The college hockey season came to a conclusion on Saturday night and a champion was crowned. The University of Denver prevailed over Minnesota State University with a offensive outburst in the third period. 

Down 1-0, the Pioneers rallied with three unanswered goals against Hobey Baker winner Dryden McKay and added two late empty netters to take a 5-1 win that was much closer than it looked on the scoreboard.

There is no doubting that No. 3 Denver earned the title this season. In a three-day span at the Frozen Four in Boston, the Pioneers took down No. 2 Michigan, the season-long tournament favorite, and No. 1 Minnesota State, the near wire-to-wire top-ranked team this season. Goaltender Magnus Chrona (TBL) got hot at the right time, limiting two of the top offenses in the country to just three total goals, only allowing six goals overall in the Pioneers’ four NCAA Tournament games.

Hobey Baker runner-up Bobby Brink (PHI) got the last laugh over winner McKay with the ultimate trophy at the end of the season. Brink was the most productive scorer in the nation this season by a wide margin, making Denver one of the most dangerous offensive teams in college hockey. He was not alone though. Forwards Carter Savoie (EDM), Cole Guttman (TBL), and Brett Stapley (MTL) as well as defenseman Michael Benning (FLA) all had terrific seasons. Benning was the star in the national championship game, recording the game-winning goal and adding an assist.

The question now is how much of the Pioneers’ core returns next season. Seniors Guttman and Stapley and junior standout Brink will be gone, but will junior keeper Chrona and sophomore sensations Savoie and Benning stick around or turn pro? Fortunately, much of Denver’s championship roster is young and will be back to defend the title in 2022-23. 

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Sophomores Antti Tuomisto (DET) and McKade Webster (TBL) and freshmen Shai Buium (DET), Sean Behrens (COL), Carter Mazur (DET), Massimo Rizzo (CAR), and Jack Devine (2022 NHL Draft eligible) should return and will be bolstered by a promising recruiting class that includes Samu Salminen (NJD), projected 2022 second-rounder Rieger Lorenz and a number of other draft-eligible prospects. Speculation also suggests that top Transfer Portal name Ty Smilanic (MTL) could be bound for Denver as well. The Pioneers will remain relevant again next year.

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