Michigan’s hockey team is in the Frozen Four for an NCAA-record 26th time, but its opponent is no stranger to deep tournament runs, either.
Denver (29-9-1) had its run of 12 straight NCAA Tournament appearances snapped last season but has had a resurgence in 2021-22. Like the Wolverines (31-9-1), the Pioneers also earned a No. 1 seed in their region and advanced to the Frozen Four for an 18th time by knocking off UMass Lowell 3-2 and Minnesota-Duluth 2-1.
They allowed the first goal in both games and also scored the game-winner late in the third period in each. Their NCAA Tournament games were just two of the 10 times this season they didn’t score at least four goals in a game.
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As successful as Michigan and Denver have been the past two decades, Thursday’s Frozen Four matchup at TD Garden in Boston will be their first meeting since 2002.
The Wolverines have won the past six meetings but are 36-46-1 against the Pioneers all time.
Here’s some more information on Michigan’s Frozen Four opponent:
Location: Denver, Colorado
Notable alumni to play in NHL: Paul Stastny, Troy Terry, Tyler Bozak, Matt Carle, Kevin Dineen, Scott Mayfield, Peter McNab, Jason Zuker
Last tournament appearance: 2019 (2020 tournament canceled because of COVID-19)
Tournament history: 29 previous appearances, 38-24 record. Won national titles in 1958, 1960, 1961, 1968, 1969, 2004, 2005 and 2017.
Coach: David Carle, fourth season (55-34-1)
Rankings: No. 4 in Pairwise, No. 3 in USCHO.com poll, No. 3 in USA Today poll
Record vs. ranked teams: 11-8
Common opponents: Western Michigan (Michigan 1-1 record, Denver 3-1), Minnesota Duluth (Michigan 1-0, Denver 3-3),
Top players: F Bobby Brink (14 goals, 42 assists), Cole Guttman (19 G, 26 A), Carter Savoie (22 G, 22 A), Brett Stapley (16 G, 25 A), Carter Mazur (14 G, 22 A), D Mike Benning (14 G, 20 A), F Massimo Rizzo (11 , 23 A), D Sean Behrens (3 G, 26 A)
Of note: The Pioneers finished first in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which put an NCAA-best five teams in the tournament. Michigan has 13 NHL draft picks on its roster, including an NCAA-record seven first-round selections, but Denver also is loaded with NHL talent with 12 draft picks. Brink, a 2019 second-round pick, is a Hobey Baker Award finalist and leads the country with 56 points.
Mazur is a Jackson native and a Detroit Red Wings draft pick.
The Pioneers, who average 4.28 goals per game, have a whopping eight players with at least 30 points.
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