#4 Pioneers Blow Second-Straight Third Period Lead, Fall to #1 North Dakota in Overtime

The #4 Denver Pioneers (0-2-0, 1 pt) are finding themselves in a precarious position with an alarming trend just two games into the season. On Wednesday night, the Pios had a 1-0 lead entering the third period before #3 Minnesota Duluth came back on the back of two quick power-play goals. Then, two nights later, in a matchup with #1 North Dakota (2-0-0, 5 pts), the Pioneers had a 2-1 lead early in the third period before coughing that lead up as well. Freshman sensation Carter Savoie played temporary savior, tying the game to send it to the Pod’s first overtime before UND captain Jordan Kawaguchi won the 4-3 contest for the Fighting Hawks.

For the Pioneers, just like their game against Minnesota Duluth two nights ago, there was a lot to like but plenty to hate as well. You could argue that DU played a better overall game against UND tonight but there were still some terrible mental mistakes – Bobby Brink turning the puck over in the defensive zone directly leading to North Dakota’s third goal late in the third period comes to mind – that hurt the Pioneers at key moments. Carter Savoie, though, with his second and third goals of the season to his credit, proved to be one of the Pioneers’ bright spots against the top-ranked team in the country.

Through the first two games, at least, special teams have been a key factor in both results. DU did score twice on the power play, both off of Savoie’s stick, but on the other end, the Pios’ kill has now surrendered three goals in its first two games thanks to freshman defenseman Jake Sanderson’s one-timer from the right circle in the second period to tie the game at 1. Denver ended the night 4-for-5 (80%) on the kill but even that one goal was a tough one to surrender for DU as they were trying to pull away from the Fighting Hawks early and create some separation.

While Denver maintained control of most of the game thanks to its top-flight speed – the Pioneers might be an even faster team than they were a year ago – this game between two long-time rivals, this matchup featuring 16 all-time national titles, lived up to its billing and then some. No matter how great their rushes were or how hard they were crashing the net, it was impossible for DU to create any breathing room against UND, as is usually the case. Even when North Dakota took the lead off of Brink’s turnover, Savoie answered the bell barely 90 seconds later to force overtime. It was just another classic game in a rivalry that boasts 70 years of classic games.

Denver and North Dakota will have precious little time to think about this one as they meet again on Tuesday, just four days away for the first of five remaining games between the two. Of course, by then, both teams will be without the services of two of their best young players: Denver’s Brink and UND’s Sanderson will be in Plymouth, Michigan at Team USA World Juniors Training Camp preparing for the annual world tournament.

Notes: Top-line center Cole Guttman was a late scratch. At the time of publication, no word had been given on the reason for the scratch or on his status for tomorrow night’s game against St. Cloud State.

Postgame Press Conference


Top photo: Denver Athletics

6 thoughts on “#4 Pioneers Blow Second-Straight Third Period Lead, Fall to #1 North Dakota in Overtime”

  1. Two straight blown-lead, third-period meltdowns are tough to swallow.

    Honestly, though, UND was the better team tonight and deserved its win. They dominated the shots, the physical play, the offensive zone time and face-offs. DU might have had a slight edge in team speed on transition and the skill levels were quite comparable. But UND’s Sanderson and Kawaguchi made the elite level offensive plays with the game on the line, while only Savoie could execute at that kind of level in crunch time for DU, and thus, UND won.

    Right now, DU has some clear third period mental toughness issues, and it’s compounded by the fact that DU’s goaltending is not as good as its opponents’ goaltending, either. Chrona is below .900 in saves percentage right now, which means the Pios will not be an elite team until that number gets up closer to .920 or so. It may be time to try the Yalie…

  2. Instead of UMD and UND, perhaps DU should play the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople, but it’s not much of a sports school, though they’re on the cutting edge of play-by-play announcing:

  3. First off, it was great to see DU back in action. I missed Wednesday’s game against Duluth, but a game against UND is always a treat.

    The game itself was entertaining, although the end result was certainly disappointing. I thought DU did some good things, and this team has the potential to do great things. The team speed is there, the transition game was good, and the newcomers were impressive. I really like what I saw from Savoie. I’m still not sure what the Pios have in Chrona. He’s a big kid that moves well and seemingly has all of the tools, but I’d like to see him be better in the clutch. The lingering question for me is can he make the big save when DU needs it most? Additionally, the two blown leads thus far are a bit concerning. Pios have to find a way to put these teams away, although easier said than done. Finally, DU needs to find a way to get better on draws against UND. I feel like every time I see the teams play, UND is winning 2 of every 3 faceoffs.

    UND, as always, was impressive. They are a complete team that always has impressive depth, can roll 4 lines, play tough in the corners, win draws, and play well defensively. Only 1 game between the two teams thus far this season, but I would definitely put them a notch above DU at this point in the young season.

    Pios need a W tonight to avoid an 0-3 start.

  4. That losing when leading after 2 periods is concerning.

    Random memory: UMD in 04 was like 25 and 0 when leading after 2. But Ryan Caldwell, Dora and Co. made that stat irrelevant in the Frozen Four on the way to DU’s first title some Neil Armstrong walked in the moon.

    Whatever, just a little positivity and a nice memory to soothe Pioneer fans after an 0-2 start this year.

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