University of Denver Hockey Ready to Defend Its Title
“We are going to have a target on our backs, and we are going to get everyone’s best game.”
Senior defenseman and team captain Justin Lee knows that the University of Denver hockey team will not sneak up on anyone this season. Coming off the program’s record-tying ninth national championship, the team’s quest to defend the title and become the first NCAA hockey program to win 10 championships begins this Friday.
“We’ve earned that target, so we have to use it to our advantage,” says David Carle, the Richard and Kitzia Goodman Hockey Head Coach. “The big thing for us is just trying to stay humble and stay hungry and understand that there is a target on us, and we are going to get everyone’s best game. But at the end of the day, I think that is a very good thing for us in our growth and our development throughout the year.”
The Pioneers, who enter the season as the No. 1-ranked team in the country, embrace the idea of being in everyone’s crosshair.
“I think that will make us better in the long run,” says defenseman Mike Benning. “We are going to get everyone’s best game and by the time we get to the end of the season that will help develop the young guys and the team as a whole.”
This weekend, the puck drops on the regular season as DU co-hosts the Ice Breaker Tournament. Notre Dame comes to Magness Arena on Friday night, followed by the University of Maine on Saturday.
There are nine newcomers to the team this year, seven first-year student-athletes and two transfer students. However, DU is returning 18 players from last year’s championship team, including six defensemen and all three goaltenders. Carle is relying on this group to lead the team this season.
“We have challenged that group to be great from day one,” he says. “It’s a different challenge and a different dynamic year to year. This year we are young with a lot of new people up front and on the back end, and in goal we are a veteran group.”
This group is ready to lead the Pioneers—and they are not living in the past.
“The coaches make us focus on the task at hand and that is weekend by weekend, and game by game,” Benning says. “We won, so we know what the standard is and so there’s not much dwelling on what we did last season. We are now focused on what we need to do this season.”
Carle admits there will be bumps along the road and has no illusions that DU will play its best hockey in every single game. However, he says it’s those moments that the team must learn from if they want to accomplish something no other school has ever done.
“We want to win another one. We want to be the first program to 10,” Carle says. “The reality is that you don’t just get there by talking about it. You have to stay present and be in the moment and try to get better day to day and week to week.”