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
David Carle postgame: https://t.co/0SiLdtMdd8
— LetsGoDU (@LetsGoDU) October 9, 2022
— Denver Hockey (@DU_Hockey) October 9, 2022
Maze buries a rebound, DU up by 2 with less than 3 to go in the 1st period. pic.twitter.com/JfC03IedMp
— Denver Hockey (@DU_Hockey) October 9, 2022
Top photo of the 2022 Ice Breaker Championship-Winning Pioneers courtesy of Justin Tafoya/Clarkson Creative via University of Denver Athletics