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DU Hockey Looks to Ace First Postseason Test Against Minnesota Duluth

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Jordyn Reiland


Jordyn Reiland writer

The best-of-three series starts Friday at Magness Arena

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A DU hockey player defends a Colorado College player

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference Tournament gets underway this weekend, but if you ask the DU hockey team, the last few weeks have felt like postseason play.

“I think we have been in the postseason mindset. These last couple of weeks have been huge in the NCHC standings ... so I think just having competitive games in the last couple of weeks has really helped us transition our game and help us get into that mindset,” defenseman Sean Behrens says.

Sean Behrens

DU locked up the No. 2 seed in the NCHC tournament after splitting their final regular season series with Colorado College. The Pioneers lost the first game 4-3 on Friday night in Colorado Springs but came back home on Saturday and won 4-3.

Denver will host seventh-seeded University of Minnesota Duluth in a best-of-three quarterfinal series—earning home ice for the quarterfinals. Puck drop for game one is set for 7 p.m. MT on Friday, and all three games will be available on The conference’s four quarterfinal winners will advance to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, which takes place in St. Paul, Minn., March 22-23.

The Pioneers have been in a “home-ice fight” for the last several weeks of the regular season, both in the conference but also for the NCAA Tournament seeding, says Head Coach David Carle.

And the quality of opponents they’ve faced in the second half of the season has also given DU opportunities to overcome challenges and find ways to win.

David Carle

“We’re improving, we’re getting better, we’re getting forced into uncomfortable situations and finding ways to deal with it, and we’ve found ways to string some wins together against really good teams,” Carle says.

DU swept Minnesota Duluth in their last regular season series, winning 5-4 in overtime on Feb. 16 and 5-2 on Feb. 17. The two teams faced each other in the 2022 Frozen Faceoff semifinal, which UMD won; however, Denver defeated them a week later in the NCAA Tournament.

DU finished the regular season with a 24-9-3 overall record and a 15-7-2 NCHC record. Going forward, the Pioneers hope to continue improving upon their defensive play, including tightening down their penalty kill.

“We had areas in the first half that we wanted to clean up, especially defensively in the neutral zone, and I thought these last couple of weekends, we've been really good with that. We've been playing a good team system, and everyone’s bought in,” Behrens says.

Behrens received his first NCHC Defenseman of the Week honor of the season—the sixth of his career—on Feb. 19, after the team swept UMD. Teammates Boston Buckberger, Zeev Buium and Shai Buium have also been honored with the award this season.

McKade Webster

“I think everyone’s bought into playing our standard of hockey,” forward and captain McKade Webster says.

The team also hopes to rely on the success of their depth scoring, which has been particularly successful toward the end of the regular season. Earlier this month, the Pioneers had 11 different goal scorers against St. Cloud State—playing a big role in their first weekend sweep at St. Cloud since 2007.

“To have depth scoring, you need that in single game eliminations [in the postseason], because one line or a group of players will get shut down on a given night, and you want everyone feeling confident that they can be able to put the puck in the back of the net,” Carle says.

The balanced scoring the Pioneers have displayed also shows a level of selflessness that forward and alternate captain Connor Caponi would like to see continue.

“I think that’s what makes a difference in championship teams,” Caponi says.

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