Sports

Pioneers Advance To WCHA Finals With Double-OT Win

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(credit: University of Denver)

(credit: University of Denver)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Zac Larraza’s first career goal gave Denver a double-overtime victory over Minnesota Duluth Friday in the WCHA semifinals, and Pioneers goalie Sam Brittian set a single-game school record with 67 saves.

Larraza flipped a backhander past Bulldogs goalie Kenny Ritter for the winner, seconds after Matt Tabrum’s shot hit the post. The game ended 8:14 into the second overtime, the longest WCHA Final Five tournament game in history.

Shawn Ostrow, Jason Zucker and Dustin Jackson scored to give Denver a 3-0 lead midway through the second period. But Mike Seidel’s two goals put UMD back in the game, and Jack Connolly tied it with 7:22 remaining in regulation.

Ritter made 45 saves for the Bulldogs (24-9-6). The Pioneers (25-12-4), who played their third straight overtime game, advanced to the championship game Saturday night. Brittain broke the previous Denver record of 59 saves set by Pat Tierney in 1983.

Denver, the No. 3 seed in this year’s tournament, was the only team that needed a third game to win the first-round series — going to overtime to beat Wisconsin last weekend. The Pioneers used the extra period to beat Michigan Tech in the quarterfinals on Thursday, too.

Defending national champion UMD held a 25-10 shots-on-goal advantage in the second period alone, but the Bulldogs couldn’t finish their rally.

Both teams had all kinds of chances in the wide-open overtime. Zucker hit a post with one shot. UMD’s David Grun had an unabated shooting lane from the slot, but Brittian knocked aside the fast-moving puck with his stick.

Ostrow put the Pioneers on the board first, and Zucker — playing in his future NHL home — doubled the Denver advantage early in the second period. Zucker was drafted in the second round by the Minnesota Wild two years ago.

With Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher watching from above in his press box booth, Zucker broke free past Bulldogs defenseman Drew Olson after a turnover by UMD in the Denver zone and corralled a two-line pass from Nick Shore. Faking right and switching to his left for a backhand flip-in, Zucker scored his 22nd goal of the season. Jackson stretched the lead to 3-0 less than 3 minutes later.

But Siedel’s tap-in on a power play gave the Bulldogs and their fans some energy.

He followed that later in the middle frame with a whirl-around shot from the slot that scraped the crossbar and slid down and into the back of the net to make it 3-2. Seidel, who scored the winning goal for UMD in overtime of their first-round series-clinching victory over Minnesota State Mankato last weekend, almost had a hat trick in the closing seconds of the second period but couldn’t quite punch in a rebound before the whistle blew.

Denver’s Larkin Jacobson was ejected in the first period for a hit to the head of UMD’s Tim Smith, drawing a 5-minute major and a 10-minute game misconduct. But the Bulldogs didn’t take advantage of the extended power play.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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