It’s been a whirlwind of emotions for Owen Ozar this week.
The Prince Albert product is just a few days removed from winning a national championship with the University of Denver hockey team, but it still hasn’t sunk in.
“This next week or so will be really fun for me,” he said with a laugh. “I think it’ll take a while still before it sinks in that I was a part of a national championship winning team.”
Denver beat Minnesota State 5-1 in the televised national championship game at TD Garden in Boston, but had a much tougher path actually reaching the final. Entering the tournament as the fourth seed with a 27-9-1 record, they took on UMass Lowell in the round of 16. Denver survived an early upset, winning the contest 3-2, and moving on to the round of eight.
Another nail-biting game against Minnesota Duluth saw Denver come away with another one goal win, this time by a 2-1 final. From there, they advanced to the frozen four to take on Michigan, which became the closest game of the tournament. A 2-2 deadlock after 60 minutes sent the two teams to overtime, where Denver pulled off the upset, knocking off the first seeded Wolverines 3-2.
In the national championship, Denver would need to pull of another upset, as they went head to head with the second seeded Minnesota State, who entered the tournament a near flawless 35-5-0. However it proved to be the lightest task for Denver, who pounded their opponent 5-1, and captured their ninth national championship in their university’s history.
“I think we knew we would be good all year, and our veteran guys exemplified that,” Ozar said. “We embraced how good we were and we proved ourselves. My parents made the trip to Boston for the championship and I hadn’t seen them since before COVID. It was just special to share that moment with them.”
As a freshman , Ozar wasn’t quite sure how he would fit in with the team at first. As a first year player, he said there was a lot of learning from veteran guys, as well as just getting used to playing in the high pressure atmosphere which NCAA hockey presents.
“I focused on getting better every practice and spent a lot of time learning from some of the older guys on the team,” he explained. “In your freshman year you just soak it all in and embrace the experience. You learn a lot from your teammates.
“I’ll always remember my first game. I was nervous for that. Winning regionals was special; we had a bunch of people drive down and watch the game and it was very special.”
Ozar says he plans to return home to Prince Albert in the next week or so, where he will be able to share the moment with his friends and family. He was happy to see all the support he received over Denver’s championship run.
“You see all the comments from the people back home and you just smile. The support has just been overwhelming.”