Upon the conclusion of the collegiate hockey season, the University of Denver left the NCAA tournament as national champions. On Denver’s roster, there were three Red Wings prospects that played a pivotal role in the team’s success. As the Pioneers took the ice in Boston at TD Garden, all eyes were on Carter Mazur, Shai Buium, and Antti Tuomisto.
NCAA Frozen Four
Denver faced the Michigan Wolverines in the semifinal round of the tournament after previously defeating Umass Lowell (3-2) and Minnesota Duluth (2-1). The two teams went toe-to-toe for the entire game and overtime until one stumble allowed Denver to clinch the overtime victory and their ticket to the final game.
Entering the Finals of the NCAA tournament, Denver was buzzing after defeating Michigan. Their opponent was the Minnesota State Mavericks who had just defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers to secure their spot in the finals.
Carter Mazur is Detroit’s top prospect in the NCAA with 38 points in 41 games this 2021-22 season. Selected in the 3rd round of the 2021 NHL Draft (70th overall), he just finished his freshman season with the University of Denver.
In the Semifinals of the Frozen Four, Mazur took three shots on goal but racked up no points against the Wolverines – leaving the contest with a plus-1 in the plus/minus column. Although he may not have garnered any goals or assists, his physicality, speed, and general relentlessness on the ice helped Denver play a balanced game versus Michigan. Being a standout on the team, his presence helped turn the tide for the Pioneers in games against red-hot teams such like Michigan and Minnesota State.
The final game of the NCAA tournament is where Mazur shone the brightest. When the score was 2-1, he got the puck close to center ice and took it through the Mavericks’ zone with ease. He spotted Massimo Rizzo across the ice for a pass which he hit with a one-timer and lit the lamp in what was arguably the play of the game for the Pioneers. Just five minutes later, Mazur assisted on the game-winning goal scored by Cameron Wright.
Shai Buium, a 6-foot-3 defenseman, is Detroit’s third-best NCAA prospect and had 18 points (3G, 15A) in 39 games. With a plus-18 through the regular season with Denver, Buium continually made an impact on the ice throughout the regular season and the NCAA tournament as well. Like Mazur, Buium had three shots, no points, and a plus-1 in the Semifinal game against Michigan. Although that particular game wasn’t fruitful, that doesn’t mean that he was not a crucial asset on the ice. Buium is a crafty player who can throw his opponent off to create chances for passes, and plays; showing that he has a relatively strong two-way game which Denver clearly valued during this tournament run.
In the final game of the tournament, Denver was prowling as the game was tied 1-1 and Buium set up the play to secure the Pioneers’ lead. He played the rebound of a shot and passed it to Cam Wright just as the defensive pressure caught back up with him. Wright passed it from the top of the slot to Michael Benning who rang one home and brought Denver to a 2-1 lead. Buium is a player who excels at connecting passes under pressure as well as creating passing lanes – both of which are visible in this assist on the go-ahead goal against Minnesota State.
Antii Tuomisto is another defensive prospect of the Red Wings, though he isn’t as much of a standout in the stats department when compared to Buium. Tuomisto is a 6-foot-5 defenseman from Finland who was selected by Detroit in the 2nd round of the 2019 NHL Draft (35th overall).
Tuomisto is still growing into his game but has always been able to move well for his size and is a highly-skilled player. This season, he put up one goal and eight assists as well as a plus-19.
Overall, Tuomisto was not racking up points or making highlight-reel plays during the tournament, but he still supported his team on their path to victory. Since he is a big body on the ice, he can put up a strong defensive front for the Pioneers against powerful opponents. When given the chance, he has a powerful shot that seems to lack the finishing touches needed to go in the net. Although, on a scoring chance against the Wolverines, his shot was blocked by Mark Estapa and was immediately turned over to Michael Pastujov who got it to Thomas Bordeleau, who then scored.
The Denver Pioneers left the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament as national champions, giving Mazur, Buium, and Tuomisto a chance to raise the trophy. They ended up defeating Minnesota State 5-1 and won their first NCAA title since 2017, which was a remarkably memorable moment for these three young Red Wings prospects. As of April 11, none of them have declared plans to leave the NCAA to pursue a career in the American Hockey League (AHL) or NHL and they could all benefit from further development at the collegiate level.
Delaney Rimer writes about the Detroit Red Wings for THW who brings a new perspective to the hockey scene as a young female in the industry. Formerly, she wrote for Octopus Thrower- a Detroit Red Wings fan blog.