CHICAGO — The top-seeded Denver Pioneers have done it, knocking off No. 2 Minnesota Duluth 3-2 at the United Center in Chicago.
Denver was carried by an offensive onslaught by sophomore Jarik Lukosevicius, as the forward scored three times in the second period for the first championship game hat trick in over 20 years. The Pioneers needed each and every one of those goals to fend off the Bulldog attack, but in the end Mike Richter Award winner Tanner Jaillet came up huge with 38 saves.
Now that the 2016-17 NCAA ice hockey season has come to a close, relive the action and drama of the championship contest with a full recap below.
Let’s take a look back at how each Frozen Four team earned a trip to Chicago.
The Pioneers travel to Chicago with an NCAA-best 31 wins this season, which marks their highest total since the 2004-05 season when they took home the title. Led by Jim Montgomery, who was honored with the Spencer Penrose Award as college hockey’s national coach of the year, Denver was crowned NCHC regular season champs for the first time since 2010.
The Pioneers are led by Hobey Baker finalist and team captain Will Butcher, who has 36 points this season, placing him second in the nation in points by a defenseman.
After disappointment in the NCHC tournament, where Denver fel to North Dakota 1-0, the Pioneers bounced back to earn a spot in the Frozen Four. Playing in the Cincinnati region, Denver won its first round game against Michigan Tech 5-2 behind four goals in the opening period. The Pioneers then took down a high-scoring Penn State team in the second round, winning 6-3.
Minnesota Duluth (27-6-7)
Minnesota Duluth returns to the Frozen Four after missing out the last five seasons. The Bulldogs will meet up with Harvard for the 14th time, and the first time in over 21 years.
“I think they're very balanced. Obviously, they've got some very talented forwards up front. Their top two lines especially. There's a lot of skill, a lot of deception. They're a puck-possession team. I've been impressed with their poise and composure,” coach Scott Sandelin said about Harvard at Wednesday’s press conference.
The Bulldogs had a close call in the first round of playoff action when they faced Ohio State in Fargo. Despite taking a 2-0 lead in the second period, the Bulldogs allowed two goals in the third to tie it up. A goal in overtime from Willie Raskob advanced Minnesota-Duluth to the second round where they faced Boston University.
Overtime was again needed in that second round game. BU and UMD were even throughout the game, but a power play goal from Adam Johnson gave the Bulldogs a 3-2 win and a chance to play in the Frozen Four.