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College hockey notebook: Carle's first Frozen Four was as a fan

Denver head coach David Carle first went to the Frozen Four as a Pioneers fan, cheering on his older brother to the 2005 NCAA title. Also coach of the year finalists, and Fargo is regional attendance leader.

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David Carle, 29, has coached the Denver Pioneers to a 21-10-5 record thus far in his first season behind the bench. (DU Athletics)
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When his team hits the ice versus Massachusetts in Buffalo next week, Denver's first-year coach David Carle will become the second-youngest head coach in the modern era of college hockey to lead a team to the NCAA Frozen Four. At 29 years, 5 months old, Carle is slightly older than Jack Parker, who had just turned 29 in 1974 when Parker led Boston University on the first of 13 trips he would make to the game’s final quartet.

Carle spent more than eight seasons in various assistant coach roles, as a student and as an employee, for George Gwozdecky and Jim Montgomery at DU prior to being named Montgomery’s successor in May 2018. He’s been a part of two Frozen Four teams, and one NCAA title in 2017 as an assistant, but his first Frozen Four trip was memorable for another reason.

As a teenager in 2005, Carle trekked to Columbus, Ohio, and watched his older brother, Matt, beat North Dakota to win a second consecutive NCAA crown with the Pioneers.

“Columbus is famous for having four WCHA teams at it. Growing up, that’s what was watched, being in Anchorage, Alaska,” Carle recalled on Tuesday during the conference call with the Frozen Four coaches. “So it was a really cool moment to see the west send four teams to the Frozen Four, with natural rivalries. It was Denver and North Dakota, (Colorado College) and Minnesota.”

A few years later, after Matt won the 2006 Hobey Baker Award, David was playing prep hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s and headed to Denver on a scholarship when he learned of a life-threatening heart condition that abruptly ended his playing career.

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Gwozdecky, Denver’s coach at the time, honored the scholarship offer, making Carle a student assistant coach during David’s four years of college. In Year 1 running the Pioneers, Carle has faced the challenge of putting his own stamp on the program while maintaining the level of success that Gwozdecky and Montgomery produced before him.

“At Denver, we try not to be cyclical. Our standards are really high and we shoot for them every year,” Carle said on Saturday in Fargo after his team beat AIC to earn the program’s 17th Frozen Four trip. “People come to Denver not to play in the national tournament and not to get there. They come here to win championships and to hang banners.”

Carle and three Minnesotans up for coach of the year

Carle and St. Cloud State’s Brett Larson are the first-year head coaches among the 10 named on Tuesday as finalists for the Spencer Penrose Award, given annually to the nation’s top Division I college hockey coach. Also named among the finalists are previous winners: Minnesota Duluth’s Scott Sandelin (2004) and Minnesota State’s Mike Hastings (2015).

The other six finalists are Greg Carvel of Massachusetts, Casey Jones of Clarkson, Eric Lang of American International College, Nate Leaman of Providence, Greg Powers of Arizona State and State Rohlik of Ohio State.

First awarded in 1951, the honor is named after Spencer Penrose, owner of the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, and one of the earliest promoters of American college hockey. The 2019 winner will be announced on Wednesday, April 10.

Fargo leads in regional attendance

Even without local favorite North Dakota participating in the NCAA West Regional last weekend, Fargo’s Scheels Arena had the best attendance in terms of capacity among the nation’s four regional sites. While neither session was sold out, an average of 4,234 tickets were sold for Friday’s and Saturday’s games at the 5,000-seat rink, for an 84 percent capacity rate.

The Northeast Regional in Manchester, N.H., was the only other site to be half-full or better, with a 54 percent capacity rate for the two sessions where Massachusetts advanced to the Frozen Four. Despite the East Regional being played in Providence, R.I., and being won by local favorite Providence, 44 percent of tickets were sold. The Midwest Regional in Allentown, Pa., saw 43 percent capacity as Minnesota Duluth advanced to Buffalo from there.

The four sites for the 2020 regionals, in advance of next season’s Frozen Four in Detroit, are expected to be announced in the coming days. With regional attendance low at many neutral sites over the past several years, there have been rumblings of returning to on-campus sites for NCAA playoff games, as was done prior to 1992.

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Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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