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Denver Pioneers

Boulding: Denver Pioneers Headed to the ‘Ship’



Michael Dwyer/AP

It doesn’t happen every day, and sometimes it’s only for a brief period of time, but this week the hottest hockey team in town is the Denver Pioneers.

Avalanche who?

Break out that crimson and gold people, because the Pios are headed to the NCAA Division I National Championship game after a hard-fought 3-2 overtime victory against the star-studded University of Michigan Wolverines on Thursday in Boston.

Sure, the Avs recently clinched a playoff berth for the fifth straight campaign—after the 2016-17 season that shall not be named—and are in Canada to face the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers, but out of sight, out of mind, right?

Colorado’s hockey team with the most championships now has a chance to bring the title back home for the first time since 2017. And they only had to overcome the top-ranked club that featured 13 NHL Draft picks, including seven first rounders—guys like 2021 No. 1 selection Owen Power, No. 2 draftee Matthew Beniers, No. 4 pick Luke Hughes, and No. 5 selection Kent Johnson—in order to get there.

On February 18, I told you not to sleep on the best kept hockey secret in this Rocky Mountain town, and this is me coming back again to say the same thing today.

Only this time I don’t have to tell you how awesome the squad’s regular-season record was. I don’t need to extol the talents of Carter Savoie (fourth in the nation in goals) or Bobby Brink (a Hobey Baker Award finalist) or Cole Guttman or Sean Behrens (Avs prospect) or Brett Stapley (who has 98 points). I don’t have to sing the praises of goalkeeper Magnus Chrona (who has 50 wins). I don’t have to commend the bench management from head coach David Carle.

The proof is in the accomplishments, namely Denver’s fifth appearance in the last seven Frozen Four tournaments and 12th trip to ‘the Ship’. The team did it by sweeping the NCAA West Regional in Loveland with wins against UMass Lowell and Minnesota Duluth.

Now they have a shot at the school’s ninth national title, which would tie them with… checks notes… Michigan for the most in college hockey.

And get this! The last time the Pioneers played in a championship game in Boston was 2004, when the squad won the first of back-to-back titles after a lengthy (35 years!) drought. It’s like this is meant to be…

In 2004, Coach Carle’s brother, Matt, was just a Pioneers newcomer with an NHL career on the horizon, and I was just an incoming freshman watching on the couch at home.

While I may have been wearing a Charlestown Chiefs jersey at the time, I have my 2004 National Champions edition Pioneers sweater on now, and I may not take it off until Sunday.

So if you’re ready for a taste of the ultimate contest in meaningful college hockey, a chance to remember the thrill of a game where everything is on the line, set a reminder for Saturday. The Pioneers will take on Minnesota State at 6 p.m. MT.

Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Evan Rawal, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

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