Carter Savoie Calls Game in Overtime to Send Pioneers Past Wolverines in Frozen Four Thriller

BOSTON, Mass. – Carter Savoie has 23 goals this season. Not a single one of them, though, was bigger or more important than the one he scored nearly 15 minutes into overtime at the 2022 Frozen Four at the TD Garden to lift the Pioneers to a 3-2 victory over the top overall seed Michigan and a berth in the program’s 12th national title game.

Entering the Frozen Four, the belief was that the game between two of the top four offenses in the country would skate to a high-scoring track meet type of a hockey game. DU head coach David Carle even joked in DU’s post-practice media availability yesterday that “we’re going for [a final score of] 9-8.”

Instead, defense carried the day for both teams as Denver limited Michigan to just 21 total shots through nearly 75 minutes while the Wolverines kept the Pios to just 33 shots. Part of that was the incredible effort from both teams to get in shot lanes and prevent pucks from getting to the goalies as they combined for 29 blocks (DU 15, Michigan 14).

“Our angling, our puck pressure, was really good” Carle said of DU’s defensive effort. “And when people did get beat, there was another layer there to help a lot of times. And 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. You probably take 21 shots against in a three-period game let alone a four-period game. Very proud of our team how we took away time and space and made life hard on them.”

Though the teams emphasized defense and kept their defensemen back to avoid allowing any odd-man rushes, the game did not lack for offensive chances or speed. Both Denver’s and Michigan’s speed and skill were on full display all game long and they treated the national audience to an all-time classic Frozen Four game.

Denver drew first blood midway through the first period as Brett Stapley backhanded a rebound off from a Justin Lee shot past Wolverine goalie Erik Portillo. Michigan started the game with a tentative tact and the Pioneers took full advantage preventing the Wolverines from recording a shot on goal until just after the 17-minute mark of the first. By that point, Denver had more goals than Michigan had shots on goal and it certainly seemed like the Pios might have been poised for a runaway victory.

But this being the Frozen Four and the opponent being Michigan and their treasure trove of first-round draft picks, they didn’t go away. In fact, for much of the second period, the Wolverines controlled the game and on one of DU’s few turnovers of the game, Jimmy Lambert, all alone in the slot, roofed a perfect Nolan Moyle pass over DU goalie Magnus Chrona’s shoulder. Tie game. The Michigan-dominant crowd was in a frenzy.

Denver weathered the rest of the Michigan storm before battling back and outshooting the opposition 9-5 in the frame, forcing Portillo to make some key saves. But, little did anyone at The Garden know, the best was still yet to come.

The Pioneers dominated the first period and Michigan controlled the second, so it stood to reason that the Pioneers turned the tables back on the Maize and Blue in the third to take back control. Five and a half minutes into the third, graduate transfer Cameron Wright found himself in the right place at the exact right time to tip a Mike Benning shot from the point past Portillo, off the left post, and over the line. Denver had the lead back and they had one foot in the national title game…but Michigan was still Michigan.

After the only other huge mistake from the Pioneers on the night – a shot at the point that was blocked by Mark Estapa – Thomas Bordeleau played a game of ‘hey, look what I found’ on the ensuing Michigan rush and beat Chrona who had no chance to make the save. Denver responded with a push and even had two power-play chances after Michigan tied it, but it was to no avail.

Overtime. Naturally.

“It was a really good hockey game,” Carle said. “I thought both teams checked really well. There wasn’t a lot of ice, it didn’t seem. And it was an entertaining game. We’re obviously excited to be on the positive end. Give Michigan credit. I thought they adjusted well throughout the game. Made it harder on us.”

To say Michigan dominated the extra frame, especially the first 10 minutes of it, would somehow be an understatement. They started overtime with an extended shift that kept the Pioneers’ third line on the ice for nearly a full two minutes thanks to a few icings and they were swarming to the puck. The Pioneers were chasing the game but Chrona was huge when he had to be, stopping all 7 of Michigan’s shots in extra time.

