PREVIEW: No. 1 DU Begins NCAA Tournament against No. 4 UMass – University of Denver Athletics


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – University of Denver hockey team continues its quest for a 10th national championship on Thursday as the Pioneers begin the NCAA Tournament versus the Massachusetts Minutemen in the NCAA Northeast Regional Semifinals at MassMutual Center in Springfield.
 
Game time is set for 12 p.m. MT and it will be nationally televised on ESPN 2. All of DU’s national tournament games can be heard on Denver Sports 104.3 The Fan HD3 with Jay Stickney on the call.
 
Denver is the No. 1 seed in the region and earned an automatic bid to the national tournament after winning the NCHC Tournament on Saturday night with a 4-1 victory against Omaha in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Pioneers are on a five-game winning streak and have the second-best mark among tournament squads in their last 10 contests with an 8-1-1 record.
 
Massachusetts picked up an at-large bit into the tournament and is the No. 4 seed in the region. The UMass Minutemen are also one of the host schools in the Springfield Regional along with American International, which didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, and had to play in the Northeast Regional if they made the 16-team field.
 
DU is in its 33rd national tournament and are tied with Michigan for the most championships. The Pioneers have reached the NCAA Tournament in 15 consecutive full seasons since 2008 and have reached the Frozen Four in four of their last six tries.
 
The Pioneers and Minutemen have faced off once before in the national tournament, with Denver falling 4-3 in overtime in the 2019 NCAA Frozen Four Semifinals in Buffalo, New York. DU has a 5-3-0 all-time record and UMass, with the teams’ previous meeting being a two-game series last season in Amherst that the Minutemen won both.
 
Massachusetts is in the national tournament for the fifth time in school history. UMass lost 8-1 to No. 1 overall Boston College in the Hockey East Semifinals last Friday at TD Garden in Boston. UMass was the last team into the tournament and needed Denver to defeat Omaha in order to gain the berth over Colorado College.
 
Maine is the No. 2 seed in the region and will play No. 3 Cornell in the second semifinal on Thursday afternoon in Springfield. The winners will play for a spot into the Frozen Four on Saturday at 2 p.m. MT (TV: ESPN 2).
 
The Pioneers played each of the other three teams in the region last season in 2022-23, and the No. 1 seed is also the only squad in the group that has to fly cross country for this regional.
 
LAST TIME OUT: The Pioneers captured the 2024 NCHC Frozen Faceoff Championship on Saturday night with a 4-1 victory against the Omaha Mavericks at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.
 
Omaha started the scoring in the opening period, but DU finished the game with four straight goals, beginning with McKade Webster tallying twice early in the second period to give the Pios a 2-1 lead. Miko Matikka and Rieger Lorenz added insurance markers late in regulation, and goaltender Matt Davis made 15 saves as the Pioneers outshot the Mavericks 35-16 overall.
 
PIONEERS WIN THIRD NCHC FROZEN FACEOFF: Denver won its third NCHC Frozen Faceoff as the conference’s tournament champions with its 4-1 victory vs. Omaha in the final on Saturday.  Overall, it is DU’s 18th conference tournament title after winning 15 previously while a member of the WCHA.  The Pioneers have won each of their three appearances in the NCHC Final, as they also won the inaugural tournament in 2014 over Miami at Target Center in Minneapolis and 2018 vs. St. Cloud State at the first iteration of the event at Xcel Energy Center.
 
Denver is 28-9-1 all-time in the NCHC Tournament and is the only squad to reach the conference’s final four in all 10-held tournaments.  The Pios earned their seventh quarterfinal sweep on March 15-16 after dispatching Minnesota Duluth in two games; DU has won 11th straight quarterfinal games and improved to 19-2 all-time in the opening round.  The Pioneers defeated St. Cloud State in the semifinals on Friday and are now to 3-7 all-time in the NCHC round of four.
 
WEBSTER LEADS PIONEERS IN FROZEN FACEOFF: Senior captain McKade Webster recorded his second career two-goal game in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff Championship vs. Omaha on Saturday, as he tallied twice in the second period to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead in what was the eventual game-winner (also Nov. 27, 2023 vs. Yale).  He also had a career-high seven shots on goal and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, joining Daniel Doremus (2014) and Tanner Jaillet (2018) as Pioneers to earn the award.
 
Webster also scored in Friday’s semifinal against St. Cloud State and was joined on the All-Tournament Team by freshmen teammates Miko Matikka (3g/1a) and Zeev Buium (2g/2a).
 
DU IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT: Denver is in the national tournament for the 33rd time in program history and has reached the Big Dance in now 15 consecutive full seasons since 2008.  The Pioneers’ nine national titles are tied with Michigan for the most in college hockey history, with them most recently winning two years ago in 2022.
 
