ST. PAUL, MN - APRIL 07: : Kenny Reiter #35 of the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs stops a shot by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during semifinals of the 2011 NCAA Men's Frozen Four on April 7, 2011 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 4-3. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

WCHA Final Five: North Dakota Shuts Out Denver, Wins 3rd Straight Broadmoor

The Minnesota Golden Gophers allowed six unanswered goals to the UND Fighting Sioux on Friday night, eliminating them from contention in the WCHA Final Five.

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WCHA Final Five: North Dakota Claims 3rd Straight Broadmoor Trophy, Beats Denver 4-0

Whether it's the first half of the season or their WCHA Final Five semifinal win against Minnesota, the Fighting Sioux have had a tendency to start slow and finish strong. That wasn't the case Saturday night.

Brock Nelson (New York Islanders) scored his 27th goal of the season and had another waived off as North Dakota (25-12-3) came out strong with 2 first period goals 46 seconds apart to defeat Denver (25-13-4) 4-0 in the WCHA Final Five championship. Carter Rowney, Michael Parks (Philadelphia Flyers) and Mark MacMillan also scored for the Sioux and Aaron Dell made 22 saves for his second shutout this season.

With the victory UND has won the Broadmoor Trophy for a record third season in a row. They find themselves fourth in the Pairwise ranking and will be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Denver drops to 11th in the Pairwise with the loss and will be a #3 seed.

The first fifteen minutes of the game were a feeling out period for both teams as much of the action was contested away in the corners away from Dell and Pioneers goalie Juho Olkinuora. Neither team took control until North Dakota's second power play of the game. After Corban Knight (Florida Panthers) won a face-off to the right of Olkinuora, Nelson crashed the net and found himself in perfect position for the rebound from Dillon Simpson's (Edmonton Oilers) shot to put it home for a 1-0 lead.

46 seconds later Carter Rowney made it 2-0 and any adrenaline DU was running on after playing 88 minutes Friday afternoon disappeared into the St. Paul night.

Denver didn't help matters In their sixth game in nine nights when the team, already shorthanded with five defensemen, lost defenseman Josiah Didler to an injury early in the game. If they were tired beforehand, having only two defensive pairings to go against gave the Sioux that much more confidence. North Dakota won every puck battle, out-worked DU and in retaliation the Pioneers took penalty after penalty.

On the Sioux's fourth power play (at a time when Denver was still waiting for their first), an interference call on Jason Zucker (Minnesota Wild), Parks beat Olkinoura to give North Dakota a 3-0 lead with 10:02 left in the second.

Maintaining 3-0 leads had been an issue throughout the Final Five but as the evening went on Denver was unable to get out of first gear. Aaron Dell made the saves he needed to but wasn't really challenged like in the two previous tournament games.

Even when the Pioneers finally starting receiving power play chances, UND ended up being the team scoring. With Rowney in the box, Mark MacMillan created a turnover and put the game out reach with 12:49 remaining in the game.

Things got worse for Denver after the fourth Sioux goal. Zucker, who was injured earlier in the season against Minnesota, left for the locker room in the middle of the third period and did not return. Defenseman John Lee also left the game - this one because of a five-minute major and game misconduct - leaving DU with three defensemen, The end result was Nelson nearly making it 5-0 on another rebound but the referees determined Danny Kristo (Montreal Canadiens) interfered with Juho Olkinuora before the puck crossed the line.

In the end, however, North Dakota won their seventh straight game Saturday night and continue to make winning the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul a yearly occurrence for the fans. Regardless of if it's their first or third Broadmoor Trophy in a row, Dave Hakstol's team put together an effort that has to make the Sioux a team that no one is looking forward to facing.

Both teams, along with semifinalists Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth will find out where they are heading when ESPNU airs the NCAA Hockey Tournament selection show tomorrow morning (March 18) at 11 a.m.

For more WCHA coverage, be sure to check out Western College Hockey. You can also check out SB Nation's NHL Hub for coverage of the NCAA Hockey Tournament.

