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  • Alpenglow: Colorado’s Newest Professional Sports Team (VIDEO)

    The Western Ultimate League was founded in 2020 to give women and non-binary players a chance to play ultimate frisbee in a professional setting. In 2023, a new team will join the WUL: The Colorado Alpenglow, founded by interviewee Tina McDowell and her colleagues.

  • The (Mile High) City of Champions (VIDEO)

    Four hockey teams from Denver won major championships in 2022. From the peewees to the pros, here’s what you need to know.

  • University of Denver Club Women’s Hockey: Flying Colors (VIDEO)

    The women’s club ice hockey team at the University of Denver has grown significantly in the past few years. This season, they have more players than ever, and aim to compete with the other teams in the American Collegiate Hockey Association. This short feature aims to promote the club, and features interview clips from head coach John Anderson and players Jenna Reuben and Katie Yocum.

  • “Coors Field” Graphic (FROM 5/31/2022)

  • “How Does Curling Work?” Graphic (FROM 5/4/2022)

  • “ChamPIOns” Graphic (FROM 4/13/2022)

  • Every NHL-Drafted Player at the University of Denver: An Evaluation (FROM 4/8/2022)

    Does your favorite team have one or more prospects playing for the University of Denver? If so, and you’re interested to learn how they’re doing, I’ve taken the time to do a short write-up about each of them in light of them playing in the NCAA men’s ice hockey championship game tomorrow (Saturday the 9th) at 6:00 PM mountain time.

    The prospects will be ordered by which team has their rights alphabetically.

    Carolina Hurricanes

    Massimo Rizzo (F)

    Draft: 7th round, 216th overall by CAR in 2019

    Height/Weight: 5’10”/179 lbs

    National Team: Canada

    Year: Freshman

    Shoots: Left

    Massimo Rizzo, on top of having the best name on the team, is an interesting prospect with a lot of room to grow. Playing on Denver’s quick forechecking line, he’s a shifty playmaker who isn’t afraid to go into the corners with some of the bigger players in the NCAA. He made a big splash at the beginning of the season as he spent the first few games as Denver’s leading scorer, but since has fell back into a solid role on the second line, with 11 goals and 24 assists in 38 games this season. I can see him showing up in the NHL as a third or fourth line center eventually, but for the foreseeable future he’s likely going to be staying at DU before spending considerable time in the AHL. My best NHL comparison is Tyson Jost.

    Colorado Avalanche

    Sean Behrens (D)

    Draft: 2nd round, 61st overall by COL in 2021

    Height/Weight: 5’10”/176 lbs

    National Team: USA

    Year: Freshman

    Shoots: Left

    Sean Behrens is my personal favorite player on Denver, partially because he’s a prospect for the Avalanche and partly because he’s one of the more underrated defensive prospects in the league. Behrens has done almost everything for the Pioneers this year-–PK, second PP unit, impressive passing, noticeable calmness with the puck, and solid hitting despite his size. He’s comparatively a bit lacking in the goal column, but when he’s normally playing alongside the offensively explosive top six, that’s the last thing you really need. His biggest knock against him is his small size, which was part of the reason why Justin Barron and even Drew Helleson at times were placed ahead of him on the Avs prospect rankings. If he was 6’2” and 200 lbs, I guarantee you’d be hearing a lot more about Behrens. He has 3 goals and 26 assists in 36 games played this season, which might seem underwhelming considering how much I’ve talked him up, but DU in general mostly relies on forwards assisting other forwards. With Colorado’s defensive depth, I doubt he’ll be in the pros anytime soon, but once he is I can see him breaking into the NHL fairly quickly and being a solid second pair defenseman. My best NHL comparison is a combination of Jared Spurgeon and Sam Girard.

