Former Okotoks Oiler and current forward for the University of Denver, Rieger Lorenz took home the NCAA Frozen Four National Championship for men's ice hockey after putting up a goal and an assist in a 2-0 victory on Saturday (April 13).

Lorenz would score the second goal of the game after assisting on the previous goal against Boston College with a beautiful snipe, short side, top corner after receiving a nice pass from teammate Zeev Buium.

"It was unreal, it's still kind of a blur now looking back at it. As far as my goal goes, Zeev made a play to me like he has all year, I was looking for some open ice, and I put it over the goalie's shoulder," Lorenz said.

"It's funny me and Ryan Massa, our assistant coach were working on that same shot in the pre-game skate. I was thinking about that if I got the puck in that situation that's where I was going to put it. It happened and it was unbelievable."

During the game, Calgary homegrown goaltender Matt Davis who also played two seasons with the Spruce Grove Saints made an unbelievable save in the third period making a desperation glove save to keep his shutout intact.

"That's one of the best things I have ever seen, I was actually on the ice while we were killing a penalty, I kind of had a front-row seat there. I remember the rebound came out and we cleared it. I remember getting back to the bench and I couldn't understand it," he said.

"The last two months of the season, he made huge leaps and bounds in his game. That allowed us to really dial in defensively, not worrying about him letting in any weak ones. It paid off in the long run."

Lorenz saw a big jump in his production since last season, with nine points in 37 games during the 2022-23 season to 30 points in 44 games with 16 coming from goals in the 2023-2024 season.

"I think last year was a tough year for me individually, I think a lot of that was confidence. It's a big jump to be playing against men in the NCAA. It took me a little bit to get that confidence back like I had in junior. The coaching staff, the guys here, they helped me work through the ups and downs I had last year, and it paid off," Lorenz said.

Lorenz was drafted in the second round, 56th overall in the 2022 NHL entry draft with the Minnesota Wild. While he will be at training camp, he will be returning to Denver next year to try and capture another NCAA Frozen Four Championship.

"I'm going back to Denver for at least one more year and then I'll be in Minnesota Wild for development come June or July," he said.

"It was a dream come true and I'm still very grateful for that coaching staff for believing in me." 

Lorenz has leaned on his dad, Terry throughout his hockey career. Terry played both in the AJHL and NCAA hockey. With the AJHL Terry played a total of three seasons with the Lloydminster Blazers. He continued his hockey career playing with the University of Notre Dame for four seasons in the NCAA and being awarded as team captain in his final year.

"Everything that I have today in hockey is because of him. He's helped me out so much, getting me into the game. When I was growing up after every practice and game, he was there for me, always has been my mentor. I just can't thank him enough," Lorenz said.

"Before I can remember he had me on skates."

Lorenz also gives credit to his dad Terry for leading him down the university and college route to continue his hockey career.

"My dad coming from the NCAA made it easier for me. He kind of laid out what it would look like for me if I chose that path. That's how it went."

The first year Lorenz was supposed to play a full year with the Okotoks Oilers, but the season was shortened due to Covid-19. He did however have fond memories during his second year when he could play a full season.

"Obviously that first year was the COVID year, which wasn't fun for anyone. I think I only got six or seven games in, my second year we had a great group of guys that I'm still really close with the coaches and my teammates from that team. That was a big stepping stone in getting me to where I am today, "he said.

"I think the moment that sticks out most to me is the playoff run we had, making it to the South Final against Brooks. We had a really good team that year. Just the support that we had throughout the town was unbelievable and I still remember that." 

Lorenz gives credit to the current head coach of the Oilers Tyler Deis for recruiting him and bringing him on the team.

"He's an awesome guy, an awesome coach. He recruited me from minor hockey, I was pretty young, but we kept in touch. When the time rolled around to pick where I wanted to play, he was kind of the front runner because I had that relationship. I couldn't be more thankful," Lorenz added.

One of his former teammates that he continues to chat with is Okotoks Oilers captain Dean Spak who had watched Lorenz perform in the NCAA Frozen Four Final, calling his goal "incredible".

"I have known Rieger for a long time, we played together when we were 13-14, and it's pretty cool because he came to live with me at my house at the start of our first year. Playing with one of my best buddies, it's pretty incredible and the success he had on this team, I couldn't be happier for him. Seeing him win a National Championship this weekend (April 13), was pretty incredible to watch. I'm so happy for him and only wish the best for him," Spak said.