For as much as coaches and players talk about how brutal NCHC campaigns are, it comes as a surprise that only now, in Year 9 of its existence, the conference has crowned split regular-season champions.

That quirk was news to Denver coach David Carle, whose Pioneers earned on Saturday a share of the Penrose Cup after sweeping Colorado College. North Dakota on Friday had put one hand on the trophy, but a UND loss Saturday in Omaha and DU’s clincher against the Tigers meant that both the Fighting Hawks and Pioneers would lay claim to the bulbous metal chalice.

“I saw a stat about that, co-champions for the first time, and I didn’t even know we did that,” Carle said. “We didn’t focus very much on (the regular-season title). With our team, we’re trying to prepare for playoff hockey, and we’ve played a lot of really good teams in our last 10 games, and it was just living through the grind of what our league is. We’re just trying to get better at our game.”

Denver (25-8-1) has been particularly good in its last three games, scoring five in each. After falling 5-1 at Omaha in the teams’ series opener Feb. 25, the Pioneers won 5-2 in the rematch and then swept CC in a home-and-home series last weekend by a combined score of 10-2.

Five different players scored in Denver’s 5-0 win Friday in Colorado Springs. The following night, on the Pioneers’ home ice inside Magness Arena, two goals and an assist from Carter Savoie helped DU ease past the Tigers, 5-2.

The Pioneers got to celebrate with the Penrose Cup in their dressing room, whereas UND did so on the road. Fun times were had by all, but there could be more to come.

“It’s a nice feather in our cap, something we’ve worked really hard to earn, and it’s a nice trophy to win,” Carle said. “It’s over a 24-game period, and our reward is that we’re the No. 1 seed, and we have advantage hopefully throughout our conference playoffs here. That’s the reward you get for the work you put in.”

Top-seeded Denver opens NCHC playoff action this weekend at home against No. 8 Miami (7-25-2). The Pioneers took all four games of the teams’ regular-season series, but Carle knows the possibility is there for Miami to pull off a couple of upsets.

“They’re playing really well right now,” Carle said. “They swept Omaha at home and beat Duluth, and played Western Michigan very tight in both their games last weekend. For me, it’s a team with a lot of confidence, a team that has improved, and they’re getting healthy right now and have an excellent goaltender. (The series is) no foregone conclusion, and it’s going to be a tough matchup and a good battle this weekend here in our building.”

“If you look past people in our league, you get embarrassed. I don’t think our guys are doing that at all. We respect every opponent that we play, particularly in this league, and in playoff hockey, the margin of error goes down and the desperation goes up. You’re trying to advance yourself and end teams’ seasons, and that’s the hardest thing to do in sport.”

NHL Hockey Playoffs
Subscribe to our Newsletter
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
Stay Updated
Give it a try, you can unsubscribe anytime.
Sign-up for breaking news! Be the first to hear about Hockey News.
Click Me
Share via
Copy link