The University of Denver’s great season reached its logical conclusion on Saturday night in Chicago: a national championship.
That’s not to say it came easily.
The Pioneers had their hands full, but found a way to edge Minnesota Duluth, 3-2, to conclude the NCAA Tournament, and its Frozen Four event.
Alex Iafallo scored for the Bulldogs once again; he also had a goal that decided the semifinal contest. But the Eden native’s efforts couldn’t overcome a Denver team that won its 32nd game of the season – tops in the nation. The Pioneers last won that number of games in 2005, and they won the NCAA championship in that season.
The win capped a great season, which also featured a personal highlight for Denver defenseman Will Butcher, who won the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s best player. His team was ranked first in the nation for the past five weeks. Minnesota Duluth was No. 1 for 11 weeks this season, but had not occupied the top spot since mid-February.
The Pioneers relied on Jarid Lukosevicius for their offense in the game. He scored three goals for Denver, and they all came in the second period. Troy Terry added a pair of assists for the Pioneers along the way. Lukosevicius’ run was interrupted by Iafallo’s score.
Riley Tufte got one of those goals back with less than six minutes left to play.
Minnesota Duluth (27-7-7) pulled its goalie in the final two minutes, but couldn’t net the tying goal with the extra skater.
It was a worthy matchup of the two top seeds in the tournament. The conference rivals had split two regular-season meetings.
The 2018 Frozen Four will be played in St. Paul, Minnesota.