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WCHA Final Five Championship Preview: Playing For Broadmoor Is Becoming Old Habit For Denver & North Dakota

No. 4 University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux (24-12-3) vs. No. 3 University of Denver Pioneers (25-12-4)

Time/Location: 7:07 p.m. Central, Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN
TV: Fox Sports North & www.foxsportsnorth.com

If this year's Final Five championship game seems familiar, there's a good reason.

For the ninth consecutive year, one of either Denver or North Dakota is playing in St. Paul for the Broadmoor Trophy awarded to the WCHA tournament champion. In fact Saturday's game is a rematch from last year, which saw the Fighting Sioux win 3-2 in double overtime to claim their second straight Final Five championship.

Both teams were inconsistent during their wins Friday. The Pioneers let a three goal lead in the 2nd period slip away against Minnesota-Duluth. They barely held off the Bulldogs before freshman Zac Larazza won the game in double-overtime 4-3 with his first career collegiate goal. In the night game, North Dakota looked like a team that had given up against Minnesota for 40 minutes, down 3-0 and being out-shot 12-2 in the first period, before scoring six unanswered goals to beat the Gophers 6-3.

At their best, Denver and UND are able to take down any team in college hockey. However,neither team has shown that effort throughout an entire game this tournament. Whoever can avoid those stretches has the best chance to win.

Up front, North Dakota has the more high-powered first line with Brock Nelson (New York Islanders), Corban Knight (Florida Panthers) and Danny Kristo (Montreal Canadiens). They played a big role in getting the Sioux back in the game against Minnesota and when on their game are tough for opposing defenses to stop.

The Pioneers' top line, meanwhile, is no slouch of its own with Ty Loney, Drew Shore (Panthers) and Luke Salazzar with Salazzar scoring three goals in the last four games. He was injured in the first overtime Friday but came back later. At the same time they rely heavily on their second line to put up shots and score goals. Jason Zucker (Minnesota Wild) has scored in each of the two WCHA Final Five games and will need to be contained by UND. Easier said than done.

Denver has relied on a trio of goalies this season and it will be interesting to see which one Pioneers head coach George Gwozdecky uses. Sam Brittain (Panthers) made a school-record 68 saves in the win over Minnesota-Duluth but freshman Juho Olkinuora looked impressive when DU beat North Dakota 5-3 February 25th and did not play 88 minutes Friday.

Aaron Dell, meanwhile, looks to be the hot hand for the Fighting Sioux. Despite giving up three goals to the Gophers Friday, he kept the team in the game and North Dakota goalie Brad Eidsness (Buffalo Sabres) was chased from the net when they lost to Denver. It's the last time Dave Hakstol's team has tasted defeat and since the loss the SIoux have gone 6-0.

The biggest question mark on either side is the effect playing three consecutive overtime games will have on the Pioneers. Saturday's game is their sixth in nine days and it's hard to believe even the best conditioned team wouldn't be feeling that. If North Dakota can take advantage of that and goad Denver into taking penalties, it will compound the situation.

Regardless, both teams have ways to win Saturday night's game and it's no surprise to see Denver and North Dakota back in the WCHA Final Five championship.

After all it's a familiar feeling for both.

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WCHA Final Five: North Dakota Scores 6 Unanswered Goals, Beats Gophers

If Friday at the Xcel Energy Center taught us anything, it's that a 3 goal lead is nothing close to a sure thing.

After not showing up in the first 34 minutes of the game and being out-shot 12-2 in the first period, North Dakota (24-12-3) scored six unanswered goals down 3-0 to beat Minnesota (26-13-1) 6-3 in the second WCHA Final Five semifinal Friday night. This follows Minnesota-Duluth coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the first semifinal before Denver won in double overtime.

Mario Lamoureux scored twice for the Fighting Sioux while Aaron Dell had 22 saves and kept them in the game early. North Dakota will face Denver tomorrow night for the Broadmoor Trophy in a rematch of last year's WCHA Championship.

