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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Wild prospect Rieger Lorenz continued his recent hot stretch this past weekend for the Denver Pioneers en route to winning the NCHC Championship over the Omaha Mavericks, 4-1, inside Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night.

The Pioneers will continue their pursuit for the national title on Thursday against the University of Massachusetts Minutemen after winning their first NCHC title since 2018.

“It’s a nice championship to win,” Lorenz told Wild.com. “I think it’s the best conference in college hockey, and I think we proved we’re the best team in it. Obviously, we got bigger fish to fry coming next weekend, but we’re excited.”

Lorenz, a second-round pick by the Wild in 2022, now has seven goals and 11 points over his past 11 games after recording two points for Denver between Friday and Saturday.

Lorenz earned a primary assist in Denver’s 5-4 overtime semifinal victory over the St. Cloud State Huskies on Friday and then he redirected Jared Wright’s feed past Omaha goalie Simon Latkoczy from the top of the crease to give the Pioneers a 4-1 lead with two minutes left in Saturday’s championship. “Nice to get one,” Lorenz said, “especially in Xcel.”

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Lorenz, 19, is having a strong sophomore season on the Pioneers' third line with 15 goals and 28 points and a +20 rating over 40 games. He’s also had a key role on the penalty kill this season and has recorded two shorthanded goals.

“I think I’ve honed that role well (and) adding some offense — which I’ve been pretty proud of,” Lorenz said. “... I just think the most important thing is I’m helping the team win right now. I’m happy with where my D-zone’s at and all my details.”

Denver Coach David Carle is also happy with Lorenz’s performance this season.

“He’s done a really nice job, having to … add different elements to his game," Carle told Wild.com. "He’s done a great job on our penalty kill, been really good five-on-five, adding a level of responsibility to his game defensively. It really (has) actually enhanced his offense, and I think you’re seeing more puck possession down low. He’s learning to use his big body in the right ways and get to the right areas offensively.

“So, he has bought into that — which makes it easier to coach him and easier for him to learn and grow. He’s done an excellent job. He’s been a willing learner and couldn’t be happier for him.”

Lorenz exploded offensively for 38 goals and 85 points with the Okotoks Oilers in the Alberta Junior Hockey League during his draft year. Then he recorded nine points in 37 games last season as a rookie for Denver, which he said left him “disappointed.”

Fast forward to this season, he’s more confident, he’s thriving in his third-line role, and he’s seen the work he did last summer pay off.

“I’m pretty happy with where I’ve been,” Lorenz said, adding that he always knew he had the tools. “I think I’ve rounded out my game even better and obviously the offense is starting to come as well. So, it’s been good.”

Lorenz has been more reliable without the puck this season, Carle said, which has earned him more trust. And while he made a name for himself in the AJHL for his scoring capability, Lorenz has been a key part of the penalty kill and has “really grown into that power forward type game that I think he believes and knows that he can be,” Carle said.

“The scoring was certainly there in junior. That doesn’t just go away,” Carle said, adding that one of Lorenz’s biggest strengths is his puck protection. “But he’s had to learn to harden his game a little bit offensively (and) defensively use his body a little bit better. And I think he’s learning, he’s doing those things.

“He’s still a real young person — and I think he’s got a real high ceiling still.”


Both 2021 second-round pick Jack Peart (St. Cloud State; 5-4 overtime loss to Denver) and 2021 sixth-round pick Nate Benoit (North Dakota; 6-3 loss to Omaha) fell short of advancing to the NCHC Championship on Saturday with semifinal losses Friday.

Peart finished his junior season with 14 points in 38 games after recording 24 points during his sophomore year. The 20-year-old left-shot blueliner earned Second-Team All-NCHC honors for a second straight season and was on the Huskies’ second defensive pair with time on both the power play and penalty kill. “I know the offense wasn’t there, but I definitely think I took a step as a player,” Peart told Wild.com. “I thought I defended a lot better than I have in the past, and I think there was definitely some growth in my game.”