Head coach George Gwozdecky enters his 18th season behind the bench for the seven-time NCAA Champion Denver Pioneers. Since Gwozdecky's arrival on the DU campus in 1994, the Pioneers have solidified themselves as a perennial top-10 program. The Pioneers have captured two NCAA national championships, three WCHA regular-season titles and four WCHA playoff titles during Gwozdecky's tenure.
The Thunder Bay, Ontario, native has led the Pioneers to fourteen 20-win seasons and eight seasons with 25 or more wins. Gwozdecky, who has led Denver to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments, has re-established Denver as one of college hockey's elite programs.
As the only coach in NCAA history to win a hockey national title as a player, assistant coach and head coach, Gwozdecky has compiled a 398-239-55 (.615) record with the Pioneers. Gwozdecky-coached teams have reached the NCAA Tournament (including the 1992-93 Miami team) in 11 of the last 19 years. Denver has also captured 12 Denver Cup titles under Gwozdecky, who boasts a 548-363-76 (.594) career record in 25 seasons. Gwozdecky sports a 481-333-74 (.583) record coaching Division I programs over 22 seasons, including two Spencer Penrose Awards as the national coach of the year.
Gwozdecky's coaching expertise led the Pioneers back to national prominence with back-to-back NCAA national championships in 2004 and 2005. Entering the 2004 Frozen Four as underdogs, the Pioneers captured a come-from-behind win over Minnesota Duluth and held off a 6-on-3 advantage in the final 78 seconds in a 1-0 victory over Maine in the championship game. The NCAA title was the first for DU since 1969, when Pioneer all-time greats Keith Magnuson and Gerry Powers led the team to its second consecutive national title. Gwozdecky's leadership carried the team to a 27-12-5 record, including his 200th win at Denver against Northeastern on October 18, 2004. For his accomplishments, Gwozdecky finished runner-up for the 2004 Spencer Penrose Award for the second time in his career.
In 2005, the Pioneers silenced all the critics by becoming the first WCHA team since 1997 to capture the MacNaughton Cup, Broadmoor Trophy and NCAA National Championship in the same season. Denver's 4-1 victory over North Dakota in the 2005 NCAA title game gave the school its seventh hockey national championship. Gwozdecky was honored as national coach of the year for the second time and WCHA coach of the year for the third time in his illustrious career. Gwozdecky captured his 400th career win on March 18 with Denver's 2-1 overtime decision against North Dakota at the WCHA Final Five.
DU's run at a third consecutive NCAA National Championship ended with a respectable 21-15-3 overall mark in 2005-06. The Pioneers finished second in the WCHA regular season, but were ousted by Minnesota Duluth in the WCHA Playoffs. All-American defenseman Matt Carle became the first DU Pioneer and first Gwozdecky-coached player to capture the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the nation's top player.
After inheriting a team that finished ninth in the WCHA in 1993-94, Gwozdecky guided the Pioneers to the 1995 NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. The 1994-95 squad was picked to finish fifth in the Grand Forks Herald preseason poll, yet Gwozdecky led the team to a second-place regular-season finish in WCHA action. For his efforts, Gwozdecky was honored as the WCHA's Coach of the Year. The team's winning percentage (.619) was the best for the program since 1985-86, and the Pioneers hosted the first round of the WCHA playoffs for the first time since 1987-88.
In 1995-96, Gwozdecky led a young Denver team to a 22-14-3 overall record and a 17-12-3 mark in the WCHA, good for a third-place league finish. The Pioneers also captured their fourth consecutive Wells Fargo Denver Cup championship when they upended top-ranked and then-undefeated Colorado College, 3-2, before a capacity crowd of 16,061 at McNichols Sports Arena. It was the largest crowd in Colorado history to witness a college hockey game and will go down as one of the all-time great moments in Pioneer hockey.
Gwozdecky led the 1996-97 Pioneers to a 24-13-4 overall record and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Denver entered the tournament winning seven of its last eight games and was one of the hottest teams in the country before losing to the eventual runner-up, Boston University, in the semifinals of the NCAA East Regional on an overtime goal by former Colorado Avalanche forward Chris Drury.
