Nine Feels Fine: Pioneers Erupt for Five Third-Period Goals to Erase Deficit and Win Ninth National Title

BOSTON, Mass. – The Pioneers were dead in the water. Their grip on finally getting over the hump and staking their claim to the most national titles in NCAA history was slipping away. The Minnesota State Mavericks, one of the two teams anointed presumptive national champions back in October, were skating circles around the Pioneers all across the ice and making them look, well, like Denver’s own opponents looked all year long – slow, sluggish, and sloppy. The Mavericks skated to a 1-0 lead thanks to DU goaltender Magnus Chrona’s heroics through 40 minutes of play at TD Garden in the National Championship game and entering the third period, the Pioneers were going to have to try again next year.

Then Ryan Barrow scored. Tie game. More than 15 minutes left.

Minnesota State panicked and the Pioneers attacked, smelling blood in the Mavs’ water. After two periods of getting pushed around and mistake-prone hockey, Denver had finally found their game. They were doing to Minnesota State everything that Minnesota State had done to them for the first 40 minutes.

“For the first 40 minutes, I don’t think our team realized we were in the national championship game,” Barrow said. “Once our feet got under us, we were able to do what we were able to do.”

That renewed sense of urgency and attack mentality thanks to Barrow’s gritty, hard-nosed goal that came on the rebound of a Mike Benning shot from the half-wall spurred the Pioneers on. Not three minutes later, Benning channeled Alex Ovechkin and his own teammate Carter Savoie from the left circle right after DU’s third power play ended and sent the thousands of crimson & gold-clad Pioneer fans into a frenzy. 2-1 Denver.

All that had plagued the Pioneers in the first two periods from the sloppy play to missed passes and uncharacteristic turnovers were but an unhappy memory, one that quickly disappeared as soon as Benning’s shot flew over Hobey Baker Award winner Dryden McKay’s shoulder and flung twine inches towards panicked MSU fans.

Minnesota State had one of the country’s best defenses all season. Once they scored their goal in the first period on the power play, they all but parked the bus in the neutral zone and did everything they could to ensure the game ended 1-0. They didn’t stop attacking, per se, as they did hold an 18-8 lead in shots on goal when the third period started, but the sense of offensive urgency certainly started to disappear.

If it wasn’t for Chrona’s play, though, even despite MSU’s decreased sense of urgency, Denver never would have sniffed that ninth banner. Stopping 17 of the 18 shots he faced, more than a few of them on Maverick odd-man rushes that resulted from DU mistakes, Chrona was the singular reason the Pioneers even sniffed a comeback in the third period.

“A big thing for me this year for me has been pretty much to just breathe,” Chrona said. “After the first one, I felt almost immediately that we were going to get a second goal. And after that I mean it was just pure joy and trying to stay in the moment for the time and enjoy it.”

After Benning’s goal, though, the Pioneers weren’t done. Not even a minute later, Cole Guttman appeared to have scored the Pios’ third but it was determined goaltender interference had occurred, which was probably the right call, especially in the national championship game, and it did not count.

But Minnesota State had sufficiently crumbled. The no-goal call didn’t matter. The Pios kept coming in wave after wave and the Mavericks had no answer. Freshman Massimo Rizzo put the game out of reach with six and a half minutes left off of a two-on-one feed from fellow freshman and linemate Carter Mazur and DU AD Karlton Creech reached for his phone to get Denver’s banner supplier on the line for banner number nine.

The Pioneers added two empty-net goals over the final two and a half minutes for good measure coming from Brett Stapley and Cameron Wright to round out the Pioneers’ fourth and fifth goal-scorers of the night – an appropriate way to end the season for a team whose calling card was scoring depth all season long.

I think a lot of guys set career highs in points,” Barrow said of the season. “But that doesn’t really matter. It just helps the team be successful. Obviously, you can dig yourself out of holes when the next line up is really excited to get on the ice because you know you have a chance to possess pucks, make plays, and score goals.”

Doing this in Boston, though. At TD Garden, the very building where the Pioneers won their sixth title. Beating Michigan, the lone program ahead of the Pioneers on the all-time championships leaderboard entering the weekend, on Thursday in the Frozen Four semifinal. It all feels rather poetic not just for a program that has reasserted its dominance on the college hockey landscape in the past two decades but for a group of fans who live, die, eat, breathe, and most importantly this weekend, travel with this team at every twist and turn.

