Pioneers Begin Quest for the Quint With Ice Breaker Championship Victory over Maine

You’ve heard of the Treble in European soccer. When a club wins three trophies – usually league, domestic, and continental championships – a team is considered to have won a Treble. The Denver Pioneers hockey team, though, have their sights set on more than just three trophies this year. In fact, tonight, with their 3-1 Ice Breaker championship victory over the Maine Black Bears (1-1-0, 0-0-0 Hockey East) at Magness Arena, the top-ranked Pioneers (2-0-0, 0-0-0 NCHC) have checked the first of hopefully five trophies – Ice Breaker, Gold Pan, Penrose, NCHC Tournament, and NCAA Championship – they’ve checked the first item off of their championship to-do list on their Quest for the Quint.

You may be asking, ‘why does that matter, exactly?’ Winning the three year-end championships – regular season conference (Penrose), conference tournament, and national title – is hard enough as it is, but winning five trophies in a year is reserved for only the greatest teams in the history of college hockey. Remember the 2004-05 Pioneers who topped Colorado College and North Dakota at the Frozen Four in Columbus? They were the last team in college hockey to win five trophies in a season when they won the Denver Cup, Gold Pan, MacNaughton Cup (WCHA Regular Season), Broadmoor Trophy (WCHA Tournament), and National Championship. As over-the-top as this hype may seem, especially in early October with the Pioneers just two games into the season, the reality is this team has every bit of the talent and experience needed to go down in history in greatness alongside that 2004-05 team (and, of course, stand alone at the top of college hockey as the first program to 10 national titles).

But, you can’t earn the Quint without winning the first championship, and to win the 2022 Ice Breaker, they had to get past a much-improved and up-and-coming Maine team that roughed up Air Force last night in a 4-1 victory in Colorado Springs.

The Pios came out firing in the first period after weathering an opening five minutes where Maine tried to set a physical tone. Just under seven minutes into the game, Mike Benning found twine to open the scoring and send Magness Arena into a championship frenzy. The final few minutes of the period, though, were owned by Mazur – the Ice Breaker’s Most Outstanding Player – who scored two goals in the span of just two minutes and 23 seconds. His second one, though, was a thing of beauty, sending the puck off the far post and in from the left circle.

“On the first [goal], I was just in the right spot at the right time,” Mazur said. “It was just a little backdoor tap from [Casey] Dornbach which was nice to get that one out of the way. Second one, it was a great pass from Dornbach again and just pulled it onto the D’s stick and went far-side.”

From there, the Pioneers’ offense went cold despite generating plenty of additional looks over the final 40 minutes and outshooting the Black Bears 36-25 for the game. But while Denver couldn’t find the back of the net, Pioneer goaltender Matt Davis stepped up and kept Maine off the scoreboard until the final minute when the Black Bears pulled their goalie for the extra skater. Maine forced the issue for the full 60 minutes but Davis was there every single time, even during Maine’s few flurries of chances, calmly turning away anything and everything flung his way.

“I got a lot of pucks from the outside, which is nice,” Davis said. “That definitely built up my confidence throughout the game. They were a gritty team, liked to throw pucks to the front so I just had to be ready…you never know what can happen out there, especially once the ice starts to get chippy. Pucks can bounce and they can be going the other way in an instant.”

Trophies are difficult to win in this sport, regardless of level or time of the season. Maine had every intention of winning the Ice Breaker trophy and worked hard all game to prevent the Pioneers from earning the hardware for themselves. Hell, they did what Notre Dame failed to do and kept the Pioneers off the scoreboard for two periods. In the end, though, just like a night ago with Notre Dame, it wasn’t enough and the better, more talented team skated away with the victory and, in this case, with the trophy. This may end up being a theme for these 2022-23 Pioneers as they march on in their quest for the Quint. There just aren’t many teams around the country as talented as the Pios are.

