Calgarian Matt Davis stands on his head in Denver's win of NCAA title

Goalie named playoff MVP in Pioneers’ run to college hockey championship

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It was a tournament to remember for Matt Davis and the University of Denver Pioneers.

The Calgary native helped the Pioneers win its record 10th NCAA national hockey championship, after posting a 35-save shutout against the Boston College Eagles. 

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“Just feels incredible,” Davis said. “It just means so much to me, this program, our alumni, our administrators and just everyone who put in so much hard work for us to be able to do what we did.”

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Davis was dominant throughout the entire NCAA Frozen Four, stopping 138-of-141 shots he faced over four games. His performance earned him the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and a spot on the NCAA All-Tournament team.

“He was obviously a big difference maker,” said Pioneers head coach David Carle. “Just really proud of him and the kind of the maturation of him and his game.”

In his third season with the Pioneers, Davis was a first-time full-time starter for his team, after spending his first two seasons backing up Magnus Chrona. Davis was happy to hear the news he was going to be the main puck-stopper.

“It felt great,” Davis said. “I’ve been working for that opportunity in my first two years here and really every year of hockey leading up to that.”

Davis adds he gained a ton playing behind Chrona, stating he learned how to be a total pro from the now-San Jose Sharks goalkeeper. 

“He just showed me how you have to live your life if you want to start as a goalie at Denver,” said Davis, who had a rough start to his first season as the starter, sustaining an injury that kept him out for the whole first half of the campaign.

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Returning in January, Davis completed the season with a 23-5-3 record and a .917 save percentage. 

“There were some kinks to work out in the first six to eight weeks of that,” Carle said. “But he worked through it. He came to the rink every day trying to get better and did a lot of work with Ryan Massa, our goalie coach, and obviously peaked at the right time.

“So proud of him for the work he put in and the ultimate reward that he was able to get.”

Davis was recruited by Denver back in December of 2018 after two seasons with the then-Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Spruce Grove Saints, who have recently joined the British Columbia Hockey League. Davis put up stellar numbers with the Saints, posting a 55-16-2 record.

Before coming over to the Pioneers, Davis spent a season with the United States Hockey League’s Green Bay Gamblers, with whom he once again showed he could win hockey games in the clutch, as he ended the season with a 20-9-2 record. 

“We saw a goaltender that was athletic, played the puck really well and tracked the puck well,” Carle said. “We saw a great human that we believed could improve his game and keep getting better because he had the right attitude and the right mind-set.” 

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Looking forward to his senior year next season, Davis says his goal is to bring home the 11th championship. Carle has high expectations for his goaltender in the 2024-25 campaign. 

“Expectations are for him to be a full-year starter again,” said the head coach. “I think we’re going to see a really confident young man coming to the rink every day, knowing what he’s capable of.

“I can’t wait to see him lead our group again.” 

Davis compares his game to the likes of Igor Shersterkin and Mike Smith, stating he watched Smith growing up and wanted to emulate the way the former Calgary Flames ‘tender plays the puck. Now in the spotlight after his performance, Davis has advice for those up-and-coming goalies in Calgary who might be looking up to him.

“I was cut from teams all my life,” Davis said. “It happens, and you have to just keep working. If you love it, it’ll come to you.”

Despite not being drafted to the NHL, surely the University of Denver star impressed scouts after his clutch play in net throughout the tournament. With one more year of eligibility, Davis is looking to convince a big-league team to give him a chance to live out his dream.

‘I’d absolutely love to play in the NHL,” added the 22-year-old. “Hopefully, this helps me get closer to that goal.” 

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