The Gophers looked as dominant as they had all season in the first period, out-shooting UND 12-2 and spending the vast majority of the opening twenty minutes in the Sioux zone. They moved the puck and their feet extremely well which forced North Dakota to take three penalties. Minnesota converted on the second power play when freshman Kyle Rau (Florida Panthers) made a nifty move to get through two Sioux defenders and beat Dell to make it 1-0 Gophers 12:37 into the game.

Jake Hansen (Columbus Blue Jackets) made it 2-0 Minnesota five seconds into their first power play of the second period when he tipped in an Erik Haula (Minnesota Wild) shot past Dell almost six minutes into the period. Just over four minutes later Zach Budish (Nashville Predators) scored his 12th goal of the season and the Gophers looked to be facing Denver with a dominant 3-0 lead.

What made things worse for North Dakota was that the score could have been 6-0 at the game's midpoint if it weren't for Aaron Dell making a couple quality saves on Nick Bjugstad (Panthers). In addition, they were struggling to beat Minnesota's forecheck.

The game's turning point came with 5:53 left in the second period when Fighting Sioux coach Dave Hakstol took the team's timeout and got his message finally through to the team. 38 seconds later defenseman Derek Forbort's (Los Angeles Kings) shot hit the post and went in to get North Dakota within two and whatever swagger the Gophers had went to the team wearing Green.

Although the Sioux ended the second period still down 3-1, they tested Minnesota goalie Kent Patterson more in the final five minutes than the first 35. That continued in the third period and the offensive problems North Dakota had in the first period were completely reversed.

All of a sudden it was the Gophers who couldn't complete a pass, control the puck in the UND zone and looked tired and lazy en route to being out-shot 17-2.

The dagger came in a thirty second stretch 5:31 into the third period. North Dakota forward Michael Parks (Philadelphia Flyers), who had previously attempted a number of wraparounds to no success, finally got one past the Gopher goalie. Brock Nelson (New York Islanders), who was held in check up to that point, followed up the next shift by getting a wrister past Kent Patterson (Colorado Avalanche) to tie the game at 3.

Patterson made 22 saves for Minnesota Friday night but came off the rails after Nelson's goal. In a surprising move Gopher head coach Don Lucia did not use time out to calm his team down and get their focus back after giving up two goals in 30 seconds. The lack of a move backfired and the Sioux continued their assault in St. Paul. Captain Mario Lamoureux gave North Dakota a 4-3 lead with 10:18 left in the game and it went downhill from there. Corban Knight (Panthers) and Lamoureux added late goals and for Minnesota the final buzzer could not come soon enough.

There are many things to question and analyze tonight but the fact remains North Dakota deserves a lot of credit for coming back. Dave Hakstol's team never gave up and because of it the Sioux continue to play their best hockey at the end of season year-in and year-out. They're also looking at a two seed with the chance of sneaking into a one seed (being one of the top four teams in the Pairwise rankings) with a win tomorrow night.

What makes Friday's game so frustrating on the Minnesota side is that it was a tale of their season. There were moments when the Gophers looked as dominant as they've been and a true national championship contender while other moments saw lazy play, erratic defense and being out-muscled by the opposition. They normally are the better conditioned team in the third period and the Sioux, a team that played last night, made them look tired while out-scoring Minnesota 5-0 in the final 20 minutes.

However, it's not all doom and gloom for the Gophers even if the result was embarrassing. Other teams have gone far in the NCAA Tournament after losing - Minnesota-Duluth won the national title after being knocked off by Bemidji in a WCHA Final Five quarterfinal last year - and more of the first 35 minutes and less of the last 25 still makes for a very dangerous hockey team.

But at the very least, Friday night was a collapse that Glen Mason-era football would proud of.

Denver and North Dakota will play Saturday night in the championship game of the WCHA Final Five at 7 p.m. Central. It will be televised live on Fox Sports North.

