Casey Dornbach (17), Denver hockey vs. Miami

Denver senior forward Casey Dornbach (17) yells in celebration after scoring a goal in the second period of a game against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023 at Magness Arena in Denver.

The storylines from Denver’s sweep of Miami (Ohio) in the opening round of the NCHC playoffs were overwhelming.

A four-goal performance from Jack Devine on Friday. Seven different goal scorers, including two first time scorers in Owen Ozar and Lucas Olvestad, on Saturday. A 13-4 margin across the two games.

Oh, and it came without the team’s top point getter, Mazzimo Rizzo, arguably its best two-way defenseman, Sean Behrens, and starting goaltender and finalist for NCHC Player of the Year, Magnus Chrona.

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“We’ve really come together,” captain Justin Lee said Wednesday. “It doesn’t really matter who’s in the lineup for us. It just kinda shows the depth that we have here at Denver.”

Now the Pioneers, who have won 11 of their last 12 games, head to St. Paul for the NCHC Frozen Faceoff and will face the team that they beat back on Jan. 22 to start this run — Gold Pan rival Colorado College. The two teams met in the third place game in St. Paul in 2019, but it’s the first time meeting with a spot in the conference title game on the line since 2005, when both teams were at the top of college hockey.

“I think it’s great for the rivalry and to be on this stage, national TV in our conference tournament is great for the growth of the rivalry and what it maybe was back in 2005,” DU coach David Carle said.

The Pioneers have owned the Gold Pan rivalry once again this season, winning all four regular season games and now the series heads to its fourth different venue this season after each team hosted the other on campus and DU also hosted the game at Ball Arena in January.

Now they’ll face off at the home of the Minnesota Wild on Friday afternoon.

“Pretty crazy,” DU senior forward Casey Dornbach told The Denver Gazette. “They’re a good team and they’ve given us some battles, even though we’ve won all of those. We need to be ready to go and everytime we have played them, crowds have been great, energy has been high, so it should make for a great playoff hockey game.”

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Not many people picked the Tigers, who finished seventh out of eight teams in the regular season standings, to make it to St. Paul, but they proved just how dangerous they can be with a sweep of a Western Michigan team that will almost certainly be playing in the NCAA Tournament.

CC Tigers defeat No. 7 Western Michigan 3-2 in overtime, advance to Frozen Faceoff

“They’re getting better at the end of the year,” Dornbach said. “I wouldn’t say it was a surprise knowing (it’s) the playoffs, but I think there was definitely a lot of people that probably wrote them out of that series being on the road. They obviously did something right there and they’re going to be bringing that to us now.”

This weekend will be a special one for Dornbach, the Harvard transfer in his first and only year with the program, as he gets his first taste of the Frozen Faceoff, and it just so happens to be 15 minutes from his hometown of Edina, Minnesota.

“It should be a special weekend,” Dornbach said.

For this to be a special weekend for the entire group, they’ll need a similar group effort from last weekend to get past CC on Friday and into the title game against either St. Cloud State or North Dakota.

There’s still a chance the Pios get back those key pieces like Rizzo, Behrens and Chrona this weekend, but they’ve already proven in recent weeks that while there may be other teams in the country with better high end talent, no one has a deeper roster than the one built by Carle and his staff.

“We talk a lot about adding value in different ways, but it is nice to be able to score goals and play in games,” Carle said. “By design, we don’t carry a huge roster. We're 15 forwards, eight (defensemen) so everyone is close to the lineup and playing on a given weekend or given night. For those (depth) guys to get rewarded with some quality ice time over the last four games as we’ve been beat up, for us to showcase our depth as a program has been a great thing.”

Sports Reporter

Tyler King is a Denver-based sports reporter for The Gazette and covers a wide variety of topics, mainly college football and basketball.

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