    Detroit Red Wings

    Shai Buium (D)

    Draft: 2nd round, 36th overall by DET in 2021

    Height/Weight: 6’3”/209 lbs

    National Team: USA:

    Year: Freshman

    Shoots: Left

    I know I just said that Sean Behrens is maybe the most underrated defensive prospect in the NHL, but Shai Buium is the most underrated defenseman on DU and is similarly flying under the radar in national coverage. Not only is he big, but he has noticeable puck skill, fantastic eyesight, and a bit of a physical edge to his game. What he does with the puck on a nightly basis is a work of art—he’s able to deceive just about everyone in the building with fake shots, no-look passes, all without an ounce of panic. Again, point totals aren’t as impressive as one might expect, with 3 goals and 14 assists in 38 games played, but his main upside is zone exits and entries, where he’s able to use his unique skillset to set up the forwards to do whatever they want down low. He’s not enough of a generational talent to leave DU before the end of his junior year, but I’d be shocked if he hasn’t seen NHL action in five year’s time. My best NHL comparison (and I know this sounds insane) is Victor Hedman. He has a long way to go before he reaches that level, but watching Buium reminds me of him.

    Carter Mazur (F)

    Draft: 3rd round, 70th overall by DET in 2021

    Height/Weight: 6’0”/170 lbs

    National Team: USA

    Year: Freshman

    Shoots: Right

    Carter Mazur, if he reaches the NHL, will be a lot of people’s least favorite players. He’ll also be a lot of Red Wings fan’s favorite players. He is just an asshole on the ice, in the best kind of way. He’ll hold sticks in his armpit, grab people from behind in scrums, sit on the puck, hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to untie someone’s skate laces on the faceoff. But on top of that, his skillset allows him to get grindy and high-skill goals on both the powerplay and 5-on-5. He has an offensively-minded playing style, and plays on that high-flying second line alongside Massimo Rizzo, where he has 14 goals and 22 assists in 40 games played. He is just a little bit comparatively underweight, at just 170 pounds and 6 feet tall. He’ll likely have to put on a little more weight to skate with the players in the NHL, but if he does I can see him being a nasty middle-six winger to play against. He’ll be staying with Denver for the next few years, but as long as he puts on a little more weight he’ll likely be going pro after his senior year. My best NHL comparison is a combination of Darren Helm (who was his favorite player growing up—he wore his number and tried to style his game after him) and Tom Wilson.

    Antti Tuomisto (D)

    Draft: 2nd round, 35th overall by DET in 2019

    Height/Weight: 6’5”/205 lbs

    National Team: Finland

    Year: Sophomore

    Shoots: Right

    Antti Tuomisto worries me at times. He’s usually a solid defensive defenseman, but when he makes mistakes, he makes them at the worst possible times. I still haven’t gotten over his stupid penalty from the 2021 NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinals in overtime that led to a North Dakota goal, and Denver’s head coach David Carle has benched him on multiple occasions, including during the third period and OT in this year’s Frozen Four semifinal game. He has a booming shot from the point, but it gets blocked so often that he’s probably injured more people this year than he has points (1 goals and 8 assists in 34 games played). I am being a little harsh on him—as I said he’s normally a solid defensive defenseman, with solid size and decent zone exiting ability. One of the guys that you feel comfortable enough playing on the third pair and giving two to four minutes a night on the PK. But I don’t have very high hopes of him cracking the NHL, at least not for long. He’ll stay at Denver until his senior year, and after that I can see him either signing with Detroit to play in the minors or going back to play in Europe. Best NHL comparison is pretty much any 3rd pairing defenseman ever.

    Edmonton Oilers

    Carter Savoie (F)