Minnesota next plays Saturday March 23rd in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They will be in the West Regional in St. Paul against an opponent to be determined when the tournament pairings are announced Sunday at 11 a.m. Central on ESPNU.

For more Minnesota Golden Gophers coverage, check out The Daily Gopher. You can also catch up on the WCHA over at Western College Hockey Blog.

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WCHA Final Five: Denver Gives Back 3 Goal Lead, Comes Back To Beat Minnesota-Duluth 4-3 In Double OT

The longest game in Final Five history finally has a final. Now say that three times fast.

Zac Larraza scored the game-winner for Denver (25-12-14) 8:14 into the second overtime to give the Pioneers a 4-3 win over Minnesota-Duluth (24-9-6) in a marathon finish. The Bulldogs came back from a 3-0 deficit in the middle of the second period with two goals by Mike Seidel and one by Jack Connolly, however, it wasn't enough despite putting 70 shots on Sam Brittain.

With the win Denver advances to the Championship game Saturday night against the winner of Minnesota-North Dakota.

Shawn Ostrow started the scoring for the Pioneers 8:01 into the game when he found his way past UMD goalie Kenny Reiter. Coach George Gwozdecky's squad was further aided by second period goals from Jason Zucker and Dustin Jackson three minutes apart and at the time it looked like there would be stopping Denver.

No one, however, told Mike Siedel that.

Seidel, who scored the game-winning-goal in double overtime for Minnesota-Duluth last Saturday, remained in scoring mode and brought the Bulldogs back from the brink of death. His two goals - especially the second which caught Brittain off-guard - turned the tide around and Minnesota-Duluth finished the second period out-shooting the Pioneers 25-10 and only down 3-2.

That dominance continued throughout the third for the Bulldogs as Brittain was forced to make some remarkable saves. Reiter, who made 46 saves Friday, also held his own on the few solid Denver chances. It looked like it would be a manner of "when," not "if" UMD would tie the game up and Jack Connolly proved why he was the WCHA Player of the Year with 7:22 left in regulation. The puck was taken off Drew Olson's stick by a Pioneer defenseman and went straight to Connolly who blasted it past Brittain for his 19th goal of the season.

Yesterday's overtime hero Zucker almost had another chance to be Denver's savior when he was tripped on a breakaway with 1.8 seconds left. However, the referees determined it wasn't worthy of a penalty shot and the game went to overtime.

It ended up being DU's third consecutive time going past regulation and UMD's second straight double-overtime game.

Both goalies continued to stand tall in the extra period as both teams rushed up and down the ice. Zucker hit the post on the ensuing power play that opened overtime but Reiter turned away a number of DU shots one. That continued into the second overtime as the two teams played past the 85:11 last year's North Dakota-Denver Final. The Pioneers close with another post but this time they were able to control the puck after and on another shot Larraza got the rebound and put it past Kenny Reiter for the win.

The game-winning-goal was Larraza's first in a Denver uniform.

Both teams left it all on the ice and the two goalies, Sam Brittain and Kenny Reiter deserve a lot of credit for keeping their teams in the game and while Minnesota-Duluth came so close to erasing a three-goal deficit, they find their chances of a Broadmoor Trophy over. They still will be in the NCAA Tournament and get extra time to rest before it starts next week.

Denver, on the other hand, is going to have to find some excess energy after 150 minutes of hockey in 2 days. That might not be a problem with how well they've played in overtime in the WCHA Final Five.

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WCHA Final Five: North Dakota Advances To Play Gophers With Win Over St. Cloud State

The North Dakota Fighting Sioux advanced through their quarterfinals game on Thursday night against St. Cloud State, but it won't get any easier on Friday night. With UND's victory, they'll now play the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the semifinals on Friday night at the Xcel Energy Center.

The Sioux likely secured a NCAA Tournament berth with Thursday night's 4-1 victory over the Huskies. It was North Dakota's stud helped his team to victory once again, too, as Warroad native Brock Nelson scored two goals to help his team advance to Friday night's big game.

