The Denver Pioneers rode the enthusiasm of their youth to a 4-1 win over the North Dakota Fighting Sioux and another NCAA title at the Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio, last Saturday night.
Freshman Paul Stastny scored a pair of power-play goals to lead the Pioneers up front, while fellow frosh Peter Mannino stopped 44 shots in net, a career high, and was awarded the Most Outstanding Player trophy. After the game, the Farmington Hills native said he wasn't nervous, but rather pumped up for the championship game.
"We don't really think of it as nerves, it's more exciting or excitement," said Mannino. "To be in this situation, in the Frozen Four, it's just a thrill for all the freshmen, and we just wanted to take it in stride and give as much impact to the team as we could, and I think we enjoyed the whole season, playing with them, they've led us the whole way and we just wanted to kind of help them out here in their final game and send them off in a good way.
The win gave Denver their seventh national championship, tying the Sioux for the second-highest total in NCAA history. The Michigan Wolverines have won the most championships with nine.
DU became the seventh team to earn two straight titles and finished the season on a nine-game winning streak. Head coach George Gwozdecky wants to soak in this title, but knows next season could be a new chapter.
"Every year's different in college hockey. We graduate a great senior class and we've got a whole new freshmen class coming in, a whole new set of challenges, and every year's that way," said Gwozdecky.
"Who knows what's going to happen with the National Hockey League, who knows if we're going to have all of our returning players actually returning to us. I'm really upset that Matt Carle and Peter Mannino had such great games because we want them around next year. So, you know, we will enjoy the moments and when it comes time to plan for next year, we'll plan for next year and put our plan in place and with these young people we have with us, we'll hopefully establish a whole new identity and take pride in what previous teams have been able to accomplish and high pressure fully have the torch passed on from Matt Laatsch to whoever our new captain is and the experiences and lessons they've learned, both on the ice and off the ice as well."