“They’ve been good for us all year,” Benning said DU’s fans who gave the Pioneers a big lift on Saturday night. “They’ve been following, a small section of them have been following us around. And we might not have like other teams and numbers, but we hear that section loud and clear and that obviously gives us energy.”

The Denver University Pioneers play against the Minnesota State University Mavericks in the 2022 Division I Men’s Frozen Four championship game at TD Garden in Boston, MA. (Photo by Jim Rosvold)

“We have four now since the turn of the century, I think that’s the most out of anybody,” DU head coach David Carle said. “We’ve done it with three different head coaches, that’s very impressive in my opinion. 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. It’s a big responsibility to play in our program. So to do it again in Boston, that [2003-2004] team really did put, I think, Denver Hockey back on the modern map.

“And we’re here to stay, obviously.”

The University of Denver is back on top of the college hockey world. Come October, banner number nine will be raised to the rafters of Magness Arena where it will proudly tell all who gaze upon its glory that 2022 is the year the Denver Pioneers became the greatest men’s college hockey program of all time.


Top photo of Denver’s championship celebration credit: Jim Rosvold via the NCHC

34 thoughts on “Nine Feels Fine: Pioneers Erupt for Five Third-Period Goals to Erase Deficit and Win Ninth National Title”

  1. Congratulations to a fantastic group of players and coaches.

    DC has to be the coach of the year. What he accomplished with this young group of kids is nothing short of spectacular!

    Now everyone knows it was this team’s destiny! (Especially Michigan and Minn State.)

  2. Wow. Greatest period in DU history. What a weekend. Props to all involved. Coaches players fans & support staff. And Nick who does such a great job covering the team. This hockey program jumped to a different level this weekend. #PioneerProud

  3. Just got back from celebrating in Boston. Unbelievable. Nobody, was watching that game thinking DU would score three straight against the Hobey goalie. DU averaged 4 shots on goal each period, and then SCORED five in the third. Boston has been a blast, great to see coverage on DVR on 7news of the madness on DU campus. Love it, amazing to be a Pioneer fan.

  4. Oh, and MAGNUS CHRONA. Due respect and kudos to the player that won the MVP. But Chrona single handedly kept DU in the game. The most important performance of the game, by far. He joins Berhoel, Mannino, and Jaillett in the 21st century pantheon. Thank you, Magnus!!!

  5. “How sweet it is”. Thankfully, DU players and coaches didn’t get the memo, back last summer, that anointed either Michigan of MSU as national champs. 50 years of watching DU hockey and I have not seen anything close to the heroics in the third period. I would love to know what the Guttman and company talked about between the second and third period. BTW, did Melrose say actually that the best team didn’t win?

  6. MSU is a lackluster team in a lackluster conference. They have players around for 4 years and then the team restart. Like the Big 10 teams they are lucky to even make the tournament. Gophers and MSU have very week schedules

  7. In somewhat of a surprise, Mike Benning was selected as MVP of the tournament. Though Mike’s play was fantastic, imo Chrona deserved the award as he kept the Pios close in those first two periods.

    As I ponder this a little more, I believe the award should have gone to the entire team. There was no one player to single out more than the others. In this tournament, as in the entire season, it was an incredible team effort.

  8. Going back to the 1968 & 1969 championships, I believe this was the most exciting DU tournament I’ve ever experienced. Every game was a cliff hanger starting with the win over Mass Lowell.

    What made this natty so special, unlike most in the past (save for 2004), was that DU was the underdog in each of the last three games. Yet, they prevailed due to some genius coaching moves, inspired play, and a never quit attitude.

    Congratulations to everyone involved with DU hockey!

  9. If I could hug the big lug, I would. Magnus won that game for us, “jump on my back, boys. I got you” … Amazing. I’m walking around my South American city full of pride. Our bartenders were screaming at the screen during the game with only half an idea of what was going on, it was great.

  10. Four Championships in 19 years with 3 different coaches. What a tradition of great hockey. Now let’s officially welcome back Boone as he was all over Boston.

  11. As thrilling as last night’s game was, I thought it was equally odd. Nothing like what I expected. DU couldn’t get anything going through 40 minutes. 8 SOGs. Very little puck possession. No momentum at all. It was weird. I couldn’t tell if it was nerves or something else, but I think it was something else, and that something else was MSU. MSU was clearly the better team through the first two periods. Give a lot of credit to those guys. Hastings is a great coach, they have a lot of talent, and they won 38 games for a reason. It was no accident they made it to the championship game. But the third period was a whole different game. DU seized the momentum and took over the game. It was crazy. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a game like that.