DU has a 40-25 all-time record in the NCAA Tournament, and the program is 11-3 in its last 13 tournament games dating back to 2017 and is 14-5 in its last 19 national contests since 2015.  The Pioneers have reached the Frozen Four in four of its previous six tries and won the championships (2016, 2017, 2019, 2022).
 
NCAA TOURNAMENT EXPERIENCE: Denver has 11 student-athletes with NCAA Tournament experience on its roster and seven players that were on its 2022 team that won the national championship. Sean Behrens, Shai Buium, Jack Devine, Carter King, Massimo Rizzo and McKade Webster all have the most experience with five NCAA contests, while Tristan Broz has played in four games (three with Minnesota in 2022).
 
Connor Caponi, Rieger Lorenz, Aidan Thompson and Jared Wright all made their national tournament debuts last year in the Pioneers’ regional semifinal loss to Cornell.
 
NATIONAL TOURNAMENT MISCELLANEOUS

  • Massimo Rizzo ranks third among players in the NCAA Tournament in career scoring with 126 points, three behind leaders Riese Gaber (North Dakota) and Collin Graf (Quinnipiac) with 129 each. Jack Devine is eighth with 105 points.
  • Rizzo is first among tournament players with 87 assists, while Sean Behrens is fourth with 69 assists. Behrens’ 79 career points are tied for fifth among NCAA defensemen in the tourney.
  • Carter King’s five short-handed goals in his career are tied for the most among tournament players.
  • Coach David Carle (4) is tied for the sixth-most NCAA Tournament appearance by coaches in this year’s event. He is one of nine coaches in the 2024 Tournament leading the bench of his alma mater.
  • DU has the fourth-best record against other NCAA Tournament teams at 8-6-0 (.571).
  • The Pioneers are the second-hottest team entering the tournament at 8-1-1 in their past 10 games and have the third-best mark since the holiday break at 16-4-2 (.750). The team’s five-game winning streak is tied for the third-longest entering this NCAAs by tournament teams.
  • Denver has the second-smallest senior class with three (Cornell, 2) while tied for the largest freshmen class with 11 (Boston College) and tied for fourth-most underclassmen with 17.
  • DU has the NCAA Tournament’s top-scoring junior class (237 points) and defense (159 points) and ranks second among top-scoring freshmen classes (154 points).
  • The Pios are the second-youngest team at 21.3 years old (BC, 21.1) and is tied for the fifth-biggest team by weight (190.2)
  • Denver’s 12 NHL Draft picks are tied with Wisconsin for the fifth-most in the tournament. 

HISTORY VS UMASS: Denver owns a 5-3-0 all-time record against Massachusetts, and the programs are meeting in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in their history; DU lost 4-3 in overtime in the April 11, 2019 in the NCAA Frozen Four Semifinals in Buffalo, New York.  The Pioneers swept the next meetings with a two-game series at DU on Jan 3-4, 2020 with 4-2 and 4-3 victories.  The teams last met last season, with Denver falling 4-2 and 3-0 on Oct. 14-15, 2022 in its only road non-conference games of the campaign and the first meeting of the previous two national champions (UMass 2021, DU 2022) since DU faced UMD in 2018.  The programs played their first-ever game against one another on Nov. 27, 2004 when Denver won 6-1 at Magness Arena.  The Pioneers are 2-2 all-time in the state of Massachusetts vs. the Minutemen.
 
PREVIOUS MEETING (OCT. 15, 2022): Then-No. 1 Denver fell 3-0 to the No. 13 Massachusetts Minutemen at Mullins Center.  Denver outshot UMass for the second-straight game, this time by a 30-24 margin, but couldn’t get any pucks past goaltender Luke Pavicich in his shutout. DU netminder Magnus Chrona finished with 21 saves.  Scott Morrow and Matt Koopman scored before the Minutemen added an empty-net marker in the final minutes.
 
SCOUTING THE MINUTEMEN: Massachusetts is in the national tournament for the fifth time after earning an at-large bid and have made the Dance in four of the last tournaments.  UMass is the host school in Springfield and was guaranteed to play in the region if the program made the tournament.  The Minutemen are coming off an 8-1 loss to Boston College in the Hockey East Semifinals on Friday night at TD Garden in Boston.  UMass won 3-1 at Providence on March 16 in the Hockey East Quarterfinals they finished the season with a 4-6-0 mark in their final 10 games—though three of those losses were vs. No. 1 BC.  Massachusetts finished tied for fifth in Hockey East with 36 points and a 12-10-2 mark and sports a 20-13-3 overall record this year.  Scott Morrow leads the team with 24 assists and 30 points while also adding six goals.  Jack Musa is second on UMass with 29 points (12g/17a) and is tied for the team lead in goals with 12 with Aydar Suniev, who has 24 points (12g/12a).  Ryan Ufko is third on the squad with 26 points (10g/16a), as the Minutement have seven players with 20 or more points this year.  Goaltender Michael Hrabel has led the team with 28 starts this season and owns a 16-10-1 record, 2.61 goals-against average, .912 save percentage and two shutouts.
 
