Campbell River hockey player helps team clinch record tying 9th NCAA championship – Vancouver Island Free Daily
Campbell River’s Brett Stapley scored on the biggest stage he’s played on so far.
The third-row center, in his fourth and final year for the University of Denver Pioneers, scored the first of two empty nets in a 5-1 victory over Minnesota State to win the title of NCAA Division 1 on April 9. .
The victory is special for the Denver team, as it ties them to the University of Michigan for most NCAA championships.
“It’s a huge honor to be able to add to the history of this program and win the school’s ninth national championship,” said Stapley.
It’s come full circle for the 23-year-old, who still remembers watching the Pioneers win it all in 2017, the same year he joined the school.
The team had to overcome some adversity at the start of the season, but Stapley said once the wheels were greased there was no turning back.
“I think we had a four-game losing streak on the road,” he said. “But after that we were the best team in the country.”
The fourth-year veteran was instrumental in the team’s success, recording 43 points in 41 games.
“After an injury last season, I felt like I needed a more detailed offseason in the weight room and on the ice,” he said. “And as a result, I felt faster and stronger this year – I think (the extra work) paid off.”
With 20 minutes to play in the final game of the season, the Pioneers were leading 1-0, but the mood was still upbeat.
“Even in the intermissions when we were down, we were still very confident that we would get the job done,” Stapley said.
He was on the ice when his team tied the game in the third period.
“We had a good shift, and the puck went to the net and (Ryan) Barrow hit it home,” he said.
Minutes later, Mike Benning scored on the power play and the team never looked back.
The game before was a bit more dramatic.
Before facing the Michigan Wolverines in the Frozen Four, Stapley said the Pioneers were underrated.
“We heard a lot of hype about them entering the game. People said we were the underdogs and we weren’t going to win.
“So we used that as motivation and played a solid game.”
He scored the opener of the contest, which the Pioneers won in overtime, 3-2.
“I had friends and family saying it was one of the best hockey games they had ever seen in their life,” he said.
“That’s college hockey for you, I guess.”
With college hockey soon to be in his rear sight, Stapley — who was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 2018 — still doesn’t know what his next steps are.
“Obviously it would be a dream come true to sign with Montreal and play there, but if it doesn’t work out, I’ll take any team,” he said.
He also hopes to return to Campbell River to celebrate his achievement and enjoy some well-deserved rest and relaxation.
“I usually come back to take time off the game,” he said. “Just fishing, hiking and hanging out at the lake with friends.”
Campbell River Hockey