    Draft: 4th round, 100th overall by EDM in 2020

    Height/Weight: 5’9”/192 lbs

    National Team: Canada

    Year: Sophomore

    Shoots: Left

    Most of you have probably heard of Matthew Savoie, who is projected to go in the top ten in this year’s draft. Carter Savoie is his older brother, but I doubt he’ll be known as just that for much longer. Savoie has arguably been Denver’s best pure goal scorer since the first period of his first game or his freshman year. About half of his production comes on the powerplay, where he usually plays on either the left point or the right circle. 5-on-5 he’s generally less noticeable, and he can have cold stretches at times, and his defensive game leaves a lot to be desired, but he’s still able to score timely goals. He has a pretty good variety of goals this season, including his wrist shot (which is the best on DU), slapshot (which often comes on the powerplay), and occasionally down-low grindy goals. He made a lot of noise his freshman year where he led the Pioneers in points throughout the season. This season I honestly think he’s been not quite as good, but his clutch factor has multiplied seemingly tenfold, almost always coming up huge in this year’s national tournament. This year he has 23 goals and 22 assists in 38 games played. Savoie has been a solid scorer and a sneaky assist producer for the past two seasons, and he’s only going to get better with time in the AHL, which I suspect is coming sooner rather than later—I’m suspecting he might sign his ELC after Saturday’s game, especially if the Pioneers win. Once he breaks into the NHL, he can be an explosive top six winger for the Oilers. This year he has 23 goals (11 of which are on the PP) and 22 assists in 38 games played. Best NHL comparison is Mike Hoffman mixed with Cam Atkinson.

    Florida Panthers

    Mike Benning (D)

    Draft: 4th round, 95th overall by FLA in 2020

    Height/Weight: 5’9”/176 lbs

    National Team: Canada

    Year: Sophomore

    Shoots: Right

    Mike Benning played with Carter Savoie in junior, and they came to Denver together after being drafted just five picks apart in 2020, but Benning has managed to make a name for himself without being too overshadowed by Savoie. He’s a very solid offensive defenseman, whose role as the quarterback of the nation’s best powerplay has given him the most points for a defenseman on DU, with 14 goals and 22 assists in 40 games played. He took a huge step from his freshman to sophomore year as he climbed closer to the point-per-game mark with greatly improved confidence, which adding on top of his impressive hockey IQ and skating puts him as an interesting prospect for the Panthers. Like Sean Behrens, he’s still undersized, and will have to either bulk up or learn to better utilize his size to be an effective NHL defenseman. He’ll likely stay at Denver for the next year at least, as Florida isn’t exactly dying for talented offensive defensemen at the moment, but when he goes pro I can see him breaking the NHL roster before too long. My best NHL comparison is Cale Makar (although he’ll never be as good as the rosy-cheeked mayo chicken connoisseur).

    Montréal Canadiens

    Brett Stapley (F)

    Draft: 7th round, 190th overall by MTL in 2018

    Height/Weight: 5’10”/172 lbs

    National Team: Canada

    Year: Senior

    Shoots: Right

    Brett Stapley, as a seventh-round pick, is understandably likely not in Montréal’s NHL plans as it stands. However, he’s had a noticeable uptick in production in his senior year, and after a disappointing 7 points in 13 games last season, he’s at just above a point-per-game pace with 17 goals and 25 assists in 40 games played. Nobody expected him to be one of the steadiest scorers on DU, but here he is. Stapley has proven to be a good two-way player who in the past year has leaned heavily into the offensive side of the puck. Despite where it seemed his career was going in past seasons, he’s proven that he has what it takes to play professional hockey in some capacity, which he will very likely be doing here in a few days after the championship game. I’m still not convinced he’ll see NHL ice anytime soon, but I would not be surprised if he manages to crack Montréal’s roster in the next five years as a bottom six forward. My best NHL comparison is Jake Evans.

    Philadelphia Flyers

    Bobby Brink (F)

