Sask. hockey player skates to NCAA championship

Prince Albert Minor Hockey product Owen Ozar is an NCAA Division 1 hockey champion.

His University of Denver Pioneers came from behind in the third period of the championship game to beat Minnesota State 5-1, making it nine national titles in Denver men’s hockey history.

For the freshman, college hockey wasn’t his first choice.

“I always wanted to play in the (Western Hockey League), it was always my dream, and not getting drafted, that was kind of a big thing for me where maybe this is not my option,” said the 5-foot-9 , 165-pound forward. “Maybe I should go to college, maybe that’s the best option for me.”

Ozar moved away from home at 15 years old to play AAA hockey in Swift Current before going to Trail BC to play junior A. In 96 games with the Smoke Eaters, Ozar recorded 40 goals and 52 assists for 92 points.

After playing two years in the BCHL and the 2020-2021 pandemic-shortened season in the USHL, Ozar made what he calls a big adjustment to Division 1 college hockey.

“You’re not playing against some 18, 19-year-olds all the time like you are in junior, there are 23, 24-year-old guys, they’re men and they’re big, they’re strong, they’re fast, they’re skilled,” said Ozar.

What made a huge difference for Ozar early on was how close this team was.

“We had such a close group of guys the whole season, I think right away the first week of practice you could tell we were going to be a really good team. We just had our celebration here at the rink Tuesday, and to see all our fans come out and support us and celebrate with us, it was really special,” he said.

As a freshman on a stacked University of Denver Pioneers team, Ozar had to sit and watch a few games this season, but he says he used that as an opportunity to learn from the older players.

“Just watching our older guys practice and go through the weight room every day, just learning from those guys, I think I got a lot better in those aspects over the course of the year.”

With a year of learning under his belt and a national championship on the tablecloth, Owen Ozar is ready to take on an even bigger role next season.

“We’ve got lots of guys moving on this year. We had five or six seniors and some guys signing pros. There’s going to be some people that will have to fill in and we’ve got a good freshman class coming in this summer.”

For the national champion, it’s back to the books until June.

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