Once Denver weathered the Michigan storm, they were able to flip the script as the ice opened up and finally, after forcing Portillo to make a number of great saves, Carter Savoie crashed the net for a pass from Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist Bobby Brink and found twine for his second game-winning goal in as many games and send the Pioneers to Saturday night’s national championship game.

“I think they turned the puck over at the top, near the blue line there,” Savoie explained. “I tried passing it down to Bob. Hit a skate. He ended up getting it back. And then obviously that pass Bob made was pretty unbelievable. Right through that guy’s legs. Got the first shot. Then got the rebound there.”

It was as evenly-matched, exciting, instant-classic a semifinal as the Frozen Four has seen and it lived up to the pregame hype that had been building for a full week-and-a-half. Magnus Chrona built the Pios a solid foundation in the crease, making some massive saves on a few Michigan odd-man rushes and keeping the Pioneers from trailing at any point in the game, which is quite the feat against this Michigan team.

“When mistakes did happen, Magnus was there to shut the door and make a couple really big saves,” Carle said. “Obviously the Brisson save in overtime and the Hughes save in overtime were exceptional and kept us in the hockey game and allow Sav to put one in the back of the net for us and send us to the championship game.”

For the Pioneers, though, the historical significance of the victory is real and important. Not only have there been plenty of parallels drawn between this team and the 2004 team that won it all in Boston too, Denver finally exorcised a decades-long demon by finally beating Michigan, owners of the most national titles with nine, in the NCAA Tournament for the first time. Ever. The ghosts from the 2002 matchup at Yost Arena in Ann Arbor, the last time these two teams played, can finally rest.

“A lot has been made of the symmetries between this team and the ’03 and ’04 team, being back here in Boston,” Carle said. “And there’s no doubt about it, when we talk about what we want to do at Denver, it’s about winning championships and getting opportunities to hang banners. To have this opportunity is very special. To do it against Michigan, who is at 9 and we’re at 8, is even sweeter. And hopefully, we can tie them and close the gap and reach our goal to getting to 10 first.”

Now, the Pioneers can take the next two days to rest their legs and focus on their opponent on Saturday, the winner of the Minnesota-Minnesota St. semifinal. It may be difficult to avoid an emotional letdown for the Pioneers after a game like that one with so many swings, but if there’s a program that has shown it can, it’s the Pioneers who did just that two weeks ago in Loveland after a hard-fought victory over UMass-Lowell.

But for now, for the next 48 hours, the Pioneers are on top of the world, coming away victorious in overtime at the Frozen Four this time, unlike in 2019 against UMass-Amherst.

“Considering I got kicked out seven minutes in,” Ryan Barrow said, laughing when asked about the difference between the 2019 and 2022 Frozen Fours. “This one’s a lot better, yeah.”

Tonight’s goal was all about Saturday. Get to Saturday. Earn the opportunity to win a national title. Now, the goal shifts.

It’s time to hang nine.


Top photo credit: Damian Strohmeyer/NCAA Photos via Denver Athletics

21 thoughts on “Carter Savoie Calls Game in Overtime to Send Pioneers Past Wolverines in Frozen Four Thriller”

  1. That game was divine DU retribution for 1964, for 1999 and for 2002 NCAA losses to Michigan, and one of the greatest sports experiences I’ve ever had –will always remember jumping out of my seat, about 30 feet from Savoie’s game-winner.

    Thousands of sad Michigan fans, hundreds of happy Pio fans…

    DU was the winner in this heavyweight bout, and it was pure joy to be there…

    Denver had done its homework in the pre scout, and rarely let Michigan have the middle of the ice.

    1. That felt good last night. Watched from my couch here in Fort Worth and scared the crap out of my wife and girls when the OT winner was scored.

  2. Outstanding effort by the entire Pioneer team. I was really deflated after the referee assisted Michigan goal #2. But Brink & Savoie saved the day!

    This will go down as one of the great games in DU’s playoff history, as few outside of the DU loyalists gave us much of a chance against all those 1st round draft choices.