The Pioneers experienced the greatest turnaround of any team in college hockey in 1998-99. Denver rebounded from a disappointing 11-25-2 record in 1997-98 to finish with an astounding 26-13-2 overall mark, marking the first time in the history of the WCHA that a team won more than 25 games after losing 25 the year before.
The Pioneers returned to the national scene in 2001-02, when Gwozdecky's team was picked to finish fifth in the annual Grand Forks Herald WCHA Coaches' Poll. Instead, his squad rewrote Denver hockey history, opening the season with nine consecutive wins, the best start in school history. Gwozdecky guided Denver to a 32-8-1 record and the Pioneers achieved their first No. 1 ranking in the modern history of the polls. DU also earned its first MacNaughton Cup trophy since the 1985-86 season as the 2001-02 WCHA regular-season champions and captured its first Broadmoor Trophy as WCHA playoff champs since 1999. It was the first time since the 1990-91 season that a WCHA school had won both the MacNaughton Cup and Broadmoor Trophy outright in the same season. The team was the fourth in school history to reach 30 wins in a season and Gwozdecky earned his second WCHA Coach of the Year honor.
In 2007-08, Gwozdecky guided the Pioneers to their league-leading 15th WCHA playoff title and return trip to the NCAA tournament. DU finished with a 26-14-1 overall mark and 16-11-1 third-place finish in the WCHA. Gwozdecky captured his 450th career win and 300th win at Denver with a 3-1 win over NCAA runner-up Notre Dame on Oct. 19. Denver placed second in the WCHA and advanced to its 20th NCAA Tournament in 2008-09. DU earned the No. 1 seed in the NCAA West Regional, but was ousted, 4-2, by No. 4 seed Miami in the first round.
In 2009-10, Gwozdecky led the Pioneers to their 12th WCHA regular-season title and third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance with a 27-10-4 overall record. The Pioneers posted a 19-5-4 mark en route to the league title and Gwozdecky captured his 500th career win in Denver's 3-0 win over Minnesota on Oct. 24 and earned his fourth WCHA Coach of the Year award. Marc Cheverie, who earned WCHA Player of the Year honors, Rhett Rakhshani and Patrick Wiercioch earned All-America honors.
In 2010-11, Denver joined Michigan as the lone NCAA Division I hockey teams to post 10 consecutive 20-win seasons. The Pioneers defeated Western Michigan, 3-2 in double overtime, at the Midwest Regional in their 22nd NCAA Tournament appearance. DU placed second in the WCHA and finished the season with a 25-12-5 record.
Gwozdecky came to Denver from Miami (Ohio) where he served as head coach for five seasons. In his first five years as a Division I head coach, the two-time Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Coach of the Year posted an 83-94-19 (.468) record. During that time, Miami won the CCHA title for the first time in school history. In 1992-93, Gwozdecky guided the Redskins to their second consecutive CCHA championship berth, the school's first NCAA Tournament bid and their best record ever (27-9-5). Following the 1992-93 season, Gwozdecky won the Spencer Penrose Award as National Coach of the Year for the first time and was named CCHA Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season.
Prior to his appointment at Miami, Gwozdecky served as an assistant coach at Michigan State University following a head coaching stint at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, an NAIA school. At UW-River Falls, Gwozdecky compiled a three-year mark of 67-30-2 (.687).
Gwozdecky played wing for the University of Wisconsin's 1977 NCAA championship team, coached UW-River Falls to an NAIA title in 1983, and served as an assistant coach for Michigan State's 1986 team that won the NCAA crown.
To add to his distinguished list of accomplishments, Gwozdecky was honored on October 22, 1994, as an inductee into the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame. Gwozdecky was inducted into the Miami University "Cradle of Coaches" Hall of Fame in October of 2006 and Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in September of 2010.
A 1978 Wisconsin graduate and four-year letterwinner, Gwozdecky earned his bachelor's degree in physical education. One year later he earned his master's of education from UW-River Falls. He and his wife, Bonnie, have an 18-year-old daughter, Adrienne.