Denver upsets Michigan 3-2 in overtime to advance to title game
BOSTON – It was a battle of power against power in one of the most anticipated college hockey match-ups of the year.
This one didn’t disappoint.
A Carter Savoie goal lifted the Denver Pioneers over top-seeded Michigan 3-2 in overtime on Thursday, ending the season earlier than expected for the star-studded Wolverines.
“I just want to congratulate Denver,” said Michigan head coach Mel Pearson. “I couldn’t be more proud of the young men that I was able to coach this year.”
Four of the top five draft picks of the most recent NHL draft were on this season’s roster, and not everyone is expected to stay. It’s a disappointing ending to a season for a Michigan team with a bunch of expectations, but they did still make it to Boston.
As for the Pioneers? The nation’s best offense came through once again in the clutch during this NCAA tournament by scoring the game-winning goal in either the third period or overtime, and they find themselves back in the title game.
“Unbelievable feeling,” Savoie said. “No better feeling than that.”
Denver came out with a very good offensive gameplan, using patience and good passing to find openings on the forecheck, eventually striking first as Brett Stapley picked up a rebound of a Justin Lee shot, went to his backhand and beat Erik Portillo at 11:22 to put the Pioneers up 1-0.
Meanwhile, Michigan found itself unable to generate much offense in the first period, and in fact they didn’t get any shots on Denver goaltender Magnus Chrona at all until 3:56 remained in the period. The Wolverines didn’t have too many second chance opportunities thanks to the Pioneers playing tight defense down low.
“Our angling, our puck pressure was really good,” Denver head coach David Carle said. “Our sticks were great.
“And when that person got beat, Magnus was there to make a save. So it’s not easy to contain that team.”
But Michigan wouldn’t go down that easily. After a Denver turnover in their own zone, Nolan Moyle fed Jimmy Lambert out front and Lambert roofed it to tie the game early in the second period.
Denver matched their first period intensity early in the third and it paid off as a Mike Benning shot was deflected perfectly by Cameron Wright off the pipe and in, putting them back up by a goal. But Michigan had another answer less than four minutes later, tying it again as a Michael Pastujov bobble of the puck was handled and put in by Thomas Bordeleau.
Savoie’s game winner came with five minutes left in overtime as Bobby Brink found him on a nice centering feed. Savoie’s initial shot was saved by the pads of Portillo, but a big rebound found its way back to Savoie and he buried it, sending the Pioneers to their first title game since 2017. The ninth title in program history remains well within reach for Denver.
The Pioneers will take on old WCHA rival Minnesota State, who defeated Minnesota 5-1 later Thursday, in the national championship game on Saturday night.
DU goal at 11:22: Brett Stapley (17). Assisted by Ryan Barrow (13) and Justin Lee (12).
MICH goal at 4:03: Jimmy Lambert (6). Assisted by Nolan Moyle (8) and Garret Van Wyhe (6).
DU goal at 5:36: Cameron Wright (22). Assisted by Mike Benning (21) and Massimo Rizzo (24).
MICH goal at 9:09: Thomas Bordeleau (12). Assisted by Michael Pastujov (15) and Mark Estapa (9).
DU goal at 14:53: Carter Savoie (23). Assisted by Bobby Brink (43) and Benning (22).
Power plays: DU 0-3.
Shots on goal: DU 33, MICH 21.