Littleton native Noah Prokup will have the chance to take the ice in an NCAA tournament game Saturday at the same rink as a child he watched the Colorado Eagles play at. Photo courtesy of Nebraska Omaha athletics
Noah Prokup sat in a movie theater with his teammates from the University of Nebraska Omaha men’s hockey team last Sunday night. No movie was on-screen. Instead, the Mavericks were intently watching the NCAA Division I men’s hockey selection show to see if a tournament berth was in their future. Then, Prokup’s phone lit up and he quickly found out his stream was on delay.
“It was my mom texting, ‘We’re so totally going!’ Prokup said.
Two minutes later, he saw the selection. The Mavericks made their their first NCAA tournament since 2015, and as an added cherry atop the sundae, the games will take place in Prokup’s home state of Colorado.
The Mavericks were placed in the Loveland Region, which is just one hour north of Prokup’s hometown of Littleton.
“It’s definitely pretty special to go back and play in Colorodo, in front of my family. Especially this season, since they haven’t got to see me play,” Prokup said.
Four other Colorado natives will be taking the ice in their home state, too, as first and second round action will take place at the Budweiser Events Center beginning March 27.
Colby Bukes, Sammy Morton and Shane McMahan and their Minnesota State Mankato men's team join Ty Smilanic of Quinnipiac in Loveland this weekend.
“It’s a great place to play," Prokup said. "I watched [Colorado] Eagles games there growing up and it’s pretty special to get to play there now in the regional tournament.”
Prokup has played in 23 of 25 games for the Mavericks this season, blocking 12 shots. Last season, he earned the Mavericks’ most improved player award, playing his way into the everyday lineup as a freshman.
Minnesota State junior forward Sam Morton could have up to eight family members coming to see him play in Loveland this weekend, the first time they've seen play in more than a year. Photo courtesy of Minnesota State Athletics
Fourth-seeded Omaha faces top seed Minnesota in the semifinals, but Prokop is just one Maverick playing in the regional. The others are from Minnesota State Mankato, which boasts Bukes, Morton and McMahan as contributors.
Bukes, also from Littleton, and Morton, from Lafayette, played youth hockey together for the Colorado Thunderbirds.
“We played together when we were 14 years old and we’ve been great friends ever since,” Morton said.
Morton has four goals and three assists in 14 games for Minnesota State Mankato this season. The junior also has a plus-10 plus-minus and team-best .190 shooting percentage. Bukes has notched limited action in his sophomore year, playing in just two games.
McMahan, from Lakewood, played youth hockey for the Hyland Hills Jaguars and Junior Pioneers until, moving to California at age 10.
“I’m pretty excited. I haven’t been back since I left,” McMahan said. "I’ve heard how hockey is growing in the state and it’ll be great to see what it’s like.”
In 14 games this season, the junior forward has scored once with two assists.
After leaving Lakewood, Colorado for California at age 10, Shane McMahan didn't touch the ice competitively again until high school. Instead, he honed his skills playing street hockey. Photo courtesy of Minnesota State Athletics
Ty Smilanic and his third-seeded Quinnipiac team face second seeded Minnesota State Mankato in the first round of the regional tournament.
Smilanic, a Denver native who was selected 74th overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft last October, starred for the Colorado Thunderbirds midgets program before being selected to join the USA Hockey National Team Development Program from 2018-20. He now shines as the leading goal scorer for the Bobcats this season, with 14 goals and seven assists in 28 games.
There is another Colorado native playing in the Division I tournament, although not in Loveland.
Former Rocky Mountain RoughRider Nate Clurman is the team captain for fourth-seeded Notre Dame, which faces No. 2 seed Boston College in the regional semifinals in Albany, New York on Saturday. The Boulder native and Colorado Avalanche draftee has four goals and three assists in 27 games as a defenseman this season.
Here's the schedule for all games in the Loveland Regional:
No. 2 Minnesota State (20-4-1) vs. No. 3 Quinnipiac (17-7-4), Saturday, March 27 | 4 p.m. ET | ESPN3/WatchESPN
No. 1 Minnesota (23-6-0) vs. No. 4 Omaha (14-10-1), Saturday, March 27 | 9 p.m. ET | ESPNU/WatchESPN
Sunday, March 28 | 8 p.m. ET | ESPN2/WatchESPN
KC Brooks (left) experienced a special season for Providence women's hockey. The Friars appeared in their first Hockey East final since 2012 and received their first NCAA tournament bid in more than 15 years. Photo courtesy of Providence College Athletics
Three women from Colorado showcased their skills in the NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey championship, which wrapped up last Sunday.
Peyton Anderson played on that final day, finishing an unfortunate overtime deflection away from championship glory as her Northeastern Huskies fell to the Wisconsin Badgers 2-1 in the finals. The loss snapped a 22-game winning streak for the Huskies. Anderson, from Arvada, was the fourth line forward in the championship game and finished the season with three goals and five assists in 24 games.
The Providence Friars were knocked out by the Badgers in the first round of the tournament and with them their freshman forward from Colorado Springs: KC Brooks. Brooks played 21 games for in her first year with the Friars, who finished 12-8-1 overall and second behind Northeastern in the Hockey East Conference.
In her senior season, Hannah Markel of Dillion, suited up as a backup goaltender for Minnesota Duluth. The Bulldogs reached the NCAA Women's Frozen Four before falling to Northeastern.