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Jackson native, Red Wings draft pick Carter Mazur gets shot at national title with Denver

BOSTON – Carter Mazur has had a memorable past eight months.

The Jackson native was selected by his favorite childhood team, the Detroit Red Wings, in the third round of the 2021 NHL Draft in July.

Now the University of Denver freshman gets a chance to play in an NCAA national championship on Saturday at TD Garden in Boston. Puck drop is at 8 pm against Minnesota State, a No. 1 seed.

“It’s something you always dream of,” Mazur told MLive following Friday’s practice at TD Garden. “Growing up, you watch the national championship, and now to have the chance to actually play in it is pretty surreal.”

Mazur and the Pioneers, the No. 1 seed from the Loveland, Colorado regional, reached the championship by knocking off No. 1 overall seed Michigan 3-2 in overtime on Thursday.

The 6-foot, 173-pound forward grew up a Michigan State fan but was recruited by the Wolverines. He is former teammates with several Michigan players either with the Tri-City Storm in the United States Hockey League from 2019-21 or with Little Caesars hockey program in metro Detroit from 2015-19.

“It’s pretty special playing Michigan being from Michigan,” Mazur said. “Playing them was pretty awesome, but I felt like kept my emotions pretty good and just played my game.”

Mazur was a highly touted prospect entering his freshman season and has made an immediate impact for Denver, which finished 10-13-1 in 2020-21 but has a resurgence this season with a 30-9-1 record.

He has 14 goals and 22 assists in 40 games and is a staple on the team’s power play.

Entering the semifinal matchup, Michigan was billed as one of the most talented teams ever assembled in college hockey, featuring a roster with 13 NHL draft picks, including an NCAA-record seven first-rounders.

But Mazur believes the Pioneers, who have 12 draft picks, are just as talented and showed that Thursday, outshooting the Wolverines 33-21 and outplaying them for most of the game.

“I feel like Michigan is always the top-notch team, so you always want to go in with your best game,” he said. “I felt like we did that and took it to them and got the win.”

Mazur has primarily played on a line with fifth-year senior Cameron Wright, a transfer from Bowling Green State, and fellow freshman Massimo Rizzo, a 2019 seventh-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes. All three have at least 32 points this season.

Although Mazur did not find the scoresheet against Michigan, his offensive zone entry led to Wright’s go-ahead goal 5 minutes, 36 seconds into the third period.

“He’s added a lot,” Denver head coach David Carle said of Mazur. “We’re really fortunate to get him. He’s added a ton of value on and off the ice. Plays the game the right way. He gets to dirty areas, finishing checks, but has a skill set to him that he can make plays, score goals, set teammates up. Does a lot of little things right.

“Their line has been exceptional all year. They found great chemistry from day one. It’s been a really fun group to watch them grow and develop. I think they’re playing their best hockey as a line at the most important time of the year. ”

Mazur is one of three Red Wings draft picks on Denver’s roster along with freshman defenseman Shai Buium (No. 36 overall, 2021) and sophomore defenseman Antti Tuomisto (No. 35 overall, 2019). He said their focused is solely on the national championship but mentioned he still watches as many games as he can.

“They are fun to watch,” he said. “My parents go to a lot of the games, so it is fun to keep up with them.”

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