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2004 NCAA championship a starting point for Denver's Frozen Four run

After his playing career was cut short due to health issues, David Carle was an assistant coach on the 2016 Frozen Four team and the 2017 national title team, then took over the Pioneers program in 2018 when former coach Jim Montgomery went (briefly) to the NHL.

Carle-David
David Carle, seen here in this file photo, has led the Denver Pioneers to one-goal wins over UMass-Lowell and Minnesota Duluth to reach the Frozen Four.
Contributed / Denver University Athletics

DENVER – About the time we were worried about the Y2K bug, it would have been fair to call the Denver Pioneers a “once great” hockey program. At the time they had won five NCAA titles but the most recent came before man walked on the moon.

Then, a crazy weekend in Boston changed everything. At the 2004 Frozen Four, the Pioneers trailed Minnesota Duluth 3-1 in the third period before roaring back to beat the Bulldogs and reach the NCAA title game for the first time since Richard Nixon was in the White House.

Follow the 2022 NCAA men's hockey tournament coverage on The Rink Live for previews, recaps, photos, information and more as the teams play for a national championship in Boston.

Watching from home in Alaska as his older brother Matt – a freshman defenseman for the Pioneers then – played in the championship game, a 14-year-old David Carle saw Denver score one goal. He saw an apparent Maine goal disallowed. He saw two Pioneers whistled for penalties in the final minutes. He saw Maine pull its goalie for a 6-on-3 advantage, and he saw Pioneers miraculously hold on to claim the national title.

“That championship was a lot for our program and our university,” said David Carle, now in his fourth season as the Pioneers’ head coach. “One of the more chaotic moments in our school’s history, but an unbelievable year and a championship that put Denver back on the map in the modern college hockey landscape.”

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The Pioneers have won two more NCAA titles since then, claimed the Hobey Baker Award twice (with Matt Carle and Will Butcher winning it) and have made 16 NCAA tournament appearances since 2002. After his playing career was cut short due to health issues, David Carle was an assistant coach on the 2016 Frozen Four team and the 2017 national title team, then took over the Pioneers program in 2018 when former coach Jim Montgomery went (briefly) to the NHL. Carle took the Pioneers to the 2019 Frozen Four, and has them back this year after winning the Loveland Regional, beating UMass Lowell and Minnesota Duluth.

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“I’m very proud of our team and the efforts. Neither game was easy, both tied going into the third period. We stuck with our game plan and found a way to execute and got two hard-fought one-goal games,” Carle said.

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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