One day after taking home the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player, Colorado Avalanche prospect Will Butcher had one more trophy to pick up before closing his collegiate career: a national championship.
Butcher and the No. 1 University of Denver Pioneers are NCAA champions after a 3-2 victory over No. 2 Minnesota Duluth in the Frozen Four title game on Saturday night at the United Center in Chicago.
The Avalanche's fifth-round draft choice (123rd overall) from 2013, Butcher captained the Denver Pioneers to the school's eighth national title after becoming DU's just second Hobey Baker winner, joining Matt Carle in 2006.
Butcher was part of a Pioneers' team that increasingly got better over the past four years. They lost in the regional semifinal in 2014 to Boston College before falling in the regional final the following year to Providence. Last season during Butcher's junior campaign, Denver made it to the Frozen Four but lost to the eventual champion North Dakota Fighting Hawks in the national semifinals.
The Pioneers finally reached the top of the college hockey world in a battle between two National Collegiate Hockey Conference schools that had been at the top of the polls all season.
"It's hard to put into words," said Butcher to the Associated Press on Saturday. "After that loss (last year), it seemed like everybody was focused from that day on to become better, become committed to excellence, like we always talk about."
During his senior season, Butcher was second among NCAA defensemen in scoring, recording 37 points (seven goals and 30 assists) in 43 games.
In addition to being the 37th Hobey Baker Award winner, he was named the NCHC Player of the Year, NCHC Offensive Defenseman of the Year, a top 10 finalist for the Senior CLASS Award, a member of the All-Tournament Team at the Midwest Regional and earned First Team All-American (west) and All-NCHC honors.
In the Pioneers' third matchup of the year against the UMD Bulldogs, it was Jarid Lukosevicius that was the hero. Lukosevicius recorded three goals for the Pioneers, becoming the first player to score a hat trick in the title contest since his head coach, Jim Montgomery, did it for the Maine Black Bears in 1993.
Goaltender Tanner Jaillet did the rest on the other side of the ice, making 38 saves to help Denver to its first NCAA title since earning back-to-back championships in 2004 and 2005.