CONNECTIONS: Denver Athletics Director Josh Berlo spent his undergraduate at UMass, earning his bachelor’s degree from the school in 1999 … Aidan Thompson played prep school hockey at Berkshire School in Sheffield, Mass. … Denver’s sports performance director Matt Shaw worked five years with athletic departments in Massachusetts, four at Boston University and one at Harvard. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 2010 and master’s in 2011 from BU … UMass’ Taylor Makar is a 2021 NHL Draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche and is from the same hometown as Denver’s Kent Anderson, Matt Davis, Carter King and Rieger Lorenz (Calgary, Alberta) … Shai Buium and Scott Morrow played together at Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school in Minnesota in 2020-21 … Matt Davis (2020-21) and Kent Anderson (2021-22) were teammates on the USHL Green Bay Gamblers with Owen Murray … Jared Wright played with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers with Michael Cameron and Kennedy O’Connor in 2021-22 … Aaron Bohlinger and Connor Caponi were teammates with the Waterloo Black Hawks in 2019-20 … Kenny Connors played on the Dubuque Fighting Saints with Paxton Geisel and Lucas Olvestad in 2021-22 and Tristan Lemyre from 2020-22 … Kieran Cebrian was a teammate of Cole O’Hara (2020-22), Cam O’Neill (2022-23) and Sebastian Tornqvist (2022-23) with the USHL Tri-City Storm, while Cale Ashcroft also played with O’Neill and Tornqvist in Tri-City in 2022-23 … Sam Harris played with Jackson Irving on the USHL Sioux Falls Stampede in 2022-23.
 
IN MASS: Denver is set to play its 68th all-time game in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with the program owning a 34-31-3 all-time record in the state.  The Pioneers are 24-23-3 in the regular season against schools in Massachusetts and own a 10-8 mark in postseason play throughout the state.  Denver has won three national championship games in Boston (1960, 2004, 2022).
 
PIONEERING TOWARD THE POSTSEASON: The Pioneers are on a season-long five-game winning streak that dates back to March 9 in the regular-season finale vs. Colorado College.  Overall, Denver is 8-1-1 in its last 10 games and 11-2-1 in the 14 contests since the start of February.  DU finished its home slate on a four-game winning streak (Feb. 24-March 16), tying a season long (Dec. 2-Jan. 12).
 
BALANCED SCORING: The Pioneers have 11 players that have scored 10 or more goals this season and nine skaters that have registered 30 or more points, both by far the most by a program in college hockey in 2023-24.  DU also has the most 20-plus point players and is tied with Michigan State for the highest amount of skaters with 10 or more points.
 
Boston College and Quinnipiac are the next two teams on the list with the most 10-plus goal scorers with seven each, while Michigan is second behind Denver with seven players that have registered 30 or more points. Among NCHC teams, North Dakota is tied for fourth with six players with 10-plus goals while Western Michigan is second in the league with five players with 30-plus points.
 
ZEEV IN THE RECORD BOOKS: Defenseman Zeev Buium has produced one of the best rookie campaigns in Denver program history as he leads the team with 37 assists and is second in scoring with 48 points.
 
His 48 points are tied for the 10th most by a freshman player in program history and are the most by a rookie since Rick Berens also had 48 in 1987-88 (also tied with Dave Shields, 48, 1986-87).  Overall, only two frosh defensemen have recorded more points in a single campaign than Buium: Craig Redmond’s 54 in 1982-83 and Greg Woods’ 52 in 1975-76.
 
The San Diego, California, native’s 37 assists are the third-highest by a freshman and are the second-most by a frosh D-man behind Redmond’s 38 in 1982-83 (forward Dallas Gaume owns the record with 47 assists in his rookie campaign in 1982-83).  Among defensemen all-time, Buium’s 37 helpers are the fifth-best in a season in Pioneer history.
 
Buium’s 11 goals on the season are the most from a freshman defenseman since Joey LaLeggia also had 11 in 2011-12.
 
