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.”