Twin Cities native Tristan Broz found new home at DU and put Pioneers on brink of history

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A lot of kids who grow up in the Twin Cities dream of playing for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey team. Tristan Broz was not one of them.

Broz, who scored in overtime Thursday night to propel the University of Denver Pioneers to the 2024 NCAA championship game, was focused on playing at Xcel Energy Center someday — not seven miles west at Mariucci Arena for “The U.”

“As a kid, I always just thought about playing in the NHL,” Broz said.

Broz did end up playing for the Gophers. He thought staying home for college was the right fit for him, given at the time he was about to leave for two years to play for the Fargo Force in the USHL. When he returned to Minneapolis, he learned it wasn’t.

So Broz left Minnesota after a disappointing freshman season. He had just six goals and 11 points, despite arriving with high expectations as a second-round pick in the NHL draft.

Two years later, he’s the only player on DU’s roster who came from the transfer portal. Broz said it was a crazy few days for him after he entered the portal, but picking the Pios was made easier by a previous Minnesota-to-DU connection.

If the Pioneers win an NCAA-record 10th championship Saturday night against the No. 1-ranked Boston College Eagles, DU fans will have another reason to thank Andy Brink.

Andy has trained and coached youth players in Minnesota for more than 25 years. That included his son, Bobby, who came west and helped the Pioneers win an NCAA title in 2022. Broz followed him not long after due in part to Andy’s recommendation.

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“Big credit goes to Andy Brink,” Broz said. “He’s a guy that I skated with for a couple of summers. I had obviously followed Bobby and his path here. When it came time to make that decision, he was a good resource. He told me how much Bob liked it and how it was good for him.”

Broz upped his production to 10 goals and 28 points as a sophomore for the Pios, but he’s really become an impact player this season.

His 16 goals are third on the team, none bigger than the one Thursday to help knock off the No. 2-ranked Boston University Terriers. He centers the top line for the Pioneers, and he’s likely to get a healthy dose of defending BC’s top two pivots.

One is Cutter Gauthier, the No. 5 pick in the 2022 NHL draft who has matched the highest goal total (38) this century, and the other is Will Smith, the No. 4 pick in 2023 whose 71 points are tied for the most by a freshman since 2000.

“I think he’s fully bought in to being a Pioneer,” DU coach David Carle said. “He’s two feet in. He’s a great teammate. He’s stepped up in a big-time way when (Massimo) Rizzo went down. And really got an opportunity to play a little bit bigger role in the middle of the rink. I think that keeps him involved more.

“You can just tell his care, the way he’s practiced the last month and a half, two months, the pace and energy that he’s bringing to the rink every day. Doesn’t go unnoticed by us or his teammates. It’s obviously leading to the results for him on the ice.”

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Broz thought he needed to come back home after two years away in the USHL. That didn’t work out, but he’s found a new one in the shadows of the Front Range.

Now he’s back in Minnesota, and he’s already collected the biggest goal of his life. He said right after the game Thursday that he blacked out in the aftermath, but he had a better handle of it a little less than 24 hours later.

“I watched it like two or three times. It’s a pretty cool moment for sure,” Broz said. “Send the boys to the national championship game? Doesn’t get much bigger than that.”

One forever memory down for Broz and the Pioneers, with the opportunity for another Saturday night.

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