Pio My, Denver Captures National Championship

Pioneers score five goals in the third period to earn the school’s 9th NCAA Hockey title.

Boston, MA – It took over forty minutes, but once the Denver Pioneers solved the puzzle that is the Minnesota St. Mavericks defense and Hobey Baker Award-winning goalie Dryden McKay the flood gates opened. Trailing 1-0 heading into the third period, the Pioneers had managed only eight shots on goal. Twenty minutes, a dozen shots, and five goals later, Denver was crowned NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey National Champions with a sell-out TD Garden crowd.

The 5-1 win snapped the Mavericks’ 18-game winning streak and put the Pioneers in a tie with Michigan for most National Championships in NCAA ice hockey.

“Our alumni group is very tight and it certainly was a goal to get to nine,” said Denver head coach David Carle. “The ultimate goal is to be the first one to 10, I will tell you. Winning Thursday against Michigan, the team at 9, was a huge step in that direction. And obviously tonight is an even bigger step.”

Denver sophomore Mike Benning was the first penalty of the game, and it cost the Pioneers when he went to the box for Tripping at 12:23.

Sam Morton capitalized on the man advantage when he beat Magnus Chrona five-hole to give the Mavericks the 1-0 lead at 13:59 of the first period. Lucas Sowder and Brendan Furry assisted on Morton’s ninth when Sowder gathered Furry’s rebound and swung a pass to Morton at the left face-off dot for the game’s only goal through two periods.

Minnesota St. Mavericks junior forward Sam Morton celebrates his first-period goal giving the Mavericks the 1-0 lead against the Denver Pioneers during the NCAA National Championship game at TD Garden on April 9, 2022.

The Mavericks had the game’s subsequent two penalties in the late first and early second periods. Denver didn’t generate much on either chance, while Minnesota St. had a solid shorthanded attempt on each.

Chrona turned away Josh Groll on the first one and David Silye on a breakaway during the second one. The 6′-5″ junior from Stockholm, Sweden, made 24 saves during 60 minutes of action.

“Magnus made save after save there in big moments. I think that gave the guys life that he’s putting it on the line for us,” said Carle of Chrona’s performance. “We need to up our game. And again, in the second, I thought it was an opportunity for us to take a breath again and come out and play Denver hockey for the last 20.”

Denver Pioneers goalie Magnus Chrona makes one of his 24 saves during the Pioneers’ 5-1 win over the Minnesota St. Mavericks in the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey National Championship game at TD Garden on Saturday, April 9, 2022.

“They were outplaying us, but at the end of the day they were only up 1-0,” said senior assistant captain Ryan Barrow. “So one shot changes the entire outlook on the game.”

Barrow was just the man to take that shot that changed the course of the game. At 4:46 of the third period, the 6′-2″ forward found himself alone in front of McKay as Benning fired off a shot from the right circle. McKay saved it, but Barrow knocked the rebound past McKay to even score 1-1.

“I think we’re a defense-oriented team. Obviously we’re trying to defend hard,” said Morton. “We didn’t want to let up a goal, but usually you need more than one to win a hockey game. I think it deflated us a little bit.”

With Mavericks goal scorer Morton off for Tripping at 5:26, the Pioneers capitalized on the man advantage shortly before it expired when Benning beat McKay with a one-timer from the left face-off dot at 7:33. Carter Mazur and Justin Lee assisted on Benning’s 15th.

“I’m just kind of overwhelmed with everything,” said Benning of his goal. “But I saw a shot and took it. Went with my gut, and now we’re here. So I’m happy.”

The Denver Pioneers and some fans celebrate Mike Benning’s game-winning goal against the Minnesota St. Mavericks in the NCAA National Championship game at TD Garden on April 9, 2022. The Pioneers won 5-1 to earn the school’s ninth hockey title.

“I thought I gave up a rebound on that (first) one. They capitalized,” said Mavericks goalie McKay. “Then we took a penalty shortly after. It was just a bad bounce. And then a guy makes a nice shot on the power play. All of a sudden it’s 2-1, and just never really recovered. It would have been nice to make a few more saves for the guys, keep it at one or two,but it just didn’t happen.”

“It was a heck of a shot. They worked it around the power play and the guy just opened it up for a one-timer, went by my D’s face and right over my shoulder,short side. Good shot by him,” said a dejected McKay.

“They’re a pretty sound team, they’re older,” said Benning of the Mavericks. “He’s a really good goalie but he’s not perfect. So obviously I saw a shot and took it. And Barrow saw a shot and took it. We just kind of picked away at the game piece by piece. And I think that’s how we found our success tonight.”

Six minutes later, Massimo Rizzo made it 3-1 Pioneers when he buried a Mazur pass during a two-on-one from the bottom of the right circle for his 12th.

Denver Pioneers Massimo Rizzo beats Minnesota St. Mavericks goalie Dryden McKay with a one-timer on a two-on-one during the Pioneers’ five-goal third period in the National Championship game at TD Garden on April 9, 2022.

The last two Pioneer goals came courtesy of empty-net goals. The 4-1 strike came at 17:28 when senior centerman Brett Stapley fired in a shot from the neutral zone for his 18th.

Thirty-two seconds later, senior Cameron Wright added a backhander from the right-side boards to cap off the evening 5-1. Mazur picked up his third assist on the evening on Wright’s 23rd.

“Words don’t describe the feelings. I’m so proud of our team and what they could accomplish this year. It means the world to our staff and players to be a part of this journey with these guys,” said Carle. “It was just so much fun. They committed to each other every day to get better. It was not easy, but they continued to stick with it.”

“We faced our biggest test tonight,” added Carle. “Mike Hastings and his staff have an excellent hockey team. They made us earn it. You have to earn this trophy. And our guys earned it tonight. And we are so proud of them.”

The National Champion Denver Pioneers. Left to Right, Head Coach David Carle, goalie Magnus Chrona, forward Mike Benning, and forward Ryan Barrow.

“I thought we got off to a good start, even a good 40 minutes,” said Hastings of his Mavericks. “Once we gave up the first one, I thought we started leaking oil a little bit and couldn’t stop the bleeding. They scored a power play goal to get it to two. And then we started chasing the game a little bit.”

“I think tonight’s a perfect example of understanding that a minimum of 60 minutes at this time is going to be something that you have to have. And I thought we had a good 40 and not a great last 20,” Hastings added.

The Pioneers raised the National Championship trophy for the third time in the city of Boston. The first came in 1960 at the old Boston Garden, the second at TD Garden in 2004, and again Saturday night.

“We have four now since the turn of the century, I think that’s the most out of anybody. We’ve done it with three different head coaches, that’s very impressive,” Carle said of the DU legacy. “You come here to try to win championships.”

“It’s not easy to play at Denver. We challenge recruits when they come on campus. We challenge our players. We hold them accountable,” said Carle. “It’s a big responsibility to play in our program. And ultimately, it takes people who are ‘team first’ and who want to be part of something bigger than themselves. So to do it again in Boston, that team really did put Denver hockey back on the modern map. And we’re here to stay.”

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