    Draft: 2nd round, 34th overall by PHI in 2019

    Height/Weight: 5’9”/173 lbs

    National Team: USA

    Year: Junior

    Shoots: Right

    Bobby Brink has probably received the most national attention among DU players this year, and for good reason. He’s leading the nation in scoring (14 goals and 43 assists in 40 games), and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker award, unfortunately losing to Minnesota State’s Dryden McKay. He’s an incredible playmaker, and playing alongside Carter Savoie and Cole Guttman has certainly helped him, but on his own he’s most likely Denver’s all-around best player. He’s an American hero, winning a gold medal with team USA at the 2021 WJCs, where he had six points in seven games, including a two-goal game. He’s gotten better every year at Denver, and has developed into an aggressive winger that may end up being one of the bigger steals of the 2019 draft. As is the case with many college players, he’s not as big as one might like him to be, but his passing ability more than makes up for his size. I’m certain he’ll be signing a contract with the Flyers in the coming days, and with the way things are going for them this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him playing in the NHL before the playoffs start. If not, he’ll be playing in the AHL and will likely sit in Philly’s bottom six next season, although if he continues to develop he’s likely going to see top six minutes. Best NHL comparison is TJ Oshie.

    San Jose Sharks

    Magnus Chrona (G)

    Draft: 5th round, 152nd overall by TBL in 2018

    Height/Weight: 6’6”/216 lbs

    National Team: Sweden

    Year: Junior

    Catches: Left

    Magnus Chrona is a goaltender. It is notoriously difficult to accurately evaluate or project what happens with goaltenders, but I’ll do my best. Despite having a regression last year, he’s been solid for the Pioneers this season. He has a .909 save percentage, a 27-8-1 record, and 6 shutouts on the season, playing in all but four games for DU. He’s certainly stolen a couple of wins when the Pioneers aren’t scoring at a high clip, but the Pioneers rarely aren’t scoring at a high clip. There’s not much else to say—like any goaltender, he comes up with big saves occasionally, lets in some stinkers here and there, and uses his length accordingly. His biggest asset is his size—at 6’6”, he’s the size of a modern NHL goaltender, which will automatically put him above shorter goaltenders if there’s any in the Sharks system. I doubt he’ll find himself in the NHL anytime soon, especially since San Jose has Kahkonen now, but he’ll be a solid goaltender in the minors for a while before potentially getting a call-up in the next five or so years. Best NHL comparison is any other 6’6” left-catching goaltender.

    Tampa Bay Lightning

    Cole Guttman (F)

    Draft: 6th round, 180th overall by TBL in 2017

    Height/Weight: 5’9”/175 lbs

    National Team: Canada

    Year: Senior

    Shoots: Right

    Cole Guttman is an interesting case. He plays on Denver’s top line next to Savoie and Brink, and predictably has a lot of points in part because of it: 19 goals and 26 assists in 40 games. Unlike his linemates, however, he’s flown under the radar and likely will never play on an NHL team’s top 6. He’s steadily improved throughout college, however, and has established himself as one of Denver’s more reliable players that can produce assists and goals at a respectable pace. What’s most integral to his eventual possible NHL game, however, is his tenacity, hard work, and leadership. Guttman is one of the best forecheckers on the team, and has worn the C for all of this season. From what I’ve heard he’s a locker room favorite and absolutely deserves his captaincy. He’s not going to be playing in the NHL very soon, especially with how stacked Tampa is at the moment, but with him being a senior I expect he’ll be signing within the next few days to play in the AHL. If he does break Tampa’s roster, you can expect him to be an energetic bottom six center with some offensive upside and a potential candidate to wear a letter in the future. My best NHL comparison is Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.

    McKade Webster (F)

    Draft: 7th round, 213th overall by TBL in 2019

    Height/Weight: 5’10”/185 lbs

    National Team: USA

    Year: Sophomore

    Shoots: L

    McKade Webster is one of the players that I always seem to forget is on the team. Unlike the rest of the drafted players on Denver, there’s not much that sets him apart, and he usually just seems to blend into the rotating cast of the bottom six. I will say that he’s a good forechecker and skater, but with only 6 goals and 8 assists in 38 games played, he’s presently not an NHL-level prospect. Luckily for Lightning fans, he’s only a 7th round pick, and is still just a sophomore, so he has plenty of time to grow his game, but as it stands right now I’d be surprised if Webster turns out to be anything more than an AHL journeyman. My best NHL comparison is any number of AHL injury call-ups.

