The University of Denver is Boston-Bound for the Frozen Four
For the 18th time in program history, the University of Denver men’s hockey team is heading back to the Frozen Four.
When the puck dropped at the beginning of the season, the national critics never thought DU would be one of the four teams descending upon Boston with a chance at winning a national championship. The Pioneers started the season ranked 13th in the country, and it wasn’t until mid-January that they finally cracked the top five.
“We knew we had what it takes to make it to the Frozen Four and compete for a national championship,” says team captain Cole Guttman. “Our freshman class has made a really big impact on our team, and it’s something you’re never really sure about coming into a year, but when the games started we found out they were going to be really good for us.”
If DU is this year’s surprise, the other three schools seemed destined for the Final Four. Minnesota, Minnesota State and Michigan all entered the season ranked in the top five and stayed there for most of the season. The Pioneers will face the Wolverines in the semifinal round, the first time the two programs have played each other in 20 years.
“We are going to have to slow down a very vaunted Michigan offense,” says David Carle, the Richard and Kitzia Goodman Head Coach. “Seven first rounders, highly talented, highly skilled, and they generate a lot of offense in a lot of ways. They are a very good team; they’ve been a top five team all year, and they are the top overall seed for a reason.”
Although they have not won a national championship since 1998, Michigan has won a total of nine titles, the most in the NCAA and one more than DU.
The Pioneers see constant reminders of what they will be playing for this weekend every time they are in the Miller Hockey Complex — the team’s locker room. A trophy case outside the main entrance holds all eight national championship trophies. Once they go inside, there are reminders of who helped win those titles.
“You see all over our locker room pictures of guys in Denver uniforms accomplishing stuff, winning national championships, and it just inspires us to try and make our own mark on this program,” says Bobby Brink, one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, college hockey’s highest honor. “We want to win a national championship for the people who came before us and have built this program up to what it is today.”
But first things first. No one on the team is looking past Thursday’s game, which will feature DU’s highest-scoring offense in the country versus Michigan’s third-best offense.
“We are really excited to play them, and I think it’s great for college hockey that the two of us are going against each other,” Carle says.
The puck drops for the Pioneers and Wolverines on Thursday at 3 p.m. You can watch all the action on ESPN2.