Nearly two months have passed, but Zeev Buium has yet to come down from that intoxicating, Rocky Mountain High.

“It's the best feeling in the world,” Buium, a top prospect for the upcoming NHL Draft, said of winning the NCAA title with the underdog Denver Pioneers. “The group of guys that we had this year and the culture that's built here the last 30, 40 years? Outstanding. And to see all the alumni there and do it together, it was an awesome experience and I couldn't be more grateful.

“Not everyone believed in us. Denver kind of gets written off every year. It seems everyone always the BC/BU matchup, but the biggest thing is that we had that belief in our group. And when the culture kicks in, you can do something special. The way we prepared for games and accepted the challenge, certainly didn't write ourselves off. We didn't care what anyone else thought – we were there for each other, and no one else.”

Buium picked up an assist as the No. 3 seed Denver upset the 34-6-1 Boston College Eagles, who entered the championship game having outscored their opponents 29-8 in the bracket.

The Pioneers, though, have a rich history of excellence – and after suffocating the Eagles 2-0 in the title match, added their 10th national championship to the fully stocked trophy case at Magness Arena.

That’s more than any other program in college hockey history.

For Buium – a star blueliner ranked fourth among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting – it’s been the perfect place to hone his craft and the set the table for what should be a prolific NHL career soon.


“It's a world class program,” Buium said of his Colorado campout. “My (older) brother (Shai) actually gave a speech a couple days ago at the banquet and he said something that really stuck with me: 'When you come to Denver, you leave your ego at the door.' That's exactly what it is. Every guy that comes here wants to be here. It's not the biggest school. It's not North Dakota, it's not Michigan - the programs that a lot of players are automatically attracted to. So, the guys that come here want to win and they want to be part of a family.

“My brother was here for three years and is so close to all the guys he won in '22 with. The bond that we have here – it doesn't matter if you're senior or freshman – everyone's welcome, connected and super tight.

“One of my best friends was Jack Caruso, who's a 24-year-old senior and our third-string goalie. It just goes to show that it doesn't matter if you're in or out of the lineup, it's a bond of brothers here and it's such an awesome place to play and not only develop your game, but become a better person, too.”

For Zeev and Shai, who was a second-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2021, elevating their hockey careers in the nation’s elite programs meant plenty of sacrifices along the way.

Their parents, Sorin and Miriam, are originally from Israel and didn’t know anything about hockey before settling in San Diego, where the Buium boys were born.

But Miriam – a former professional basketball player in Israel's first division, before an injury cut her career short – knew plenty about chasing dreams, and was the ultimate champion in helping her two boys achieve theirs after quickly taking a shine to the sport.


“It was crazy,” Buium recalled. “My mom would drive two-and-a-half hours each way, three or four times a week.

“Every week.”

Two hundred, forty miles – round trip – to LA and back, so both Zeev, Shai and their older brother Ben could play Triple-A hockey with the Los Angeles Jr. Kings U-13 program.

“She would pick us up at 1 p.m. from two different schools every day, have lunch packed for us and everything – and she never made it seem like a big deal.

“To look back now and see the sacrifices my mom and my dad made to drive us to the rink and get us to practice every day, it's unbelievable. We would be at the rink until 10 or 11 at night, and then we'd have to drive two hours back and get home at 1 or 2 in the morning. And then do it all again the next day.

“I don't know how they did it – especially in California traffic.”

For Buium, though, it all seemed so … normal.

The long days, late nights, and countless hours in either a dressing room or the car was simply part of the pilgrimage, in his 12-year-old mind.

And soon, the ‘short’ drive up the highway was nothing compared to what he planned for next.


“I'm not going to lie, it was tough on them,” he said of moving away at 13 to further his career at Shattuck St. Mary’s in faraway Faribault, Minn. “But they were so supportive of me and believed in our dreams and supported us through the entire thing. It was awesome and we're super fortunate that they allowed us to do it.

“None of us really knew what Shattuck was, but we knew if I wanted to grow and get to the next level, this was the place to do it.

“We were all willing to make the sacrifice.”

For this.

The chance to play on the biggest stage in the game and pursue glory, in the name of Lord Stanley.

Buium truly is the full package. He has the size (6-foot, 183-lbs.), the shot, the IQ, and the elite skating ability that makes him an elite, offensive threat.

In 42 games last year, the left-shot blueliner put up a staggering 11 goals and 39 helpers to finish as the NCAA’s top-scoring defenceman, while being named the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) Rookie of the Year.

Just imagine, now, what he has planned for an encore.

“I don't think anybody plays exactly like me,” Buium said. “I watch a lot of hockey, so if I can take things from every guy – even a guy like Jacob Trouba, who I don't really play anything like – I can adapt that to my game and be better for it.

“For me, probably the most comparable is Quinn Hughes. He's not the biggest guy, but he's a smooth skater, super smart, and has the talent to make plays.

“That's how I play the game.”