Dominant DU Pioneer’s hockey program is everything Gonzaga basketball wants to be when it grows up – The Denver Post

BOSTON – The size of a dog does not matter in a hockey game.

So do not tell the tough, small University of Denver, which is forced to balance its athletic budget with about 25% of the financial resources like the tall and mighty University of Michigan, that an ankle bite from a liberal arts school can not stand a big dog from a Power Five conference in pursuit of a national championship.

When asked for a prediction of a final score in a high-stakes hockey competition between Pioneers and Wolverines, DU coach David Carle laughed but did not hesitate to make his opinion known.

“We will go after 9-8,” Carle crackled, expecting a free-running, high-scoring shootout Thursday against Michigan, with the winner going on to play for the national championship.

As the economic divide between the have-and-have-not-gardens in high school sports grows into a gaping abyss that can make open competition seem more like a caste system, Frozen Four is one of the few remaining places in the NCAA landscape, where we have a chance to tell a Pioneer’s bite Wolverines story.

Michigan coach Mel Pearson said scouting the Pioneers is “like looking in the mirror … They can score, they can get up and down the rink.”

It’s Wolverines, a beast of the big ten with a student body of more than 50,000 people and a ridiculous annual athletics expense of $ 180 million. Against the Pioneers, with an enrollment of 12,000 and a sports budget believed to be close to $ 40 million, Proud is all that Michigan is not.

“We are very different. Absolutely. It’s college hockey, ”Carle said. “High hockey is a really great landscape with different schools. And I think it’s great for the student-athletes.”

Unlike other institutions of higher learning in our fine state, YOU do not have to have your brain knocked out in football to feel important in college sports. I do not know if the Pioneers are smarter than Colorado or Colorado State because they climb into a hockey arena where they can beat anyone in the country. But I’m sure of this: DU hockey is everything Gonzaga basketball hopes to be when it grows up.

The enduring, romantic appeal of the NCAA basketball tournament is the occasional Cinderella story that brings madness to the big dance. This year, the underdog we fell in love with was St. Peter’s, a commuter school in New Jersey with an academic endowment that does not live up to the $ 86 million contract from Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari.

But here’s the dirty, little truth: In hangers, Cinderella is almost always unpretentiously sent home from the dance before midnight, and the championship must be decided by teams with the rich blue-blood heritage of North Carolina or Kansas.

On the other hand, Carle said, “It doesn’t matter what kind of school you are, you can succeed in college hockey.”

The real beauty of the frozen four? The size of your school does not matter. A passion for hockey counts far more than a university’s financial resources. Building a championship hockey program is not cheap, but you do not have to burn the Benjamins in a bonfire and hope and ask to stay within four touchdowns of Alabama, as is the case in college football.

That’s why the Minnesota State Mavericks, with a school-wide sports budget of approximately $ 14 million, have a fighting chance against Minnesota from the big ten in drinks in the semifinals of TD Garden.

“It’s great for the sport,” said Pearson, who went to the Frozen Four during his playing days with Michigan Tech, which he lovingly describes as a “little school up in the boonies.”

Far back when Denver and Michigan were neighbors in the same conference before the Pioneers and Wolverines went their separate ways. So this will be the 84th time the puck has been dropped between them, but it’s also the first time these two college hockey powers have met since 2002.

It is a long time. What gives?

It has been suggested to me that the big dog from Big Ten might not want anything to do with an ankle bite, as the Power Five school has politely said no to the pioneers when asked about dates in the regular season.

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