  • The AUDL’s Expansion Plans Draw Opposition from the Colorado Ultimate Community

    By Tyler Shepard

    The logo of the American Ultimate Disc League’s newest team, the Colorado Summit (Image credit: AUDL)

    On a frigid night in February, Ari Nelson stood on the sideline of Diane Wendt Sports Field at the University of Denver, freezing despite her multiple layers. She’s acting as an assistant coach for DU’s club ultimate frisbee team, a group of young men who strive to get better at one of the fastest growing sports in America.

    She finds herself in this situation often: giving away her knowledge of the sport every Monday and Wednesday evening to the team, which she started coaching a few months earlier. That’s not her only job: in addition to studying at DU’s graduate school, Nelson is a player on Molly Brown, the best club women’s ultimate team in Colorado, and has competed for her country on the U.S. women’s national team. However, for years she hasn’t been lucky enough to call herself a professional ultimate player—not because she’s not good enough, but because women are given less of an opportunity to succeed at a professional level in the sport.

    Last year, the American Ultimate Disc League, the largest professional ultimate league in North America, announced that it would expand to Colorado with its newest team, the Colorado Summit, which will begin play this summer. Despite the Summit’s claim that the expansion will boost ultimate engagement in the state, many in the Colorado ultimate community, Nelson included, did not support the move.

    The AUDL is exclusively male, and does not allow female or nonbinary players who want to participate in the sport, regardless of whether or not they are good enough. Hoping change this, several of the highest profile ultimate players and coaches are using their voices to speak out against a league which often finds itself in controversy.

    Ultimate frisbee, or ultimate as it’s officially called, is not one of the most popular sports in America. As of 2019, about 61,000 players are registered with USA Ultimate, the primary governing body for the sport in America. However, this is more than triple the number from 2003, when about 20,000 players were registered with the organization. So while it may not have the numbers of more established sports, ultimate has grown at a significant rate over the past two decades.

    The same cannot be said for the gender ratio in ultimate. Since 2010, when USAU began reporting the statistics relating to the gender of members, about 29 to 32 percent of registered ultimate players in the U.S. have identified as female each year. Many see this as a problem, one that can only be fixed by promoting the women’s side of the game in an effort to equalize the ratio of male and female players.

    Ari Nelson lays out for a disc for the U.S. women’s national ultimate team
    (Image credit: Paul Rutherford)

    “The AUDL could have originally decided that the first professional opportunity in ultimate should be mixed ultimate, and they didn’t.” said Nelson, who moved to Colorado to play club ultimate after watching the women’s game growing up. “Young girls, already underrepresented in the youth scene, are only going to see men being professionals, not women or any other gender identity.”

    Its most outspoken critics say that the AUDL has done nothing in the way of increasing visibility for the women’s side of the sport, due to the league’s sole focus on male players. “[The AUDL] is not a representation of our sport. It is a representation of men playing on a large field with little-to-no strategy and a lot of testosterone,” said Nelson.

    Another of DU’s coaches, Phil Lohre, has been a part of the Colorado ultimate community for close to five decades. After finding out about the expansion in summer of last year, before the move was officially announced, Lohre was conflicted. He, alongside his son Ben, who once played in the AUDL, had participated in another boycott of the league a few years earlier, again based on the lack of opportunity for female representation. But because of his close relationship with the Summit’s prospective owners, he wasn’t sure what to think.

    “The Summit’s ownership group has announced that they are committed to equity and inclusion,” said Lohre, who played club ultimate in multiple countries before beginning to coach in 1996. “I have known for a long time Tina McDowell and Joe Anderson, who are leading these efforts for the Summit, and consider them friends.”

    Despite this confliction, Lohre acknowledges the importance of how the AUDL controversy plays out. “Ultimate, as a comparatively new and small sport, has the opportunity to challenge the cultural assumption that men and their competitions are more important,” he said. “I hope our community better understands issues of gender and racial equity and inclusion as a result of this controversy.”

