DENVER (CBS4) – Often in sports when a team gets close to a championship, that serves as motivation the following year to do even better. The coach of the DU men’s hockey is hoping that’s the case for his team next season.

“I couldn’t be prouder of this group,” DU Pioneers Coach Jim Montgomery said in CBS4’s studio, three days after Denver’s loss to North Dakota.

Thursday’s game was the Pioneers’ first appearance in the Frozen Four since 2005.

“We played so well. Every player played well. I was proud of everyone. They went out and fought and they fought to win. They tried to make plays to win the game,” Montgomery said. “And when you’re coaching student athletes that are great students and great athletes, all you ask is that they give it their all, and that’s what they did.”

The team is losing four seniors, but there will be a healthy number of seniors on the roster next season. And Montgomery says the ingredients are there for his team to be an elite team once again.

“I expect us to be really good all year next year,” Montgomery said. “I don’t expect to have the growing pains because of the nine seniors.”

Before the Frozen Four got underway, Montgomery said he thought whichever team wound up winning Thursday’s matchup between DU and North Dakota would wind up winning the championship. He congratulated the Fighting Hawks for their big win over the weekend.

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“Hats off to them,” he said.

Montgomery described the feeling of last week’s loss as “a little bit numbing,” be he’s proud the team made it so far.

“I just loved coaching (them), it was an honor.”