But that talent alone isn’t going to be enough to win four more trophies this season. It’s been discussed before and will continue to be talked about all year long: these Pioneers have a target on their backs and Maine, despite the loss, found a way to keep the Pioneers at bay for the final 40 minutes. Denver has the talent, but it’s the desire and desperation that the Pioneers need to play with if they’re going to climb to the Quint mountaintop and join the 2004-05 Pioneers. This weekend, earning that first championship, that first trophy, they showed they can, indeed play with that desire and desperation and, hopefully, this is just a preview of what’s to come over the next six months.

“It’s great to get the first one out of the way, especially against those high-caliber teams and to start heading into other trophy-opportunities and play great teams,” sophomore alternate captain Carter Mazur said.

The Denver Pioneers are the 2022 Ice Breaker Champions but the Quest for the Quint has only just begun.

David Carle Postgame


Top photo of the 2022 Ice Breaker Championship-Winning Pioneers courtesy of Justin Tafoya/Clarkson Creative via University of Denver Athletics

7 thoughts on “Pioneers Begin Quest for the Quint With Ice Breaker Championship Victory over Maine”

  1. Good opening weekend for the Pios, taking care of business at home, getting their systems going and getting lots of guys into the lineup for experience. DU showed some real excellence this weekend, especially in the transitions and puck support.

    DU’s top line of Mazur, Rizzo and Dornbach are going to put up a lot of points this season, while Lorenz, King and Wright looked really good on the third line as young talent brimming with upside. And I don’t think there will be a better team in the country when it comes to adding defensemen into the offensive attack, as both Benning and Behrens have all-American potential. Goaltending was solid all weekend, and showed no real drop-off between Chrona and Davis.

    Most of all, we learned that DU’s newcomers can all play at this level, and some of them are going to be vital contributors to the program this year. Broz and Wright have speed to burn, Lorenz has elite level touch and vision, and Casey Dornbach is an experienced, hard-working point-producer who is fully deserving of his spot on the top line. Looking forward to see what Aidan Thompson can do when he’s able to play after his lower body injury.

    Yet with all the good stuff we saw this weekend, when the coaches play back the video on the weekend’s games to the team, there will be many things revealed for the Pios to work on, too.

    The biggest one, in my view, will be maintaining team intensity levels against less-skilled teams. After a high-intensity 60-minute effort level against ND, DU took its foot off the gas against Maine after getting up three goals early, with some long stretches of ineffective coasting around in the second and third periods. It’s only natural to get a bit sloppy when you’re up three or more, and the team will need to learn how to stay focused and keep the feet moving in those natural lulls that happen in games when a score isn’t always close.

    They will also see lots of opportunities to improve face-offs, power-play spacing, and mitigating the propensity to give up odd-man rushes by over-handling pucks instead of keeping them moving.

    But all in all, this was an impressive weekend for the Pios. Going on the road to play a good opponent in UMass-Amherst is just what they need to keep their developmental focus.

  2. While not as satisfying a win as the one against Notre Dame, I was glad DU took care of business last night. I don’t think Maine is going to be a top-10 caliber team this year, but they are a quality opponent from a very good conference. Winning the Ice Breaker is step 1 in what will hopefully be a long journey filled with notable achievements for this Pioneer team in 2022-23.

    It was a odd game of sorts last night. After a dominant first period, I wondered if DU was going to win this one by a touchdown. But the Pios looked disjointed and lackluster at times in the 2nd and 3rd periods. I didn’t see the energy level and urgency I thought I would see, and the PP floundered. Credit Maine–those guys came with a push in the 2nd and competed hard and managed to find a way to hang around in a game that had all the makings of a blowout after the first period.

    It was great to see Davis in goal, although that was a surprise. I sure wish he could have gotten the shutout.

  3. This team appears to be loaded. With a mediocre GT Davis the defense and back checking saved DU from an embarrassment. Kudos to Maine they never took a shift off. I think there was a natural letdown from DU after defeating mighty ND. UMass will be a good test but DU worthy of No. 1 ranking.

Leave a Reply