    In the wake of the AUDL controversy, two professional women’s leagues have been formed, the Professional Ultimate League and the Western Ultimate League. Formed by women upset by their lack of opportunity to compete professionally, these leagues do not receive support from the AUDL. Lohre says a PUL or WUL team in Colorado could be a compromise to allow for female representation in the professional ultimate scene. But while this can be a temporary solution, the end goal for Nelson and others who oppose the AUDL is to have the best male and female players compete on the same stage.

    Phil Lohre coaching Jefferson County Open School’s ultimate team
    (Image credit: Altitude Youth Ultimate)

    In protest of the AUDL’s expansion to Colorado in the form of the Summit, several figures in the Colorado ultimate community drafted a letter of opposition to the move, which was announced in December. Nelson, among over a hundred others, have since joined in signing the letter. Lohre has not joined the petitioners, although his son, Ben, has.

    “The AUDL model cannot deliver equity, as proven over 10+ years of its existence,” the letter reads. “The Colorado Summit ‘pro’ team therefore cannot deliver equity. We are fighting for equity and therefore oppose this team.” It continues to criticize the AUDL’s track record, accusing the league of furthering the gender gap by allocating funds almost entirely to men’s players.

    The goal of the letter, backed by the 108 people who signed it, is directed at the ownership group of the Summit: they ask that all operations be ceased, and planned investment in men’s ultimate be diverted to players of color, different gender identity, and “others with fewer or no opportunities to play in our sport.”

    As it stands, neither the Summit nor the AUDL has not responded to the letter of opposition. Some feel that it’s unlikely they will. When reached out to concerning the controversy, the AUDL declined to comment. The Summit are set to play their first home game in DU’s Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium on the 28th of May, 2022, next door to where Nelson and Lohre give their time to coach DU’s club men’s team every week. “I have very little desire to get involved in the Summit in any way, including the fact that they will be at my school,” said Nelson. “I’ll just stay far away.”

  • ‘Battle for Truth’ at Colorado College Brings Out Challenges Covering Social Justice

    By Tyler Shepard

    Julian Rubinstein (left) and Wesley Lowery (right)

    In a modern world where the so-called “24-hour news cycle” permeates the media industry, journalists must be vigilant to find the truth in their stories.

    Award-winning journalists Julian Rubinstein and Wesley Lowery discussed this, among their experiences covering social justice movements and underprivileged communities, at an event at Colorado College last week. Entitled “Battle for Truth,” and co-sponsored by Colorado College and the University of Denver, the event spotlighted the two journalists, who have both worked at multiple publications and taught at universities in Colorado.

    The event took the form of a double interview, where each guest speaker took turns questioning the other about their experiences relating to their recent work, before shifting to a Q&A format where members of the audience were able to voice their questions. Beyond giving a clear demonstration of interviewing skill for many of the young journalism students in the audience, Rubinstein and Lowery provided a window into their processes and experiences surrounding their endeavors into social justice movements.

    First, Lowery allowed Rubinstein to speak about his experience covering a situation he’s engaged with over the last four years. That would be the case of Terrence Roberts, an anti-gang activist who found himself in the midst of a controversy after shooting someone in the Holly, a neighborhood in Denver. In recent years, Rubinstein has produced a documentary and written a book, The Holly: Five Bullets, One Gun, and the Struggle to Save an American Neighborhood, about Roberts.

    Rubinstein spoke about the problems he faced while speaking to people in the Holly who were close to Roberts’ shooting of another resident, much of which centered around his identity as a white independent journalist. While his white skin color was somewhat of a boon in that it made many of the majority black Holly residents less skeptical of his role, it was his position as an independent journalist, unassociated with a major newspaper or TV station, that widened his potential to find the truth.

    “Over the years I could see that the stories I was hearing directly from people involved were very much different from stories I was hearing in the media,” Rubinstein said. Big media often doesn’t have the means or incentive to cover these events in such high detail, and oftentimes get their information from the police, who are typically distrusted in Black neighborhoods, and call it a day. “[The journalism industry] need[s] people of color, but we also just need people who are going to really look harder at those issues.”

