BOSTON — Denver and Michigan, who clash in the first semifinal of the 2022 NCAA Men’s Frozen Four on Thursday, have a lot in common.
They’re both college hockey royalty, with 17 national championships between them. This season the Pioneers and Wolverines have the first- and third-most prolific offenses in the nation, respectively.
But they’re also different in terms of the college experience. And Denver coach David Carle said that’s one of the things that makes college hockey special.
“(We’re) very different absolutely,” he said. “That’s college hockey.
“You obviously have some schools that are part of a Power Five conference, others that are Division I like we are, non football, and then you have Division III schools that are Division I in hockey. I think college hockey is a really great landscape of diverse schools and that’s great for the student athlete, because they get to pick from a lot of different experiences. Some kids want a big school, Big Ten football and all that, and some kids don’t want that.
“Obviously it doesn’t matter what kind of school you are, you can have success in college hockey.”
“I think (the differences) are awesome for the sport,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “I played for Michigan Tech, a small school, and I got to a Frozen Four with that team. I think it goes to show you that the smaller schools can do great.”
While Michigan came out on top in a couple of relatively high-scoring games in the regionals, Denver played two close, low-scoring contests.
Both teams said they can play either style if need be.
“I’ve said this week that I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 7-6 game,” said Pearson. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 2-1 game. Denver played two tough games last weekend; they’re a really good team. We’re looking in the mirror a little bit. They can score, they can get up and down the ice. But they can play good, hard-nosed defense too.”
“(Michigan) is very offensive minded,” said Denver junior defenseman Justin Lee. “They’ll be a challenge but I think we’re ready.”
Teammate Cole Guttman echoed those remarks. “(Michigan has) a lot of top players and a lot of high draft picks,” he said. “We’re going to have to be defensively sound but also go at them the way they’ll go at us.”
Michigan’s Jimmy Lambert said his team will be ready, not matter what kind of game it is.
“The best part about our team is we can play any type of game,” he said. “We’ve shown all year that we can play teams with different styles and beat those teams. No matter what’s in front of us, we’re ready for it.”
Different, but also similar.
“Lots of similarities,” said Pearson. “They’ve got a Swedish goalie, we’ve got a Swedish goalie. They have a lot of freshmen and sophomores with a group of seniors, so do we.
“I just know it’s going to be a great game.”