Saskatchewan. a hockey player skates for the NCAA championship

Prince Albert minor hockey product Owen Ozar is an NCAA Division 1 hockey champion.

His University of Denver Pioneers came from behind in the third period of the championship game to beat Minnesota State 5-1, making it nine national titles in Denver men’s hockey history.

For the first year, college hockey was not his first choice.

“I’ve always wanted to play in the (Western Hockey League), it’s always been my dream, and not getting drafted was a big thing for me or maybe it’s not my option,” said the 5-foot-9 player. , 165 pounds forward. “Maybe I should go to college, maybe that’s the best option for me.”

Ozar left home at 15 to play AAA hockey in Swift Current before going to Trail BC to play Junior A. In 96 games with the Smoke Eaters, Ozar recorded 40 goals and 52 assists for 92 points.

After playing two years in the BCHL and the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season in the USHL, Ozar has made what he calls a big adjustment to Division 1 college hockey.

“You don’t play 18, 19 year olds all the time like you’re in junior, there are 23, 24 year old guys, they’re men and they’re big, they’re strong, they’re fast, they are skilled,” Ozar said.

What made a huge difference for Ozar early on was how close this team was.

“We’ve had such a tight group of guys all season, I think from the first week of training you could tell we were going to be a really good team. We just had our celebration here at the rink on Tuesday, and to see all of our fans come out to support us and celebrate with us, it was really special,” he said.

As a freshman on a stacked University of Denver Pioneers team, Ozar has had to sit and watch a few games this season, but he says he’s taken the opportunity to learn from older players.

“Just watching our older guys train and go through the weight room every day, just learning from those guys, I think I’ve improved a lot in those aspects over the year.”

With a year of learning under his belt and a national championship on the coat, Owen Ozar is ready to take on an even bigger role next season.

“We have a lot of guys moving this year. We had five or six seniors and a few guys signing pros. There are going to be people who will need to fill in and we have a good freshman class coming up this summer.

For the national champion, it’s back to the books until June.

Catherine J. Martinez