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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.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.