The University of Denver came into the Frozen Four as the favorites to hoist the national championship trophy, and that's exactly what they did Saturday as they beat Minnesota-Duluth 3-2 in the title game.
Sophomore forward Jarid Lukosevicius had the game of his life of the Pioneers, as he notched a hat trick (including two goals in 16 seconds, a new NCAA tournament record) to help lead his team to their eighth national championship and their first since the 2005 season.
Denver came out of the gate firing early and often against a stunned Minnesota-Duluth defense, and the Pioneers registered the first nine shots on goal in the game. Surprisingly none of the shots fouund paydirt, as Hunter Miska kept the Bulldogs in the game with some strong goaltending.
The Bulldogs came back strong in the final minutes of the period, registering some qulaity shots on goal in the process. Like Miska before him, Denver goaltender Tanner Jaillet made some great plays to keep the puck out of the net, and the first 20 minutes of the game elapsed with a goal being scored.
That scoreless time did not last very long into the second period, as Denver got on the board first. On a beautiful play, defenseman Blake Hillman skated around the zone and found Michael Davies open at the point, and his shot in was deflected home by Lukosevicius to make it a 1-0 game.
Just 16 seconds later, the Pioneers scored again. Troy Terry drove hard to the net off the face-off win by Denver, and even though he was unable to get off a good shot, Lukosevicius was there to put home the rebound and extend the Pioneers' lead to 2-0.
Undaunted, the Bulldogs got a goal of their own to stay close in the game. On a power play, Joey Anderson rifled a pass to the front of the netmouth, and it ended up deflecting off of Alex Iafallo's stick blade and into the goal to trim Denver's lead to 2-1.
The Pioneers would extend their lead back out to two goals before the second period ended, and once again it was Lukosevicius doing the honors. Off a rebound in front, the sophomore winger fired home the loose puck, making it a 3-1 game and sending forth a loud cheer from the Pioneer faithful.
With the goal, Lukosevicius became the first player to notch a hat trick in a national championship game since Jim Montgomery (who coincidentally is the head coach of Denver) did it for Maine in the 1993 tournament.
A scary moment started off the third period for Denver, as defenseman Tariq Hammond was pulled down on a hit along the boards. Trainers immediately called for a stretcher, and he left the game with a lower body injury.
The game remained 3-1 until there were five minutes remaining in regulation, and Minnesota-Duluth scored to cut the lead back down to one. Avery Peterson hammered a shot off the crossbar from in tight, and Riley Tufte was able to find the loose puck on the rebound and fire home the shot to make it a 3-2 game with just over five minutes left.
The Bulldogs had a ton of chances to score late in the game, ultimately registering 40 shots on net, but it wasn't enough as the Pioneers held on and won their eighth national championship.