    Lowery agreed. He mentioned problems with the initial coverage of the George Floyd case, where the 46-year-old black man was killed by Minneapolis Police Department officers after trying to use a counterfeit bill. “A piece written that night on the law enforcement statement would have misled your reader as to what happened,” Lowery said. It required further investigation, as well as some citizen journalism from the bystander who took the now-infamous video of Derek Chauvin restraining George Floyd, to determine the truth of what happened in that altercation. 

    Lowery stressed the caution a journalist must use when interacting with police departments, especially when it comes to stories involving African Americans or other minorities. “I don’t think about these always as law enforcement stories, right, I think about these as stories of people and their lives,” said Lowery. “The collective ‘we’ in journalism can become so reliant on the official sources in part because they’re easier to get to.”

    Rubinstien and Lowery are both teaching as well as continuing to work as journalists. Rubinstein’s documentary about Terrence Roberts and the Holly is planned to be released soon.

  • A Conversation with Carter Mazur: From DU to Team USA

    Mazur skates in a Team USA jersey in preparation for the World Juniors in Alberta, Canada

    As the NCAA men’s ice hockey national tournament draws near, the University of Denver looks to add another championship to their storied history. After an underwhelming season in 2020/21, DU has recruited a determined group of freshmen to add to their established core. One of these young players, the American Carter Mazur, has quickly made a name for himself among a forward lineup of highly skilled players—in addition to racking up points in collegiate play, Mazur was the only Pioneer to be selected to compete for his country at the U20 World Junior Championships (WJCs) in Red Deer and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. In a shocking turn of events, however, the prestigious tournament was cancelled for the first time in its 49-year history due to COVID-19.

    I sat down with Mazur to ask him about his experiences, from his drafting into the National Hockey League, to his commitment to DU, to his Team USA selection and journey to the WJCs last month.

    Note: This Q&A has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

    Q. I’d like to start with how you got here. There are plenty of leagues to play in for young hockey players, so following your years in the USHL1, what made you choose college? And more specifically, what made you choose [University of] Denver?

    A. I chose college because growing up, my family really valued education. In the OHL2, you do get college, but I feel like you can play longer in college hockey, instead of playing just four years of junior and then going to school. And it’s something else you can fall back on…. If hockey doesn’t work out, then you still have an education and still can do something in the real world.
    I was committed to Michigan State before I chose Denver, [until] I decided that I didn’t want to play in the Big Ten. I feel like it didn’t fit my game. I decided to make the change around last year in February, and I started to open up my commitment to see what schools really had to offer. Denver reached out because of one of my old coaches [who went there] … they were probably the last school I talked to. About a week after I talked to him, I decided that it was a school that I really felt at home.

    Q. Getting drafted into the NHL, it’s often a player’s defining moment of their career. When you were drafted by the Detroit Red Wings last summer, how did that couple of days play out for you?

    A. I’m sitting there watching [the NHL Draft] with my family, having really no idea where I’m going.… Once I saw Detroit had a pick and I saw my name, it was a feeling that you’ll never forget. It’s hard to explain. Especially by your hometown team that you grew up watching, it’s special to be drafted by that organization.
    Right after I got drafted—my favorite player growing up was Darren Helm—he was the first person that I got a call from. That’s a player that I modeled my game after growing up, I wore his number, everything about it. It was special to hear his voice and congratulations.

    Q. A few months ago, you get selected to head up to Alberta to represent the United States at the U20 World Junior Championships. What was that process like, and how did you feel when you found out you made the team?

    A. I had a good feeling about making the team during the trial camp…. Once you heard that you made it, I don’t know how to put it into words, but you’re just so happy. You want to call your parents and say you made it. That’s a lifelong dream of mine, playing in the World Juniors; I watch it every year with my family. To finally have my name on the back of the USA jersey playing in the tournament, it was unbelievable to have that honor. 