For those doubting the importance of the matchup between the Gophers and the Sioux since both teams have likely clinched berth into the national tournament, by the way, Gophers Kyle Rau and Erik Haula dismissed that while talking to the Pioneer Press.

"The pressure's definitely not off," Haula said. "The pressure's on all the time."

"It's what it's going to be like the rest of the year," Rau said. "It's good for us to get used to this before going to the NCAAs."

For more coverage of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, check out The Daily Gopher. You can also find more on the WCHA at Western College Hockey.

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WCHA Final Five Quarterfinal: Zucker Gets OT Winner For Denver In 3-2 Pioneers Win

The magic has finally run out for Michigan Tech in the WCHA postseason.

It took another dramatic overtime for the University of Denver (24-12-4) after Sunday's Game 3 win versus Wisconsin but the third-seed Pioneers defeated the sixth-seed Huskies Thursday afternoon at the Xcel Energy Center. Jason Zucker (Minnesota Wild) scored the game-winner for Denver 2:18 into overtime, following DU goals by Ty Loney and Luke Salazar.

Josh Robinson made 41 saves for Michigan Tech (16-19-4) in a losing effort.

Denver's Ty Loney got the Pioneers off on the right foot 3:50 into the game when Drew Shore (Florida Panthers) found the freshman in front of Robinson. DU is 18-3-2 when they score first but despite that the first period was fairly even. Michigan Tech out-shot Denver 12-10.in the opening twenty minutes and tied the game midway through the period when Justin Fillion found Blake Pietila (New Jersey Devils) on a breakout pass and the freshman forward did the rest.

Robinson shined in the second period as the Pioneers began to put pressure and set up shop in the Michigan Tech zone. Denver had several opportunities to get past the underrated goalie but a pair of point-blank saves in succession were as close as they could get.

Despite having all the momentum at the end of the second, out-shooting the Huskies 16-6, the Pioneers found themselves down 18 seconds into the third. Ryan Furne found a hole off the opening face-off and shot a wrister that somehow found its way through the small hole between Denver goalie Juho Olkinuora and the right post. Olkinuora was otherwise fine Thursday, making 27 saves, but with how Tech found a way to beat Colorado College last weekend to advance to their first Final Five since 2007, their season looked like it would continue.

Luke Salazar, however was able to tie the game at 2 when he found himself open on a 3-on-2 rush with 4:32 remaining in regulation. Last weekend's hero for Denver - he scored the game-winning-goal both Saturday and Sunday (the latter being in overtime) - continued his hot streak and the senior has now four goals in his last five games.

The Pioneers regained momentum after Salazar's goal and the Huskies needed Josh Robinson to keep them in the game. Denver had a great chance before the end of regulation but it was Zucker, who Huskies defensemen left alone in front of the net, who shined as Thursday's hero with his 21st goal of the year.

Zucker, the 59th overall pick by the Minnesota Wild, was playing on the same ice that his future team does and gave the hometown fans a glimpse at the future. For Michigan Tech, meanwhile, it was a tough way to end their most successful season in a decade.

With the win Denver moves up to 10th place in the Pairwise rankings and have almost guaranteed an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament regardless of how the rest of the weekend fares. The Pioneers next face second-seed Minnesota-Duluth tomorrow in a WCHA Final Five semifinal at 2 p.m. Central. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports North live from the Xcel Energy Center.

For more WCHA coverage, be sure to check out Western College Hockey.

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Gophers Hockey: Minnesota Goes "En Fuego" In Third Period, Beat Alaska-Anchorage 7-3 Saturday

For forty-five minutes Saturday night, it looked like Alaska-Anchorage would be the team whose quick scoring would make the biggest difference. Tied at 3, the Seawolves were getting chances on net in the third period and just hit the crossbar on a shorthanded attempt to finish the second.

Then before they could blink, the Gophers stole their quick scoring crown and the game.

