Coaches often say that you can throw out the records when it comes to rivalry game.
Never was that as true as Tuesday afternoon in the NCHC bubble in Omaha when No. 9 Denver, winless in three games thus far, had to battle its rival, No. 1 North Dakota.
A game with plenty of momentum shifts was decided when Denver rookie Carter Savoie scored in the closing seconds of both a five-minute major to North Dakota’s Brendan Budy and regulation, giving the Pioneers a 3-2 upset of a previously undefeated Fighting Hawks team.
🚨 The freshman does it again!
Savoie snipes on the power play to give @DU_Hockey a late lead and the win
— The NCHC (@TheNCHC) December 8, 2020
It was a statement win for a Denver club that had played well in its first three games, but found themselves on the losing end of each.
“We tried to reset and get away from it a little bit,” said Denver coach David Carle, whose team had two days off after Saturday 4-3 loss to Saturday. “We really talked about narrowing our focus on our process. It’s really the 26 guys in the room who are going to get us out of it. I’m really proud of our guys effort to come out tonight.”
North Dakota coach Brad Berry, whose team came in flying high after three wins to begin their pod experience, admitted making sure his team was prepared to face a very hungry Denver club was a major challenge.
“As a coach, that’s the biggest thing you fear when a team is 3-0 and the other is 0-3,” said Berry. “You can say as much as you want or show as many clips as you want to convey there is a desperate team on the other side.”
Denver, like other games in the NCHC pod, had a solid start, this time grabbing a 2-0 first period lead.
McKade Webster and captain Kohen Olischefski tallied exactly a minute apart past the midway mark in the first. But North Dakota scoring stud Jordan Kawaguchi responded to just 44 seconds after Denver’s second goal, sending the game to the first intermission at 2-1.
The game remained that way despite what Brad Berry said was his team’s best second period of the season. That was until the closing seconds of the frame when Collin Adams scored the equalizer on the power play with 25 seconds left in the second.
That set up a classic third period in this top-tier rivalry. When Budy was whistled for a major hitting from behind penalty 13:18, things felt ominous. And while Denver’s Webster took a tripping penalty at 14:59, there was still enough power play time for Savoie to play hero and put Denver in the win column for the third time this season.
“It’s a long year,” said Carle, putting the opening four games in perspective. “You don’t get to choose the part of the year when you hit adversity. You get to choose how you respond.
“We’re a better team than we were a week ago and I expect that to be the same a week from today.”
No. 4 Minnesota 3, No. 5 Michigan 1
Second-period goals by Sampo Ranta, on the power play, and Bryce Brodzinski spotted No. 4 Minnesota a 2-0 lead, allowing the Gophers top-tier defense the chance to close out a victory over No. 5 Michigan, 3-1.
Both the Gophers and goaltender Jack LaFontaine improved to 7-0-0 on the young season. LaFontaine finished with 33 saves and has yet to allow more than two goals in any game thus far.
Ben Meyers factored in all of Minnesota’s three goals on the night, including scoring early in the third for a 3-0 lead.
Have we told you lately how good Ben Meyers is at hockey?
No? Well, consider this us telling you. pic.twitter.com/EoovP1vnYg
— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) December 9, 2020
Though Michigan answered 34 seconds after Meyers tally on a highlight-reel Kent Johnson goal, the Minnesota defense shut things down as they have been known to do this entire year.