    So glad that the Pios will once again be the underdog on Saturday… Mankato is a great team, but I for one can’t wait for one last opportunity to prove those doubters wrong.

    This is a team of destiny…Don’t ever doubt it.

  3. Too sweet. What a pass by Brink for the game winner. Stapley, Wright, Chrona, and the whole D…just awesome. And kudos to Carle for a master game plan.

  4. I have been watching PIO hockey for over 50 years and I can tell you that game ranks right at the top. DU clogging up the middle was fun to watch. It also seemed that Michigan wasn’t willing to go to the “greasy” areas”. PP has been a thorn in our side all year.
    Those ESPN announcers are a bunch of goobers. I can’t tell you how annoying Melrose is. I got so sick of hearing them prattle on about Michigan’s seven first round draft picks. Didn’t help them much.

  5. It’s a beautiful day in Boston. A little extra swagger on the Freedom Trail today. Phew, still buzzing over that game, need a day to recouperate. Yesterday’s pregame at the Harp was pretty packed, Saturday’s should be huge. The only thing wrong is not having our fearless leader Damien here. We miss you lots, hombre, trying our best to represent!

  6. Melrose and Bucci’s mouths were attached to Michigan’s nutsack! Guess what???? Denver has got talent too!!!!!

  7. Someone needs to remind Melrose and Bucci that none of the first-round picks produced a point against Denver. Over and out.

  8. YES!! Another great playoff game for the Pios! Stepping up big at the right time. This was a masterful team effort where the coaches designed a winning gameplan against a more talented team and the boys hit the trenches and executed. That’s how you can steal Saturday’s game too. Bring the right plan and outwork them! DU will be underdog but hopefully only works to put a chip on their shoulders!

    Get it done!

  9. ’78 alum here; watched the game @NYC ‘The Canuck’ Bar’, only Boone fan in the house. Awesome job by Pioneers and coach Carle. Let’s bring home #9 banner to Denver. And CC sucks!

  10. My son & I are DU alums (1980 and 2020). My wife and our middle daughter are alums of Michigan. Also my wife has three siblings that graduated from Michigan. The victory was SWEET! Also, keeping the Big 10 out of the title game is fantastic. The large Michigan crowd was left speechless. Go Pioneers!!!!

  11. You guys are too kind.

    Incredible day for all those in Boston. I received hundreds on emails photos texts & Facebook messages from Pio fans all over the world before, during & after the game. Yesterday was one for the ages. What a performance by our coaches players & fans. 👍

  12. What a game, what a moment for this DU team! It took a monumental effort and a masterful game plan to beat a Michigan team loaded with elite-level talent, and DU was up to the task on all fronts. That was awesome. While the Wolverines had some sequences during which they carried the play and had their foot on the gas, DU was the better team overall yesterday and deserved to win. I wish I had been in Boston to see it in person.

    I kept dreading that the lack of success on the PP might come back to haunt the Pios. They certainly had some good looks. And when OT started and the Pios were on their heels a bit, it was nail-biting time. But DU never panicked, Chrona was terrific, and in the blink of any eye, Brink and Savoie ended it. It was a thing of beauty. Man, that was fun to watch!!

    3 down, 1 to go.

  13. Soooo, seems like Brink will have to score on the guy that took his Hobey? I doubt Brink or anyone else is too worked up about it. But if it provides a little extra motivation, then great.

  14. Anyone else in Boston getting a salty vibe from the Michigan fans?? Ha. Shit, if my team lost with 7 first rounders, maybe I would be salty, too. DU just neutralized their star players. Michigan played like third rounders. Kidding… Gopher fans I run into are kind as always, many wishing good luck to the Pios.

    1. I thought Hughes smashing his stick on the goal twice after Savoie scored the game winner was absolutely classless. Someone needs to sit him down and tell him he needs to put on his big boy pants before he steps foot on the ice.

  15. Sorry- 43 gets a pass on that. 18 year old kid just lost one of the biggest games of his young career.

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