USA News

DU goalie Matt Davis created forever highlight to win NCAA title

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Carter King looked up and said that his heart sank.

There was Ryan Leonard, the eighth pick in the 2023 NHL draft who had 31 goals as a freshman and might score hundreds more in the NHL. There was the puck coming to him. And there was King, with the best view in Xcel Energy Center of the wide-open net.

Then Matt Davis dove into his view.

“That was the best save I have ever seen in my entire life,” King said Saturday night, shortly after the University of Denver defeated Leonard’s Boston College Eagles, 2-0, in the 2024 NCAA championship game.

Davis saw the puck to his left, before BC’s Gabe Perreault sent it across to his right with Leonard waiting. Will Smith, the third member of the Eagles’ incredible trio of future NHL stars, started the play.

His first thought?

“Uh oh,” he said.

Here was the moment that the No. 1-ranked Eagles began their comeback. Those three freshmen were about to create more magic, just as they have together for their country in international play and across what will likely be their lone NCAA season.

Davis denied them. The score remained 2-0.

Massimo Rizzo turned to his roommate Aiden Thompson and offered a simple observation.

“We are winning this game,” Rizzo said, per Thompson.

Sean Behrens couldn’t believe it. He looked to the big screen on the scoreboard, watched the replay and still couldn’t believe it.

It was a signature moment, the type of save that will be featured on highlight reels in Denver and at every future Frozen Four for as long as people play this sport. It was also an exclamation point for Davis, who just authored one of the greatest postseason runs in college hockey history.

This was not a great defensive team for much of the season. When people pondered if the Pioneers, who have been ranked high for much of the year and entered the NCAA tournament as the No. 3 overall seed, could actually claim a record 10th championship, the discourse often turned to uncertainty in net.

“We all knew about our goalie,” Thompson said. “He’s a stud. He showed it in these games, but we knew it from the beginning. He’s a great player. He just showed the world this weekend.”

The entirety of the postseason run was remarkable. Davis went 8-0. He stopped 219 of 229 shots for a .956 save percentage.

He got better as the NCAA Tournament began. Four wins, three goals allowed.

Davis went to a different level at the Frozen Four. He faced two of the four best offenses in the country this season. They combined for 69 shots. He made 68 saves, including 23 of his 35 against the Eagles in the third period.

“He got hot down the stretch, but the performance he put on two days ago and tonight … I’ve never seen anything like it,” King said.

The first great chance for Boston University came on a breakaway for Macklin Celebrini, who won the Hobey Baker Award and will be the No. 1 pick at the 2024 NHL draft. Davis stoned him.

Boston College’s first great chance was a shot off the post, but the Eagles’ first shot on goal was a breakaway for Smith, the No. 4 pick in the 2023 NHL draft by the San Jose Sharks. Smith scored 80 seconds into the semifinal against Michigan, a game the Eagles won 4-0.

Davis stoned him, too. Toss in The Save on Leonard, and there will be stories told about this weekend in the Davis family and among Pioneers alums for generations to come.

“Superhuman,” DU coach David Carle offered. “It’s incredible what he did. A lot of big-time saves in those games. It’s not like we weren’t giving up any chances. Did we get better defensively? Yes. Did we get more predictable? Yes. But there’s many moments in all these games that he could have cracked and he didn’t.”

Denver Pioneers goaltender Matt Davis (35) makes a leaping save against a shot by Boston College Eagles forward Ryan Leonard (9) in the third period during the 2024 NCAA Frozen Four championship game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota on Saturday, April 13, 2024. Denver Pioneers defenseman Sean Behrens (2) defends on the play. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)
Denver Pioneers goaltender Matt Davis (35) makes a leaping save against a shot by Boston College Eagles forward Ryan Leonard (9) in the third period during the 2024 NCAA Frozen Four championship game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota on Saturday, April 13, 2024. Denver Pioneers defenseman Sean Behrens (2) defends on the play. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)



Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button