3 Buccaneer Alumni Make It to the Frozen Four
The Des Moines Buccaneers have three alumni that will be playing in the Frozen Four for the 2017 NCAA National Championship at the United Center in Chicago, IL.
Jack Jenkins hails from Lake Bluff, IL and is in his sophomore season with the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The forward played two full seasons with the Buccaneers during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons and tallied 49 points (13-36-49) in 121 games. After one more season in the USHL Jenkins began his career at Notre Dame in 2015 and in two seasons he has scored nine goals and 16 points in 63 games. Representing Hockey East, Notre Dame defeated Minnesota 3-2 on Saturday before requiring an Andrew Oglevie overtime goal to knock off Massachusetts Lowell (which boasts former Buccaneers Ryan Dmowski, Joe Gambardella and Kenny Hausinger) by an identical 3-2 score to win the Northeast Regional. "Right after I saw the puck go in the back of the net after Oglevie's shot, a rush just came over me that I can't describe," explains Jenkins. "A mix of excitement, relief, and shock all at the same time. When we all jumped off the bench and piled on each other, it was one of the biggest excitements of my life and realizing what you've accomplished hasn't really set in yet."
Notre Dame is the host school for the 2017 Frozen Four in Chicago (which is less than an hour south, southeast of Jenkins' hometown of Lake Bluff) and Jenkins knows the host school making the tournament is not something that happens all that often. "It means everything to be going to the Frozen Four, that's what college hockey is all about," reasons Jenkins. "I went to go see one as a kid in St. Louis and always watched them on TV. The fact we have this opportunity, and especially in our backyard in Chicago, it's pretty special and definitely will be one of the most memorable times of my life."
Defenseman Nick Wolff played nine games in the 2013-14 season with Jenkins before playing two more seasons with Des Moines in 2014-15 and 2015-16. From Eagan, MN, Wolff played in 116 games for the Buccaneers with 3 goals and 24 points. Wolff is a freshman at the University of Minnesota Duluth and has 2 goals and 12 points in 35 games for the Bulldogs.
Nick had a big two point weekend in Fargo, ND last weekend and we asked him what he was thinking as he scored UMD's 2nd goal against Ohio State on Friday. "I was thinking 'Don't get this blocked' and luckily it found the back of the net," recalls Wolff. The goal helped spark Duluth to a 3-2 overtime victory over Ohio State (with former Bucs Christian Frey and Christian Lampasso on their roster). Then Saturday he assisted on the Bulldogs' 2nd goal in another 3-2 overtime win defeating Boston University to claim the West Regional. Duluth is one of two NCHC (National Collegiate Hockey Conference) teams, along with the University of Denver, to make the Frozen Four.
"I am very fortunate to be on an unbelievable team with great leadership," Wolff admits. "It's been an awesome experience, playing with some of the best hockey players in college hockey, and to do it as a freshman just makes me appreciate the opportunity even more."
Ty Pelton-Byce will also experience the pinnacle of college hockey in his freshman season after playing all 60 games for Des Moines during the 2015-16 season. Hailing from Madison, WI, Pelton-Byce scored 15 goals and 43 points for the Buccaneers, which tied him with Patrick Grasso for third most points on the team. Pelton-Byce's first season at Harvard University has seen him dress in 32 of the Crimson's 35 games and now has him two wins away from a National Championship. "It has been a dream come true," beams Pelton-Byce. "You grow up watching the Frozen Four every year and hoping one day you get to be a part of it, so to make it there in my freshman year is special." Harvard is the lone ECAC Hockey (Eastern College Athletic Conference) school in the Frozen Four.
Pelton-Byce also gives a nod to the USHL in helping him reach the NCAA semifinal game. "I think my season in Des Moines helped my mental strength and being able to stay focused and motivated throughout a long, grueling season," Pelton-Byce reflects. "A college season isn't quite as long and doesn't have as many games but with the addition of school and other obligations, it can be just as intense."
The tournament pits Minnesota Duluth vs. Harvard, both #1 seeds, at 5:00 PM Central Time on Thursday, April 6th at the United Center followed by #3 seed Notre Dame vs. the overall #1 seed Denver scheduled to drop the puck at 8:30 PM. Both semifinals can be seen on ESPN2 and the championship game will air on ESPN at 7:00 PM on Saturday, April 8th, the same time the Buccaneers finish the regular season hosting the Tri-City Storm.
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