By Chris Umpierre
Florida Everblades forward Derek Damon (pictured) and Dayton Bombers goalie Adam Berkhoel have some history. Three years ago, they played central roles in one of greatest NCAA Division I-A championship games in recent memory.
As the University of Denver’s star goalie, Berkhoel made 24 saves and registered a 1-0 shutout over Maine in the 2004 national-championship game. At the time, it was just the third shutout in title-game history.
Damon, who was one of Maine’s top scorers that year, had a goal disallowed in the first period after a video review showed teammate Mike Hamilton had a skate just inside the crease.
Berkhoel, who was named the 2004 Frozen Four’s Most Outstanding Player, was spectacular late in the game. He survived a six-on-three Maine power-play advantage in the last minute.
“It’s tough to talk about it. It obviously leaves a bitter taste in my mouth,” Damon said after a recent practice. “We had a lot of opportunities to shut the door. They played a good defensive system that day. In college, anybody can beat anybody on any given day. They went on a run and they rode a hot goalie into the NCAA tournament.”
Berkhoel said the victory was one of the highlights of his hockey career. He laughed when asked about facing that six-on-three Maine power play.
“It was pretty intense,” he said. “I’m glad it’s over.”
The ECHL American Conference Finals marks the first time Damon has faced Berkhoel since that 2004 title game.
“He’s probably the best goalie in this league,” Damon said. “He’s played in the NHL. He’s had a good professional career as well as a college career. I actually played with him in Rochester’s training camp (in the American Hockey League) this year. He’s a nice guy. He played well (in Game 1). It just shows how good of a goalie he is.”