AUTO-MATIKKA: Forward Miko Matikka registered his fourth multi-goal game of the season on Friday in the NCHC Semifinals vs. St. Cloud State and had a goal and an assist on Saturday in the Championship Game vs. Omaha. He now has nine multi-point outings this season.
 
Matikka’s 19 goals this year rank second on the Pioneers and are tied for fourth among all freshmen in the NCAA.  His 19 scores are the most by a Denver freshman since 2016-17 when Henrik Borgstrom had 22 tallies.
 
DEVINE INTERVENTION: Junior Jack Devine leads the team and is tied for third in the nation with 27 goals this season, the most tallies by a Pioneer since Ryan Dingle also had 27 in 2005-06.  Dave Shields (31) and Eric Murano (33) were the last DU players to score more than 27 goals in a season when they both accomplished the feat in 1989-90.  Devine recorded his ninth multi-goal game of the season in Game 1 of the NCHC Quarterfinals on March 15 vs. Minnesota Duluth and owns 18th multi-point outings of 2023-24. 
 
The forward also lead the Pioneers and ranks sixth in the NCAA in overall scoring with 55 points.  Devine had a career-long five-game assist streak from Feb. 3-24, which also matched his longest point streak of his collegiate tenure from the start of this season on Oct. 7-27 (6g/7a).  That streak in October featured two or more points in each contest, the  longest multi-point streak by a Pioneer since Massimo Rizzo also had a five-game stretch from Oct. 21-Nov. 4, 2022 (4g/9a).
 
CONSISTENCY IN THE PIPES: Goaltender Matt Davis is on a five-game winning streak, the longest such stretch of the season by a DU netminder.  He has started 22 straight games since returning from injury following the holiday break, going 16-4-2 in those contests (since Jan. 5).  It is the longest consecutive games-started stretch by a Pioneer goalie since Magnus Chrona started 25 outings in a row from Nov. 5, 2021-Feb. 25, 2022.
 
Davis has posted two career-long shutout streaks over the last five weeks and recorded a new high of 127:19 across three games from the second period on March 9 vs. Colorado College to the third period on Saturday, March 16 vs. Minnesota Duluth.  His previous personal best was 105:44 across three contests from Feb. 23-March 1.
 
AWARD SEASON: The Pioneers picked up three awards on Thursday night at the annual NCHC awards celebration prior to the Frozen Faceoff in St. Paul.

DU had four finalists for additional awards: Jack Devine for both Player and Forward of the Year, Shai Buium for both the Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year awards, Carter King for Defensive Forward of the Year and David Carle for Coach of the Year.
 
HOBEY BAKER AWARD FINALIST: Junior forward Jack Devine was named last Wednesday a top-10 finalist for the 2024 Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the top men’s college hockey player in the country.  A second round of fan voting is underway and takes into account a percentage of the total ballot.  Three Hobey Hat Trick finalists will be named on April 4, and the award will be presented on April 12 at the Frozen Four.
 
Devine, junior forward Massimo Rizzo and freshman defenseman Zeev Buium were Denver’s three nominees for this year’s awards.  The Pioneers trio were among 17 players from the NCHC and 84 nationally up for his year’s honor.
 
KILLER PENALTY KILL: The Pioneers have killed off 88.0 percent of their penalties over the last nine games dating back to Feb. 25 vs. Miami, going 22-for-25 in that stretch.  DU has been perfect in six of those games, including going 4-for-4 on the PK on three occasions.
 
PIONEERS IN THE POLLS: Denver enters the NCAA Tournament as the No. 3 overall seed and No. 1 in the Northeast Region.  DU also comes in at No. 3 in both the USCHO.com and USA Hockey/The Rink Live rankings after the latest polls were released on Monday.  DU is at its highest ranking since previously being at No. 3 in each poll on Nov. 27.
 
The NCHC’s six ranked teams are tied for the most among all conferences with Hockey East, and its five schools in the top 15 lead all leagues.  The other conference squads in the polls are North Dakota at No. 5/5, Omaha at No. 11/12, Western Michigan at No. 14/13, Colorado College at No. 15/15, and St. Cloud State at No. 18/17.
 
EVERY NIGHT: Seven Denver players have skated in all 40 games this season: senior forward Connor Caponi, junior defenseman Sean Behrens, junior forward Jack Devine, sophomore forwards Rieger Lorenz, Aidan Thompson and Jared Wright, and freshman defenseman Boston Buckberger.
 
MONTH BY MONTH: Denver is 7-1-0 in March, guaranteeing its 22nd straight month where it has posted at least a .500 record dating back to January 2021.  The Pios had their run of posting a greater-than .500 mark for 15 straight months end in December 2023 after going 2-2-0 (streak began October 2021).

 



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