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.
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