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Denver blanks Boston College, captures record 10th NCAA men’s hockey national championship


For a record-setting 10th time, the Denver Pioneers are NCAA men’s hockey national champions.

No. 3 Denver used stellar goaltending and a big second period to down No. 1 Boston College 2-0 Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn., in the NCAA national championship game.

With the win, the Pioneers pass Michigan for the most NCAA national championships in men’s college hockey history, earning their 10th, while the Wolverines are stuck on nine. The national title is also Denver’s second in three years and third in the last seven NCAA Tournaments (2017, 2022).

DU’s victory also gives the NCHC its sixth NCAA championship since the conference began play in 2013-14, all coming since 2016 (in the last eight NCAA tournaments).

Denver junior goaltender Matt Davis was named Most Outstanding Player of the Frozen Four after allowing only one goal in Saint Paul. Davis stopped all 35 shots he faced Saturday night, including a whopping 23 in the third period to tie a single-period Frozen Four record. It was only his second shutout all season, both of which came in the postseason. The undrafted free agent totaled 139 saves on 142 shots in the NCAA Tournament, including 68 stops in the Frozen Four, while posting a .979 save percentage en route to the national championship. Davis surrendered only three goals in four NCAA Tournament games this year.

“Super human,” Denver coach David Carle said when asked to describe Davis’ performance. “This whole [NCAA] run, he gave up three goals. It’s incredible what he did. A lot of big-time saves in those games. It’s not like we weren’t giving up any chances. There’s many moments in all these games that he could have cracked and he didn’t.”

Saturday also marked the first time the Eagles (34-6-1) were shut out all season, while seeing their 15-game winning streak snapped.

Davis gave Boston College an early taste of what was to come when he denied Will Smith on a breakaway midway through the first period. Neither team scored in the first 20 minutes, but DU held a slight 8-5 edge in shots on goal after the opening stanza.

The Pioneers finally broke through 9:42 into the second period when sophomore forward Jared Wright, a Burnsville, Minn., native, lit the lamp in his home state. Wright played some give-and-go with classmate Rieger Lorenz down the right side, with Lorenz dishing back to Wright below the circle. Wright’s shot initially hit the post, then bounced off the back of BC goalie Jacob Fowler’s mask and dropped into the net to make it a 1-0 game. It was Wright’s 15th goal of the season.

“Obviously it’s a big dream growing up in Minnesota to win (a state championship), but winning this is I think so much bigger. It’s the pinnacle of my life so far,” said Wright.

Denver doubled its lead a little more than five minutes later when Lorenz found the back of the net himself. All-American and NCHC Rookie of the Year Zeev Buium skated around an Eagle to enter the zone, then attracted two more defenders along the wall before spinning for a back-hand pass to Lorenz in the right circle. Lorenz, a Minnesota Wild draft pick, quickly fired a wrister that beat Fowler near-side for his 16th tally of the season on the Wild’s home ice.

Taking a 2-0 lead into the final frame, Denver and Davis stepped up their game even more. The Eagles had a pair of power play chances in the third period, firing six shots on goal, but Davis calmly turned them all aside. His best save of the night came early in the third period on BC’s first power play, when Ryan Leonard was wide open on the back door for a should-be goal, but Davis came diving across to make a superman, highlight-reel glove save and keep the puck out of the net.

Boston College pulled Fowler for an extra attacker in the final minutes, but it was to no avail as Davis would not be beat on Saturday night. Despite the loss, BC finished with a 35-26 advantage in shots on goal, including 23-5 in the final frame. The teams went a combined 0-for-3 on the power play, with DU going 0-for-1.

Denver claimed five of six spots on the All-Tournament Team. Joining Davis on the Frozen Four All-Tournament Team were Lorenz, who had a goal and an assist in the title game, Buium, junior defenseman Sean Behrens, and junior forward Tristan Broz, who scored the overtime game-winner Thursday night against No. 2 Boston University in the semifinals.

The Pioneers finish the season with a 32-9-3 record, marking their third straight 30-win campaign, including nine straight wins to end the season. Four of those nine wins came at Xcel Energy Center, with the Pioneers also winning the NCHC Frozen Faceoff three weeks ago on the same ice. DU, the highest scoring team in college hockey this season, scored exactly two goals in all four NCAA Tournament games on its way to a title, winning its first three all by 2-1 scores. Three of Denver’s four NCAA Tournament wins came against Hockey East opponents (BC, BU and UMass).

Along with Denver in 2017, 2022 and now 2024, the NCHC’s other national championships were won by North Dakota in 2016 and by Minnesota Duluth in 2018 and 2019.

“It’s a far cry from six years ago when everybody said I was too young to do this,” Carle said. “I think we’ve got great people. I’ve been extremely blessed to have great mentors, be supported by an unbelievable wife and family, and it’s a total team effort to do what we do at Denver.

“These guys, everybody laid it all on the line, and we’re national champions. So proud of them. They’ll walk together forever.”

Frozen Four All-Tournament Team
G: Matt Davis, Denver (MOP)
D: Zeev Buium, Denver
D: Sean Behrens, Denver
F: Will Smith, Boston College
F: Rieger Lorenz, Denver
F: Tristan Broz, Denver

Photo/Denver Athletics

— Matt Mackinder

(April 14, 2024)

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