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University of Denver set for tough test in 19th Frozen Four

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Posted at 9:21 AM, Apr 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-11 11:52:50-04

DENVER — Chasing history isn't merely a goal for the University of Denver Men's Ice Hockey team.

It's the standard.

It's why you go to DU.

“We certainly take pride and are honored to try and chase records here at Denver," head coach David Carle said. "That’s something we don’t take lightly or for granted. We’re looking forward to continuing our journey.”

The journey in question is focused on claiming the program's 10th national championship, which would be the most in NCAA hockey history. As of now, they're tied with the University of Michigan at nine titles.

“Everyone really wants to push for that 10th championship for the school but also for each other," Sean Behrens, a junior defensemen with DU and 2021 Colorado Avalanche draft pick, said. "Every guy is playing selfless hockey right now and it’s great to see how tight this team is.”

To reach that goal, the Pioneers will have to navigate their 19th Frozen Four — the fifth in the last eight years — with the deft hands of a surgeon.

On Thursday, the team faces the Boston University Terriers (28-9-2) — the number two seed in the country and a group that out-scored their opponents 12-6 in their two victories to claim the Sioux Falls Regional.

"Obviously they’re a really good team and a really skilled team," Behrens said. "But if we control our game and the way we do things we’ll have a lot of success.”

As a team, the Terriers look more like Greyhounds blitzing a fearful rabbit, led by the consensus number one overall pick in the upcoming NHL Draft — freshman forward Macklin Celebrini.

But the Pioneers boast some firepower of their own, including seven players with Frozen Four experience that were on Denver's 2022 national championship roster.

One of those players is captain McKade Webster, who said this group is primed and ready to play their best hockey of the year right now.

“[During the NCAA Northeast Regional we were] dumping pucks in, getting hit every time you touch the puck. [Playing] really physical, highly physical games," Webster said. "We can play any style. We can play the skilled shootout style if you want, or we can play playoff hockey where it isn’t pretty but we get the job done.”

They're also riding the hot glove of perhaps the best goaltender in the nation right now — Matt Davis.

"He's been excellent for us, he's really steadied his game over the last couple months," Carle said. "[I'm] really proud and happy for him."

"He was unbelievable [in the NCAA Northeast Regional], probably the reason why we're still here, why we're still practicing," Behrens said. "We have a lot of confidence him, and to see him have that much success it's only going to help his game going into [the Frozen Four.]"

University of Denver set for tough test in 19th Frozen Four

Davis was named both the NCHC and National goalie of the month. He's the first Pioneer ever to win the latter award given out by the Hockey Commissioners Association. He's on a career-high, seven-game winning streak and led all keepers in the NCHC in March with a 9-1-0 record, 1.89 goals-against average, .931 save percentage and he also posted his first shutout of the season in DU's 4-0 win over Minnesota Duluth in the NCHC quarterfinals.

"The nature of my job is to be there for when the guys mess up or when they need me most," Davis said. "I'm just glad I was able to do that in [the NCAA Northeast Regional] and help us [get to the Frozen Four.]"

If DU can get the job done against BU, they'll face the winner of number 1 overall seed Boston College and old foe Michigan - and if somehow the national title game ends up being Denver vs. Michigan then there will be more than a trophy on the line.

Whichever team wins will also reign supreme as being the only team in college hockey with 10 national championships.

“Yea that would be really cool, that would be an awesome game," Behrens said. " But right now we're just focused on playing Boston in the semifinal."

Denver is facing Boston for the first time since winning 4-3 in Boston on Oct. 27, 2017. DU owns a 17-15-2 all-time record versus BU and is 3-2 in games during the national tournament in the series. The teams last met in the NCAA Tournament on March 26, 2016 when the Pioneers won 7-2 in the West Regional Semifinals.

Puck drops for this latest battle between the Terriers and Pioneers at 3 p.m. MT at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.


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