For the ninth time, the Denver University Pioneers are the champions of men’s college hockey in the U.S.
For the first time, Jack Works is a champion at the college level and he’s riding the high.
Works and the Pioneers captured the NCAA Men’s Hockey Championship in Boston on April 9 courtesy of a 5-1 win over Minnesota State. The Pioneers scored all five of their goals in the third period after going down early in the first period, 1-0.
Works said the first period wasn’t the best his team has ever played but it got better as the game went on.
“They (Minnesota State) were playing really well and they were getting more of the better shots and chances,” he said. “We knew if we could get one by (Minnesota State’s goaltender), we’d get going. We’ve done that all year and we were confident we would get a quick one.”
Denver was one of four teams in the semifinal known as the Frozen Four. They won the West Regional in Loveland, Colorado earlier this month to advance to Boston and took on the University of Michigan in the semifinal, which they won by a score of 3-2 in sudden-death overtime.
The final score in the title contest was a bit inflated as Denver scored two empty-net goals after Minnesota State pulled its goaltender to try and find the equalizers but Works said it could’ve been another close one.
“It really could’ve been 2-1 or even 1-0 for them, it was that close,” he said. “We just played an awesome third period and it was unbelievable to be a part of the celebration.”
The final horn saw the Pioneers charge off the bench and mob goaltender Magnus Crona and Works said it was one of the greatest moments of his life.
“It’s the most fun I’ve ever had,” he said. “I missed a lot of time with injuries and illness this season and it’s been a hard year for me but winning it all makes everything worth it.”
Works has come a long way from his Yk Minor Hockey Association days, starting in the initiation division with the Air Tindi Otters, eventually making his way to the Edge School in Calgary and on to the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Okotoks Oilers, where he would set team records in goals and points in a season by an Oilers player.
He said his younger days were something he thought about during the celebration.
“It’s funny because I thought back to having three ice times a week as a little kid at the Multiplex,” he said. “There’s been so many people who have helped me get to this point and I was thinking about all of them that night.”
As he expected, his parents, Greg and Kathy, made the trip into Boston and Greg Works said he couldn’t be prouder of what his son has achieved.
“It’s pretty cool that he is, and will always be, part of an NCAA national championship team,” he said. “He’s come along way from playing with the Air Tindi Otters.”
The team arrived back in Denver on Sunday and were set to have a celebratory rally at the Magness Arena, the team’s home rink, on Tuesday night.
Works said the entire school seems to be in a good mood following the win.
“We got a warm welcome when we got back and everyone was just so happy,” he said. “We heard people were watching the game outside on a big screen and everyone on campus was celebrating. Going to the rink the celebrate it (was) a lot of fun.”
And so his season is done and Works will take some time to relax and soak it all in but he said the work for next year, his sophomore season, isn’t far from beginning.
“We’ve had the same team the last two years and some of the guys will be graduating,” he said. “I’m just going to enjoy the time with the guys and think about next season in a few days.”