CHICAGO – Hockey has been a growing sport in Colorado since the Avalanche won Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001. But if you ask the players on the Denver Pioneers that grew up in Colorado, their first hockey memories were when DU won back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005.

That’s when college hockey became a big deal in Colorado once again. Troy Terry, born in Highlands Ranch, CO,  knew after watching them win that he wanted to be a Pioneer.

“It’s tough,” Terry said when asked if that made him want to win a National Championship. “Back then all I ever wanted was just to go to DU. To go to DU and win it is pretty incredible.”

It’s a surreal moment for any young man to be able to live out his dream but it was extra special for Terry because it’s his hometown team.

“This is different for me,” Terry said when asked if he could compare the win to when he won gold in World Juniors with the United States. “It’s much more personal. It’s the school I grew up watching and I can’t tell you how close these guys are. It’s such a special locker room and such a special group of people and culture. To be able to have all of our hard work be awarded is pretty awesome.”

Brad Hawkinson only played in two games this season as a redshirt junior. But he was the most emotional in the locker room after the game because, having grown up in Aurora, CO, he knew what it meant to bring a championship back to his home state.

“It means everything man,” Hawkinson told me after the game. “I remember listening to Stickney’s call back in 2005 and seeing what they did. That’s what gave me my dream to play here this is surreal still. I’m so pleased and happy to be a part of this team.”

There’s definitely a few kids watching back home in Colorado that thought, “I want to be like those guys.” Just like what Terry, Hawkinson, Evan Ritt, Colin Staub, Rudy Junda and Evan Cowley believed 12 years ago.

As a freshman at the University of Colorado-Boulder and a Colorado native, Chase has loved Colorado sports since he was born. He is working towards a degree in the College of Media, Communication, and Information. Chase covers the CU Buffs and DU hockey for BSN Denver. Follow him on twitter for all things Colorado sports @bychasehowell.