Pioneers drop overtime Frozen Four thriller to UMass-Amherst

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BUFFALO, N.Y. – In a game that will go down in the annals of college hockey history as an all-timer, the Denver Pioneers lost 4-3 in overtime to the UMass-Amherst Minutemen in the Frozen Four semifinal. For a team that was out to “Prove Them Wrong” all season long, this game was right in the Pioneers’ wheelhouse rallying with two goals in the final ten minutes of the third period to send the game to overtime before the Minutemen scored with 4:42 left in overtime to win it. When the rest of the college hockey world was convinced that a 3-1 deficit as a result of a three-minute nightmare in the first period was too much for the Pioneers to overcome, the boys in crimson did what they’ve done all year and “Prove Them Wrong” yet again. They just couldn’t finish the job in the extra frame.

These 2018-19 Pioneers will no doubt be remembered as one of the most resilient, blue-collar Denver teams in recent memory. Throughout the season, the Pioneers repeatedly got punched in the mouth and every single time, they got back up and kept pushing back. From comeback wins throughout the season to close calls throughout the season, no one moment was able to keep these Pioneers down. The Pioneers had been to hell and back a few different times throughout the season so what was one more time?

One more time was nearly enough to get the Pioneers back to the national title game against Minnesota Duluth. After a fast start, Denver weathered a three-minute stretch in the first period that saw the Pioneers take three penalties including one game misconduct for a hit to the head and UMass-Amherst score three times on the power play. The Pioneers entered the locker room for the first intermission down 3-1 with the Minutemen owning all of the momentum. It was a stretch that almost doomed the Pioneers’ chances. Almost.

“They scored three power play goals, two of them were beautiful,” Denver head coach David Carle said. “They made real nice plays and I thought Filip [Larsson] settled into the game. Part of our message between the first and second was that we knew Filip was going to shut the door and keep them at three. We needed to do our job and get it back tied up.”

Denver followed their season’s script to a T, though. Down 3-1 for most of the game, the Pioneers didn’t panic. With all of the comeback wins they had, there was no reason to. All they had to do was keep UMass within striking distance and find the right time to strike. And that’s exactly what Cole Guttman did in the final 10 minutes of the third period. Guttman sniped the top corner 10:32 into the final regulation period and then scored again with just under four minutes left to tie the game at three. UMass-Amherst certainly helped Denver with a number of penalties in the second and third periods but Denver dug deep as they have throughout the season and found a way to force overtime.

“We thought we were winning the game,” senior captain Colin Staub said of the comeback. “We battled back, we were resilient, and there was no doubt in our minds that going into overtime, we were going to win that game.”

As resilient as the Pioneers were, they came up just short on the sport’s biggest stage. Marc Del Gaizo buried a slap shot past Filip Larsson two minutes past midnight and 15 minutes into overtime to end Denver’s season. Whether it was first period mistakes or second and third period missed opportunities, Denver wasn’t able to seal the deal and get back to the national title game.

“I loved our resiliency,” Carle said. “I think we could have gotten down on ourselves but we didn’t. We stuck with our gameplan in the second and third. I’m really proud of our effort to fight back and get it to overtime.”

There will be ample time for reflection on the season in the coming weeks. But for now, these 2018-19 Denver Pioneers just played their hearts out at the Frozen Four against one of the country’s best teams and proved that they belonged atop the rankings all along. And yes, you damn well better believe that proved everyone wrong.

16 thoughts on “Pioneers drop overtime Frozen Four thriller to UMass-Amherst”

  1. Very proud of the DU boys for leaving every last ounce on the ice in Buffalo in what was a thrilling hockey game to end a wonderful season of DU overachievement. I am as proud of this young team as I am of NCAA title teams, as this game was relentless Denver hockey played against a worthy and balanced opponent, and could have gone either way.

    To Luko, Stauby and Les, thank you seniors for many clutch moments. You guys will all be remembered as great Pioneers and are terrific examples to all who will follow you in Crimson and Gold.

    AND DU is going to be very good next year…

    It was also amazing to be in Buffalo with the few hundred Pio fans, too. Outnumbered by thousands of UMass fans, we did our best to cheer on the boys and I am so hoarse…

  2. Yeah, that was some pretty good stuff tonight. DU has eight national titles. And, before this, won an amazing 3 out of last 4 frozen fours that we participated in. There is much, much solace in that. Refs made a sheet show out of the first period. Nice to see actual hockey after that. I can’t feel too bad about DU losing, after that weird and totally unexpected comeback. It was overall enjoyable, and I am not too bummed about the loss. More proud of the comeback. Thanks, Pioneers for the great game, and the amazing season. Very proud of the Pios.

  3. Please help me if I am missing something. It is my understanding that David Carle was given a chance to review the hit on Tyson McLellan but declined. I realize that DU would have lost a timeout if the challenge had been denied but come on. There was no question that hit was to the head.

    It appears that the UMass thugs were successful in copying UND’s style of play. Having said that, there was absolutely no excuse for Barrow’s hit. You have to keep your emotions in check.

    Proud of the guys. I think we can look forward to a lot from this team next year. It will be interesting to see if Mitchell decides to turn pro.

    1. Counterpoint: why should it even have gone to the point of a challenge? If the refs aren’t going to use replay when asked to review an illegal hit, what’s the point of having replay?

    2. I am pretty sure that UND didn’t play this dirty all season. I would say that last night’s game was a crap sandwich.

  4. Refs should have gotten it right but DU did not call for a replay. Young Pioneer team with big-time upside. Should be a special team with a few offensive newcomers and returning underclassmen. Let’s hope the captain’s ‘C’ will keep Ian Mitchell around for another season..

