NCAA Frozen Four: Denver beats Michigan 3-2 in overtime

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BOSTON — Denver knocked Michigan out of the Frozen Four. Next comes a chance to match the Wolverines as the most decorated team in college hockey history.

Carter Savoie scored with 14:53 gone in overtime, converting on his own rebound Thursday night to lead the Pioneers past Michigan 3-2 and into the NCAA championship game. A victory would give Denver its ninth hockey title — a total only Michigan has reached.

“When we talk about what we want to do at Denver, it’s about winning championships and getting opportunities to hang banners,” said coach David Carle, whose team will play for the title Saturday night against Minnesota State — a 5-1 winner over Minnesota in the second semifinal.

“To have this opportunity is very special. To do it against Michigan, who is at nine and we’re at eight, is even sweeter,” Carle said. “And hopefully we can tie them and close the gap and reach our goal to getting to 10 first.”

Magnus Chrona made 19 saves for the Pioneers, who went ahead in regulation on goals from Brett Stapley and Cameron Wright. But Jimmy Lambert and Thomas Bordeleau each tied it, the latter with 11 minutes left in regulation.

It stayed that way until Michigan failed to clear the puck from its own zone, with two Wolverines skating past it near the blue line, each leaving it for the other. Savoie grabbed it, sent it on a deflection to Hobey Baker finalist Bobby Brink in the corner and then skated through the middle, waving his stick in the air to call for the pass.

Brink found him, and he delivered the winner on his second try. The Pioneers swarmed around him against the boards while the outnumbered Denver fans celebrated behind the team’s bench.

“That’s what he does,” Denver forward Ryan Barrow said. “He scores big goals, as we all know.”

Carle noted before the overtime that Brink, who leads the nation in scoring with 14 goals and 43 assists in 40 games, and the rest of the Pioneers’ top line had been shut out in regulation.

“They came through in the biggest of moments for us to extend our season,” Carle said.

Erik Portillo stopped 30 shots for the Wolverines, who won their last title in Boston in 1998 under Red Berenson and have only won one game in seven trips to the Frozen Four since then.

“It’s hard to get here. There were some really good teams that never had the opportunity to get here,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson, who made his 13th trip to the Frozen Four as a coach to go with one as a player.

“You have to be good. And you need a little bit of luck. We just didn’t seem to have any Lady Luck on our side tonight,” he said. “We were in the game. It’s one shot could go either way. The single-game elimination makes it so difficult to win.”

Denver scored first when Stapley picked up a rebound, slid it over to his backhand and easily beat Portillo with eight minutes gone in the first period. Michigan tied it four minutes into the second, when Nolan Moyle dug the puck out from behind the net and sent it in front to Lambert coming across the middle.

Denver took a 2-1 lead when Mike Benning flipped it in from the blue line and Wright it off the post and in.

Michigan tied it with 11 minutes to play in regulation after Mark Estapa threw himself to the ice to block a shot. The puck bounced off him and into the neutral zone, where Michael Pastujov grabbed it and took off.

As he approached the net, he tried to shoot or pass but the puck deflected off a defender and right to Bordeleau, who was trailing the play. His goal made it 2-2, and that’s the way it stayed when Michigan killed off two more penalties — three in all, to none for Denver.

“Discipline has been an issue of ours throughout the season at times. And it was the best it’s been all year in the biggest moment,” Carle said. “We didn’t give the refs any opportunities to make a call on us.”

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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

    The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.