High-end NHL draft picks Carter Savoie (three goals), Bobby Brink (goal, three assists) and Sean Behrens (three assists) spearheaded a relentless University of Denver comeback Friday night as the Pioneers downed St. Cloud State 8-5 to begin a two-game NCHC series at Magness Arena.
DU, which trailed 3-0 after the first period, entered the nationally televised contest No. 3 in the PairWise Rankings, with St. Cloud No. 5. The Pioneers scored four goals in the second period and four more in the third to extend their unbeaten streak to nine games (8-0-1). They have won seven in a row.
Brink, Savoie and Behrens were selected by Philadelphia (2019), Edmonton (2020) and Colorado (2021) in the NHL draft and dominated after St. Cloud’s fast start. Brett Stapley had two goals and Cameron Wright and Cole Guttman one apiece for DU.
The Pioneers, who improved to 15-1-1 in their last 17 games, improved to 19-5-1 (12-3-0 NCHC). St. Cloud fell to 14-8-1 (6-6-1 NCHC)
DU went ahead 5-4 — its first lead of the game — on Wright’s power-play goal 2:28 into the third period. Wright, a graduate transfer from Bowling Green, capped an impressive rush by defensemen Mike Benning and Shai Buium for his team-leading 17th goal.
Guttman made it a two-goal cushion at 7:27, burning a rebound off a nice passing play from linemates Carter Mazur and Brink. It was the Pioneers’ 39th shot at a time when the Huskies were limited to 21.
DU and St. Cloud entered the game ranked first and third in scoring nationally at 4.62 and 4.09, respectively, and both teams proved it.
DU clawed back from a 3-0 deficit with power-play goals from Savoie at 1:24 and 3:39 of the second period while Huskies forward Nolan Walker was serving a five-minute major for boarding on Behrens. Savoie scored his 14th and 15th goals from the left circle — the hot spot for the Edmonton Oilers draft pick.
Savoie took a questionable interference minor late in the third period to send St. Cloud on the power play but DU gained a shorthanded breakaway and the Huskies’ Jack Peart was whistled for slashing Barron from behind. In protest, St. Cloud senior Easton Brodzinski was given a 10-minute misconduct.
Four-on-four play ensued and Benning was caught behind the play, leading to a 2-on-1 rush by St. Cloud. Forward Kevin Fitzgerald capitalized by beating goalie Magnus Chrona with a wrist shot at 14:52.
Trailing 4-2, the Pioneers got within a goal just 38 seconds later when Stapley cashed in on a behind-the-net pass from Behrens. And then Savoie completed his hat trick by backhanding a loose puck behind goalie David Hrenak with 37 seconds left in the middle frame.
St. Cloud had more jump early, scoring on two of its first four shots in taking a 2-0 lead on goals by Zach Okabe and Jami Krannilla at 3:38 and 5:28 into the game. DU’s forwards were caught behind the play both times, leaving St. Cloud players open down low in front of Chrona.
The Huskies made it 3-0 with a power-play goal from Fitzgerald at 18:05 to take a 3-0 lead into the second.
Footnotes. Brink and Behrens extended their career-high point streaks to nine and seven games, respectively. … The Huskies made their first trip to Denver since Jan. 10-11, 2020. They were originally scheduled to play the Pioneers on Jan. 14-15, but that series was rescheduled because of COVID protocol.