Yellowknife’s Jack Works and the Denver University Pioneers will be going to the Frozen Four in Boston after all.
They just had to take the long road to do it.
The Pioneers advanced to the NCAA men’s hockey championship by virtue of winning the West Regional playoff in Loveland, Colorado this past Saturday. They did so by beating the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) 2-1 in the final to book their place in the national championship playoff.
Works didn’t play in the final but he watched the whole thing and said it was a nail-biter.
“They got one early on us. We tied it later in the first (period) and we got one late in the third to pull ahead,” he said.
It was a bit of revenge as UMD beat Denver in the semifinal of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff playoff tournament a week earlier in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Works said they weren’t going to let that happen again.
“The arena was packed, lots of Denver chants and just really cool to look around and take it all in,” he said. “The guys were on their game and we weren’t going to lose to them again.”
The Pioneers reached the regional final by beating UMass-Lowell in the semifinal two nights earlier in another tight affair, 3-2. Just like the final, the Pioneers scored late in the third period to survive.
Works and company will be leaving for Boston next Tuesday to prepare for their national semifinal against the University of Michigan, which is set for April 7. The winner of that contest will take on the winner of Minnesota vs. Minnesota State for the national championship on April 9.
“We’re expecting to go out and win it all,” said Works. “Denver is a school where success in hockey is expected because of the history behind it — not making it to Boston would have been a huge disappointment.”
This is Denver’s fourth trip to the Frozen Four in the last five years and it’s the first time Works, who’s in his freshman year, will get to experience what it’s all about.
“It’s really cool to be a part of it,” he said. “I never thought I would get to do something like this so soon and everyone around the campus is excited. We’ve had students and professors coming up to us and congratulating us, and our fans who come to watch us have been awesome as well.”
Works’ parents, Greg and Kathy, will be making the trip from Nova Scotia for the weekend and he said he can’t wait to see them again.
“It’s about a 10-hour drive for them but they’ll be there,” he said.