    Obviously there is a lot to unpack and reflect upon after a magical season like this one. But two things stood out to me as I watched the game end and the celebration begin:

    1. It’s hard to overstate the turnaround that took place after last season’s head-scratcher. Let’s not forget that DU was under .500 last year and sputtered to only 10 wins. There wasn’t a whole lot to cheer about, and the team appeared to be a rudderless, discombobulated group. Fast forward to this season. Carle and his staff made some bold moves, there was the right mix of talent, grit, and leadership, the “out with the old, in with the new” approach clearly worked, and this team was a completely different squad with a completely different vibe.

    2. Magnus Chrona: as previous posters mentioned, Chrona deserves a ton of credit. Earlier in the season, I think a lot of us (I’ll definitely put myself in this group) wondered whether he had the consistency and focus to be an elite goaltender. But really stepped up his game down the stretch. That was great to see.

    Can’t wait for the on-campus celebration on Tuesday!

  12. Chrona–no banner without him
    Kid Carle–a Kid no more, congrats.
    Melrose–a real horse’s patoot. Eastern bias, no understanding of the college game. Bring in Starman!
    DU administration–putative killers of Boone. Pay for band and cheerleaders you fossilized, has-been buzzkillers

    Proud to be a Pioneer. Nice job boys…

    1. Spot on, ScottA.
      DU administration needs to step up.
      Chrona was the #1 hero of the game.
      Watching the emotion and desperation in the 3rd was amazing to behold.
      And I hope Boone can be resuscitated.

  13. Ok, so who was the better goalie last night ? 😉 McKay doesn’t win the Richter, but wins the Hobey? How that work out for ya. Individual awards don’t mean sh*t. Mankato was a one trick pony last night, clog the middle, sag back and defend the house. Carle has seen that a couple of times this year! Mankato soiled themselves when they HAD to play offense. Congrats to the Denver Pioneers!

  14. Right on Scott A
    Bring back Boone and fire up the house. National Champs. Flush Doppes and the half dead admin. that tanked the mascot
    Flush Melrose with a stick up his a**
    Bring back Starman who has some class and btw he picked DU to win Frozen Four this year. Melrose has trouble picking his nose. Done

  15. No time to be negative Nellies about a damn thing right now. Just enjoy. We are an amazing program. Can you imagine, that we have won four out of the last six frozen fours that we’ve been to. It’d be quite possible for a team to go 0 for 6. We’ve gone 4 for 6, let that sink in.

  16. But the only thing to complain about, or to express confusion over, is why Starman is not doing the games instead of Melrose. Starman is awesome, Melrose is pretty bad. This makes no sense. Starman even sounds a little like Melrose, casual fans wouldn’t even know the difference.

  17. Go Boone!!! What a great night and season! I think the momentum actually changed late in the 2nd period they started to figure things out and that led to taking control in the 3rd.

  18. The key was when we scored the first goal to even things up. Minn. lost their swager and confidence that they had the one goal locked in lead. They started to tighten up .A minny chock if you will. We charged into the gap and blitzed them

  19. I will have much more to say about this epic NCAA Championship in a column I am planning for later this week, but in a nutshell, this was another magic, dramatic, stupendous Boston night that will echo through the ages of Pioneer hockey lore….Bravo to all of Pioneer Nation who made it happen – the coaches, administrators, staffers and the fans, and of course the players, who now will walk together forever as National Champions.

  20. 2004 in Boston is always gonna be hard to beat, when ranking all time championship runs and frozen fours. But 2022 was special in so many ways, including the murderer’s row of teams that DU beat down the stretch, the fun of the regional in Colorado, and going back to Boston. 2022 ranks really high on the list! Congrats to the team and to us fans!

  21. So Nick spent the day combing through old comments to criticize those who actually read his articles. Thought you were beyond that pettiness, man. Enjoy the championship, no need to act like you’re a genius or Zen master. It was probably just a random loudmouth making most of the comments. But if you can’t understand people criticizing a sports team, that’s a little odd.

  22. Been out of town for work and had to sneak away to catch portions of the game. Thought maybe they ran out of steam when I checked the box score after 2 periods. 10 minutes later the team was up and MSU looked panicked. This team was not supposed to win it all, which made it so special. They could have easily had a let down earlier in the tournament and would still have had a “successful” tournament. Major props to the team and coaches for bringing it all, using the chip on their shoulders to their advantage, having great team chemistry, and making adjustments. Truly the best team when it mattered. Proud to be a Pio! Let’s go DU!!

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