    Q. One of your current DU teammates, Bobby Brink, went to the World Juniors last year and famously won a gold medal with Team USA. Did he give you any advice leading up to the tournament this year?

    A. I wouldn’t say [he gave me] that much advice. Going into the camp, before I left, we were in Minnesota Duluth. He brought me to the side and said, ‘you’re good enough to make this team; just go and play your game.’ Hearing that out of him, because he’s been there–I think he played there two years in a row–he’s a special player. To hear that out of him was… awesome.

    Q. Well, you go up to Red Deer and you play in one game versus Slovakia. Did that game feel any different from any other one in your career, or were you able to treat it like normal?

    A. I would say I still treated it like normal, but for sure it had a different meaning, because you’re playing for your country. It was normal for me, until the buzzer sounds and you hear the national anthem playing after. That’s… something that I wish everyone could feel. It was awesome, without a doubt.

    Q. Before the tournament ended up getting canceled, Team USA was forced to forfeit their upcoming game versus Switzerland due to a number of positive COVID tests. And less than a day later, the entire tournament gets canceled. What was the USA locker room like after you found out the news?

    A. We were all in quarantine for the game against Switzerland, because we had positive tests. That was not a good feeling, because you have a feeling that this could be an opportunity for the tournament to cancel. And then we got a Zoom call with one of the heads of USA Hockey. And you know when that happens, something good hasn’t happened…. You don’t want to hear that. You go through all this work to get there, and then to have [the tournament] getting canceled by COVID… it’s crazy that it had to come down like that. But hopefully they can reschedule it for the summer.

    Q. Several players expressed their disappointment with how the tournament was handled. Most notably, the Slovak goalie Simon Latkoczy made a scathing post on Instagram criticizing how the cancellation went down. What do you think about how the tournament was handled?

    A. I really can’t say that much regarding it, but I feel like it could have been handled a lot better. It’s crazy that they could do a tournament last year when COVID was at its height—most junior leagues aren’t even playing, and they still can have the tournament. But in the year where the NHL is playing, and all these junior teams are playing, they can’t? I don’t know how they can have that happen. 
    That tournament of that stature is the tournament that you shouldn’t take lightly, and [you] should find a way for kids to play. We all came in healthy, we should all leave healthy without COVID. Having people test every single day was probably the worst thing that they could do. We’re kids that are asymptomatic, have no [symptoms] at all. I feel like testing people like that really made the tournament make a turn in a way.

    Q. How important is this tournament for young players trying to prove what they can do?

    A. Most kids are already drafted, but it’s a stage where you can elevate how you are as a player and show your talents to practically the whole world. This tournament is the next step. It’s a big tournament, especially for the younger kids, who are going into their draft year. If you perform well at that tournament, it could change your draft stock–it could be the difference between a second-round and a first-round pick.

    Q. Unless the IIHF3 reschedules the World Juniors with the same rosters or implements some sort of an exemption for next year’s tournament, this past year would have been your last opportunity to compete in the WJCs. Does that disappointment give you that much more motivation to prove what you can do inside of this college season?

    A. Without a doubt it does. Ever since my first year in the USHL, getting passed over in the draft, that was also a thing that really motivated me as a player. Stuff like this does motivate me to want to be better and to show what I have. 

    Q. So here we are. About halfway through the season, Denver is still unbeaten at home. They’re scoring at one of the highest clips in the NCHC4. And yet, there’s still three or four in-conference teams right up with you in the standings. With only NCHC matchups remaining in the season, how important is this final stretch in pursuing that elusive national championship?

    A. Yeah, it’s massive. You take it day by day, and hopefully your team can come out on top. Having all the NCHC games, you have to be focused on them. That’s good for teams like us, because we’re going to go into every building and show them what we have. Especially playing NCHC games, they’ll get us prepared for the tournament and show what we can really do and make a huge run. 

    1 United States Hockey League
    2 Ontario Hockey League
    3 International Ice Hockey Federation
    4 National Collegiate Hockey Conference

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