"We had them on their heels and then it flipped-flopped. We marched to the box, took three or four penalties and lost our legs and ran out of gas," said Seawolves head coach Dave Shyiak.

Three goals by Minnesota (26-12-1) in 91 seconds, including two by Erik Haula 18 seconds apart, turned a tight game into a 7-3 rout over Alaska-Anchorage (9-25-2) and sent the Gophers to their first Final Five since 2009. Jake Hansen, Zach Budish, Nick Bjugstad, Seth Helgeson and Sam Warning also scored for the Maroon and Gold while Matt Bailey scored twice in defeat.Kent Patterson in front of 9,018 fans at Mariucci Arena.

Penalties played a major role in Saturday's game. After giving the Seawolves 3 first period power plays in Friday's 2-1 win, Minnesota was the team with the man advantage Saturday. The Gophers had three power play opportunities in the opening twenty minutes - they only had two all of Friday - but were unable to take advantage of them or find a way past Alaska-Anchorage goaltender Chris Kamal. Jake Hansen came the closest when he hit the post.

Hansen, however, did score earlier in the period when Minnesota was even-strength - tipping in a shot from Ben Marshall past Kamal - to give them a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period.

Alaska-Anchorage battled back in the second period and used Gopher penalties to their own advantage en route to three power play goals. The first by Bailey took only 35 seconds to tie the game. He added another seven minutes later after the Seawolves received two minutes with a two-man advantage with both Seths (Helgeson and Ambroz) in the box. Finally Scott Allen scored his third of the season on a rebound, putting Minnesota in a 3-1 hole halfway through the game.

"Hats off to Alaska-Anchorage," said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. " They played extremely well and took advantage of the power plays."

As good as the Seawolves were on the power play, the Gophers continued to struggle. They looked great when they were playing five-on-five hockey to the point where they continued to force Alaska-Anchorage to take penalties. Unfortunately when they were on the man-advantage, Minnesota often looked like the team who was shorthanded.

Zach Budish got the team within one with 8:44 remaining after he one-timed a Kyle Rau pass past Kamal, It looked like they would be down a goal at the second period before Nick Bjugstad broke through with 45.1 seconds remaining to tie the game at 3 and give the Gophers their first power play goal in seven opportunities

"We had a little bit of a roll at the end of the second, beginning of the third," said Budish, who has five goals and five assists in eight games against Anchorage.

Bjugstad's last-minute goal changed momentum and the floodgates opened 5:05 into the third period. When Kyle Rau baited everyone towards him, Erik Haula found himself all alone and made Chris Kamal look human for the first time all weekend to give Minnesota a 4-3 lead.

"We wanted to do this tonight, it was payback from last year," said Haula, who has five goals in his last three games.

Haula went beast mode again 18 seconds later and the rout was on. Whether Kamal lost his composure or the Seawolves were tired after having to kill 13 minutes of penalties or perhaps both, Minnesota could not stop scoring. Helgeson made up for his previous penalty leading to an UAA goal with a slap shot for his fourth goal of the season and Sam Warning found himself the recipient of Haula's generosity to cap off the scoring.

The highlight of the night, meanwhile, was senior walk-on goalie Jake Kremer getting a chance to play in the final 44 seconds. Beckoned by assistant head coach Mike Guentzel, Lucia put in the third string goalie for his first action in his college career and Kremer ended the night with a 1.000 save percentage.

"It was awesome. [Kremer] works his tail off in practice. We would have liked to see him play on senior night (against Wisconsin) but couldn't since it was a 2-1 game," said Budish.

In the end though, he and the rest of the Gopher hockey team are advancing to their first Final Five since 2009. And between the onslaught of goals and finish, it was a good night all around.

Minnesota will play an opponent yet to be determined in the Final Five next Friday. The game will be televised on Fox Sports North.

For more Minnesota Golden Gophers coverage, be sure to check out The Daily Gopher. You can also read up on the WCHA at Western College Hockey.

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