DU hockey open NCAA regionals vs. Cornell, Carter Mazur goal scorer

The first bite? Carter Mazur hated it. Lose in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff semis. Kiss another trophy goodbye.

Then he remembered the aftertaste. And how sweet it felt at this time a year ago.

“Yeah, I feel like it’s the exact same (vibe) as last (March),” Mazur, the DU Pioneers’ top goal-scorer, said earlier this week at Magness Arena in advance of the 30-9 Pios’ first test in the NCAA men’s hockey regionals, Thursday at 3:30 p.m. against Cornell (20-10-2).

“It’s kind of a blessing in disguise really. (We) get extra rest because of it, but it does (stink) to lose the trophy. But we’re kind of focused on the big goal — win the national championship. So it’s nice to have that bitter taste in your mouth heading into these (regional) games.”

DU will be looking to rebound from a 1-0 upset loss back on March 17 to rival Colorado College in the NCHC semis. The Pios suffered the same fate at Frozen Faceoff in March 2022, then rode that taste all the way to the program’s ninth national title.

And this spring, coach David Carle is hoping a bitter Mazur makes for a better Mazur. The Pios are 42-5-0 since the start of the ’21-22 season when the lithe sophomore records at least a point in a game. They’re 19-11-1 in the 31 games in which the Michigan native has been held to a goose egg in the box score.

“We kind of battled adversity kind of a lot throughout the year,” Mazur reflected. “And I feel like that’s just another step. I felt like every game that we … lost, we kind of took a good step in the next game. So it’s kind of a good thing in a way that (the Frozen Faceoff loss) happened, but it’s just tough to happen in that moment.”

In what Pios faithful are hoping is a portent of good things to come, No. 1 goaltender Magnus Chrona practiced Tuesday at Magness before the team flew east.

The 6-foot-5 senior’s postseason performances last spring became the stuff of DU legend — stopping at least 90.7% of opposition shots in all appearances after March 18 and recording 27 saves during a 5-1 win over Minnesota State in the national championship game.

“It’s a one-and-done situation, goaltending is huge,” Carle said. “I know George Gwozdecky said it back in ‘04 about (goalie) Adam Berkhoel, like, ‘It’s a goaltender’s tournament.’ We have the best goaltender in the tournament and I think we feel that way with Chrona in goal.

“He’s got big-game experience. He rises to the occasion (and) has throughout his career. And, you know, we expect the same of him here (at regionals) this weekend.”

Any concerns about his health?

“No concerns at all,” Carle replied.

Is he completely 100%?

“No concerns at all,” Carle deadpanned, this time with a smile.

The winner of DU-Cornell is slated to take on either Boston University or Western Michigan for the regional crown and a berth in the Frozen Four on Saturday at 2 p.m.

“I feel like we kind of have the feeling of last year,” Mazur continued. “So we kind of want to take it into this year’s (NCAA) tournament. We want to have the same outcome and we want to have the same feeling, for sure.”

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