike and the Tigers have been all over the place since.
Mike hopes that changed two weekends ago when CC went into Minnesota and swept a pair from the Golden Gophers, one of the most storied programs in college hockey. Mike had the game-winner with 3:54 left in regulation for a 4-3 win in the opener. He lit the lamp again in the Tigers’ 5-3 win the next day.
“Hopefully we get on a tear here,” he said. “The best time to get hot is the end of the season and the playoffs.”
Mike knows that well. After winning the regular-season WCHA crown last year, the Tigers got home ice for the NCAA Western Regionals and the Frozen Four was being held at the Pepsi Center. When you play in a the WCHA, which has a whopping 36 national championships among its members, things seemed to be lining up perfectly for Mike and company.
Instead, CC lost to Michigan State, 3-1, in the first round, ending the Tigers’ hopes of a magical run.
One of the reasons CC had to be feeling good last year is that the Tigers finished the regular season with a sweep of DU in a home-and-home series to clinch the MacNaughton Cup.
The Gold Pan is huge to the fans and alumni of both schools, and both Testwuides know where the series stands during the three years the brothers have been involved. CC and Mike lead, 7-1-3. The Tigers are 1-0-2 against the Pioneers this year, so The Gold Pan will remain in Colorado Springs, regardless of Saturday night’s result. A tie in the season series returns the trophy to its current holder ” CC.
“I don’t really tease him a lot,” Mike says of J.P. “He takes it pretty seriously. I wouldn’t want to say anything to set him off.”
On the other hand, Mike adds, “It definitely feels good to have the upper hand.”
J.P. replies like the captain whose team is, in fact, ahead of its rivals in the WCHA standings.
“We talked about it after the last game we had (in February, a 3-3 tie), and I’m happy for them They got The Gold Pan. They earned it,” J.P. says. “At the same time, we’ve got to look to the season here. We got a lot to play for.”
And this leads to interesting twists in loyalties when it comes to the brothers and their parents, who try to catch as many Pioneers and Tigers home games as the teams’ schedule allows. While both players talk the mandatory “taking it one game at a time,” the Testwuides are scoreboard-watching.
Last weekend, DU hosted St. Cloud State, where J.P. played in front of Paul and Janet, while Mike and CC were at North Dakota. With DU leading North Dakota and CC for the league title, J.P. was in the odd position of rooting for the archrival Tigers. Meanwhile, Mike certainly was agreeing with that sentiment, but hoping that St. Cloud St. would down his brother’s team to bring DU closer in the standings to his Tigers.
And then there’s Janet. What’s a mom to do here? Her two little boys ” even though J.P. is 24 and Mike 22 ” remain her boys. For the last two years, she cut up DU and CC sweatshirts and statiched a half of each one together for the combo look.
“I am always nervous about injuries,” Janet says. “You know every kid who’s out there and you don’t want to see anyone hurt. It’s hockey. It’s a physical sport. Other than that, you just don’t want to see a 9-0 game for either side. So far, so good.”
This year, Janet got road and home jerseys from both of her sons and now owns two split sweaters, complete with J.P.’s C on the traditional left side and Mike’s A on the unconventional right shoulder. After Saturday night’s game, she’s going to have the lighter-combo home jersey signed by all the players from both teams since it is the Testwuide finale in the series.
But that fact might be starting to nudge Mom toward J.P. and the DU camp” or not.
“I’m torn right now,” she said. “Obviously, this is J.P.’s senior year, and the last time they play each other in this venue. Obviously, I want to see Jon win the MacNaughton Cup, which CC won last year. Then again, I want to see CC get into the national tournament. (DU is likely already in.) The good thing is that it doesn’t matter how I feel. I have no control over how the boys play, although I wish I did.”
Living the dream
Whatever happens, this is a special time for the Family Testwuide. The sons are playing as leaders of their team’s in one of college hockey’s biggest rivalries.
“It’s a celebration of what they’ve accomplished,” Paul, aka Dad said, looking to Saturday’s game. “I just sit and watch and I’m proud as punch of what they’re doing. I don’t find myself nervous. I’m overwhelmed with the dream, of what they’ve accomplished.”
While the hockey is serious, the Testwuide brothers are also going to be leaving the schools with good educations. J.P. is graduating this spring with a real-estate finance major, while Mike is studying for an economics degree.
Both harbor aspirations to play professionally and their parents are supportive of the duo chasing their dreams. But the truth is that the Testwuides and their parents are already living it.
“I know they’re proud,” J.P. said, essentially echoing Mike on the matter. “They’re going to be enjoying every minute of this last (rivalry) game. It’s been a fun three years playing against each other.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.