BOSTON - Denver coach George Gwozdecky knew everything was all right when he pulled forward Connor James aside after Wednesday's skatearound to see how his broken leg was mending.
"He kind of looked at me in surprise, as if, "You think I'm not going to play?"' Gwozdecky said a day before the Pioneers meet Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals. "He's going to play. He's already decided he's going to play. I concur."
James broke his right fibula in the second period of the regular-season finale March5 against Colorado College and has not played since. He missed the first round of the conference playoffs and watched teammates earn a spot in the Frozen Four with victories over Miami of Ohio and North Dakota in the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Now that Denver is here, James, the team's second-leading scorer, has no intention of missing the rest of the action.
"This Saturday will be five weeks out," he said. "It feels great and I plan on playing."
Denver (25-12-5) faces Minnesota-Duluth (28-12-4) at noon today (ESPN2). The Western Collegiate Hockey Association foes have played twice this season, with Duluth winning both.
Boston College (29-8-4) plays Maine (32-7-3) at 6 (ESPN2); Maine is 2-1 against the Eagles. The winners play for the championship Saturday night.
Denver has not been to the Frozen Four since 1986, and Duluth hasn't been there since losing in the final to Jerry York-coached Bowling Green a year earlier. The other visitors are more regular guests: Maine is in the final four for the fourth time in six years, with two titles since 1993; York has brought BC here five times in seven years, winning it all in 2001.
COLORADO PROBE: An internal university probe is looking into the Colorado recruiting scandal, operating under rules enabling it to get more information than a well-publicized panel conducting the same work. Peggy Lamm, co-chairman of the blue-ribbon Independent Investigative Commission, said the university hired two lawyers, including a former federal prosecutor, to conduct the investigation.
The internal probe can offer confidentiality to people interviewed, Lamm noted, adding she was not advocating closed-door meetings for the commission. The commission and the internal investigation are looking into accusations the university used sex and alcohol to recruit high school players for the football team.
ENDORSEMENT CASE: A judge put the NCAA above the law when he denied Jeremy Bloom's request to force it to allow him to earn endorsement money as a professional skier while playing college football as an amateur, Bloom's attorney said. In arguments before the Colorado Court of Appeals, Peter Rush said state District Judge Dan Hale improperly denied Bloom's request.
NCAA attorney Linda Salfrank argued Hale's decision cannot be overturned because he did not abuse his authority. She said each of the 360,000 athletes who compete under the NCAA umbrella have to abide by the same rules. Those rules allow Bloom to earn prize money and a stipend from the U.S. ski team but no endorsement money, she said.
Bloom said he did not get a clear feeling for how the court would rule. Bloom has played wide receiver for Colorado two seasons and plans to play this fall. Since January, he has signed endorsement contracts with two companies that sponsor the U.S. ski team.
NAME CHANGE: The San Francisco Bowl became the Emerald Bowl after signing a three-year extension through 2006 with its title sponsor. The game was sponsored by Diamond Walnut its first two seasons, but the company changed the name to highlight its new Emerald Nuts line of snack foods.
HONORS: Three state players are among the finalists for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. They are: Leigh Ann Ellis and Holly Groves (Seminole High) of South Florida and Jessica van der Linden of Florida State. Florida's Jenny Gladding was among the top 25, then was removed from consideration after a season-ending injury last week.
USF junior Uli Kiendl was named Conference USA men's tennis player of the week for the second time this season. Kiendl had a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Georgia's Bo Hodge, ranked No.15 in the nation. Kiendl also teamed with senior Karim Benmansour to beat Pepperdine's Pedro Rico and Calle Hansen, ranked 18th in the nation.
Florida hurdler Josh Walker was named SEC track athlete of the week. Walker won the 110-meter hurdles at the Texas Relays last weekend, finishing in a national best 13.47.
BASEBALL: Derrick Smith's three-run homer highlighted a five-run sixth inning as visiting Florida State rallied to a 15-4 win against Jacksonville (14-19). The Seminoles (24-9) trailed 3-1 early.
SOFTBALL: Florida State junior Casey Hunter improved to 24-1, throwing her second career shutout in a 2-0 win over the visiting Gators (35-9). Hunter had 11 strikeouts as FSU improved to 42-4. In Tampa, Kristin Law hit a three-run double and Katie Bender added a two-run double as the Spartans (25-10, 9-7 SSC) topped Eckerd (11-27, 0-13) 9-1.