  5. Bad taste in the mouth. The Pios fought hard to get out of that hole they dug and put themselves in a position to win. The refs completely blew it. That wasn’t just a hit to the head, it looked intentional. Far more intentional and obvious than the other three. Give the Pios 5 minutes of power play in late 3rd period and overtime and they get it done. No question. To miss that was egregious. Also to have 3 electable plays in one game also makes UMass look very, very dirty. One or even two is bad but understandable. That third got me fuming, and I don’t get upset easily. Bunch of Massholes.

    Couldn’t be prouder to be a Pioneer and I wish the best to the seniors and whoever may not be coming back next year. Green pastures await in whatever avenue life takes them.

  6. First, CONGRATULATIONS to the team and coaches for an outstanding performance throughout the year and at the Frozen Four. . They made believers of the college hockey world. And next year should see an even better finish.

    UMass’s 3 PP goals in 3 minutes were so disheartening to this fan, I was pacing around the house and trying to think of things to do But the Pios pulled themselves together and stopped the bleeding. (Think Barry Melrose was waiting/promoting a goal to make it a 4-1 game. )

    UMass coach conceded DU outplayed them in the 2nd and 3rd period. Was surprised he made several comments about the refs. Didn’t say they were bad, but certainly implied it. BTW isn’t it almost pro forma tor the winning coach to begin comments on the hard fought battle/skilled performance by the opponent ? I must say when UMass offense was swarming either on the PP or 5 on 5 they were frighteningly good.

    In retrospect maybe DC should have challenged the very obvious, third hit to the head. Could have lost a timeout if denied which could have been more valuable later in the game .I’m sure the refs did not want to eject a 3rd UMass skater. (The NFL Saints would have loved a challenge in their game against the Rams)

    In 2016 Pios lost in the semis and then in 2017 took the Natty. 2020 loss in semis and then 2020……..

  7. Don’t blame DU loss on the officiating, folks. The Pios had long stretches of power play time (16 minutes?) where they were unable to get a PPG, save for the first goal early. UMASS had three PPGs and their special teams superiority was the difference in the game – UMASS had the second best power play in the country at 28%, DU had around the 40th best PP at 15%. That’s a big gap, and UMASS exploited it further on the two 5-on-3s they had early, where DU needed to be a bit more disciplined and stay out of the box…

    1. PS I don’t blame the officiating; however, having said that, the NCAA suspended Bobby Trivigno for Saturday’s national championship game. This tells you the severity of the hit. This was a miscall pure and simple.I still don’t understand why David didn’t ask for a review. I am sure he was getting feedback from someone who saw the replay of the hit.

    2. Not blaming the loss on the officiating for the same reasons you outlined. People make mistakes and in real time I didn’t see the nature of the hit, either. However there is still something fundamentally wrong when we have replay available for this type of thing, especially for the safety of players, and it still gets missed. It was an egregious hit to the head and one that I believe was made with mal-intent. This wasn’t accidental contact or even someone trying to make a big hit that is essentially “unnecessary roughness”. This was an elbow/forearm direct to the head without any sign that he was making a typical hockey play. It was reckless and dangerous, which is why we heavily penalize it. Given the nature of the game being in the Frozen Four and not some regular season throwaway game this simply cannot happen when it is so obvious with the multitude of cameras. Look at basketball and football. Replay is used ad nauseam, particularly for targeting in football, with or without the coach’s discretion and here we expect the coaching staff to initiate a review. They got it wrong and it changed the course of the game, and in my opinion the result. More importantly by missing the call the remainder of the game looked much, much more physical on both sides since the refs looked timid to call anything which can also lead to unnecessarily dangerous situations.

      At least the NCAA did the right thing and suspended the player who made the hit. If it were my son who took the hit I would want the other player disciplined and likewise would see it as fair if my son had committed the hit. Hockey already has an element of danger to it (e.g. Jesse Martin) and these provisions protecting head/neck safety are especially important. A hit like that is unsportsmanlike and toes the line of being beyond that. There are many values that can be learned in collegiate athletics, sportsmanship being an important one. Hopefully all 4 players can truly learn from their mistakes last night and move on accordingly. Likewise hopefully the NCAA institutes a better system for reviewing these plays, both out of safety and fairness.

      1. I would agree that a better system needs to be put into place. For NCAA play, there should probably be a booth review of contact to the head situations, so that refs are supported in those scenarios where they can’t see the infractions on the ice. I also think in this scenario, that its very possible that refs don’t want to throw out three players from any one team in a playoff game, and that may have contributed to the swallowed whistle…

  8. Great game, great effort by the Pios last night. Really tough loss–it was a kick in the teeth. After DU seized momentum and found another gear, I was sure they were going to win it either late in the 3rd or in OT. It didn’t happen, but those guys played their asses off and were so close to being in the title game.

    Really proud of this team and what they accomplished this year. It’s hard to overstate what a terrific season this was. No one, myself included, expected this team to be in the FF and one win away from competing for a championship. While the loss last night stings, it was a great run.

    The elbow by Trivigno was a bush-league, chickensh** move. I’m glad he’s suspended for tomorrow’s game, and I’m definitely rooting for Duluth.

  9. So Filip Larsson is one and done, I suppose not much of a surprise. I wonder if Mitchell will be the next to leave. I think we are fortunate to have Devin Cooley.

    1. See recent article about DU’s new drafted Swedish goalie, Magnus Chrona. I think DU clearly had a plan for Larsson leaving.

      I don’t see Mitchell jumping to Chicago this summer. I expect him to be a DU captain next year and to be a Hobey Baker candidate for the Pios. His family values education, and I think he want’s to be more NHL ready when he jumps from DU. He’d probably play in the AHL if he jumped next season.

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