Denver Enters Win Column in Thrilling 3-2 Victory over North Dakota

It’s extremely rare when Denver and North Dakota tangle and the game doesn’t end up being an instant classic. On Friday night, it was #1 North Dakota’s (3-1-0, 8 pts) Jordan Kawaguchi who put the finishing touches on an overtime thriller with a roofed shot down low but this time, just four days later, it was the #9 Denver Pioneers (1-3-0, 4 pts) who came away with the late game-winning goal off of the stick of freshman hero Carter Savoie, his fifth of the season already. The 3-2 victory, though, took on a much bigger significance for the Pios as it was their first victory of the season after starting the season 0-3-0 for the first time since the 2000-2001 season.

Denver hadn’t truly played a good, complete game this year until this one against its archrival. Sure, they had moments of brilliance in each of their first three games against UMD, UND, and SCSU, but there were fatal lapses in all three. Today, though, in their second game against North Dakota, those mistakes, while they were there, did not prove fatal. After jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first period off of goals from McKade Webster and captain Kohen Olischefski, the Fighting Hawks clawed their way right back into the game. Kawaguchi scored off of a lost faceoff in DU’s end – something that has been a source of major consternation to this point for the Pios – less than a minute after Olischefski’s goal. Then, with 25 seconds left in the 2nd period and on a North Dakota power play, Collin Adams tied the game on a rebound to make it four straight DU games with a blown lead.

Where that might have caused the Pioneers to collapse in prior games, this afternoon, Denver stood tall and stayed with the game at hand. The Fighting Hawks controlled play for much of the final stanza thanks to great penalty killing and great offensive pressure but with less than 7 minutes left, former Pioneer Brendan Budy boarded Justin Lee and earned well-deserved five-minute major and game misconduct. That penalty opened the door for the Pioneers to finally grab that first victory but it wasn’t as cut and dry as DU fans would have hoped. The Pioneers had an unenthusiastic first two minutes of the long power play before McKade Webster took a penalty of his own, negating two minutes of the 5-minute power play. But his penalty is what allowed him to make maybe the defensive play of the game, checking Shane Pinto’s shoulder hard to cancel out a dangerous UND rush immediately out of the box. That play offered DU the opportunity to come back down and let Savoie go to work. And boy did he with a glove-side snipe from the left circle that would make Alex Ovechkin blush. All Denver had to do was salt away the final 2:02 of regulation and they had their first victory.

As easy as it would be to sit here and wax poetic about Savoie and his silky-smooth shot, it was the grit and resilience of the Pioneers that should be praised most in this space. Sure, faceoffs are still a problem as DU won just 39.3% of them this afternoon and their penalty kill was lacking, giving up two power-play goals, but with facing adversity they didn’t ask for right out of the gate, facing the toughest schedule in the NCHC, the Pioneers pulled themselves back up and answered the bell.

After the game, DU head coach David Carle alluded to the fact that the Pioneers held a players-only meeting on Sunday night, a day after their third straight loss. Olischefski then mentioned that the theme of the meeting was to avoid panicking and stay poised. Sometimes, a meeting like that is all it takes to right the ship. The Pioneers are still in a hole at 1-3-0 and only four points through four games, but this one, this victory over their top-ranked hated rival may be the exact thing that DU needs to start climbing back up the NCHC standings.

Postgame Press Conference


Top photo credit: Mark Kuhlmann, NCHC

7 thoughts on “Denver Enters Win Column in Thrilling 3-2 Victory over North Dakota”

  1. This was a must win for the Pios. If we had any doubts, we now know they belong up there with the best teams in in the country.
    Now a day of rest before taking on Miami in another critical game.

  2. Amazing that Brendan Budy, who could not really crack DU’s lineup as a freshmen two years ago and transferred from DU to UND ended up helping to win the game for Denver tonight. His reckless, revenge-motivated major got him booted and DU used that power-play to perhaps save its season with that key Savoie PPG. In heated games like this, the team that keeps its cool is often the one with the win at the end.

    Had DU lost, I think going 0-4 with four straight blown leads would have put the Pios mindset in some very “dark places” as DC pointed out in the presser after the game. Now, with some teams coming on the schedule at DU should be able to outskate, the fog may start to lift.

    Carter Savoie is fantastic from the top of the circles in as a true sniper. We’ve never seen a DU freshman score like this out of the gate, and he’s doing it against some of the very best teams in the country.

    Obviously, the DU players-only meeting on Sunday night was important, as captain Kohen is now showing how to lead this bunch. I liked DU’s mindset for much of the 60 minutes today, save for the brain fart in the late second period, where DU finished gagging up its lead with a dumb penalty with under a minute in the period. Barrow, a senior, should know better that to take a penalty at that time of the game. Fortunately, the Pios were able to hold off UND and beat them for the first time in their last 5 games against each other.

    UND is, up and down the lineup, a more talented and more physical team than DU is, but I liked DU’s fight today. Taking Sanderson and Kleven out of the UND defense certainly helped DU’s offense to have more time and space, even missing Brink. UND still won the face-off battle, but DU was doing pretty well on third-period face-offs.

  3. Huge sigh of relief. DU needed that W, and badly. Congrats to the team on a hard-fought and well-earned victory.

    Chrona wasn’t tested to a huge degree in the 3rd, but it was still great to see him pitch the shutout in the 3rd. Has to be a confidence builder for him and the team. That was great to see.

    Savoie continues to impress. He’s well on his way to becoming an elite goal scorer at this level, and he’s only 5 games in.

    DU has to find a way to improve their faceoff win percentage, particularly against an elite team such as UND. A lot of plays happen off those draws, and the Pios put themselves in tough situations when they are well under 50%.

    I had forgotten about Brendan Budy and his history at DU. It’s quite fitting that the Pios got the game winner after that dangerous hit. I’m sure that won’t be forgotten.

    6 more games in Omaha, and on paper at least, DU’s schedule softens a bit. 4 of those games are against either Miami or Western Michigan, both of which are down in the standings. Let’s hope this victory over UND is a momentum changer and leads to a handful of additional Ws prior to the holiday break.

  4. Swami- Maybe Savoie compares with Perry Schnarr? Schnarr was worth a goal a game while at DU. Early days for #8, but so far ,ya gotta like it.

    1. Perry Schnarr was a very good college hockey scorer in his day, and it’s a shame his game did not translate at higher levels – he had a few games in the minors after DU, but that was it for him in terms of a hockey career.

      In that era of the late ’70s and early ’80s, goal scoring was much more frequent in college hockey. 6-5 scores were quite common then – the reasons were that goaltending equipment was much smaller, there was little to no specialized goaltender coaching (many goalies flopped all over the place), videotape to scout opponents was not yet common, and coaches did not really teach defensive systems as they do today.

      When I talk to offensive-oriented players who played in that era, most of them tell me that they think their scoring numbers would be cut in about half if they were playing college today. In my mind, that makes what Savoie is doing right now all the more remarkable…

  5. Congrats on the much-needed win! That is pretty huge, and should be a confidence builder. Savoie. Wow, that kid. Now let’s get a couple easier games under our belt. A 3-3 record would be great, all things considered.

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