DU silenced in semifinals
minneapolis» The triple-crown quest for the top-ranked University of Denver hockey team won’t develop, but the Pioneers would gladly take two of three if their season ends with an NCAA championship April 8.
In the semifinals of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs Friday, No. 4-seeded North Dakota upset No. 1 Denver 1-0 in a tight-checking thriller at the Target Center. The Fighting Hawks (21-14-3) received a goal from junior wing Austin Poganski early in the third period to snap Denver’s 13game winning streak and advance to Saturday’s conference championship game.
“Knowing how to play against a team like that, tight checking, is what we’re going to see in the NCAA Tournament,” said DU coach Jim Montgomery, whose team is guaranteed to get one of four No. 1 seeds for the national tournament when the 16-team bracket is announced Sunday. “I’ve thought for a while here that our practices haven’t been at the pace that they need to be, but we’ve been successful so it’s hard to really get mad at your players when you keep having success. This is the only benefit, the only silver lining out of this, is that we’re going to get back to practicing with pace and using walls and having great puck support.”
Denver, the NCHC regularseason champion looking to also win the NCHC Tournament, was averaging 4.3 goals per game during its winning streak, the fourth-longest run in program history. The Pioneers (28-7-4) had previously been shut out only once, in a 3-0 loss (two empty-net goals) on Jan. 13 at Western Michigan — their opponent Saturday afternoon in the NCHC third-place game.
Denver remains No. 1 in the Pair-Wise Rankings but could slip to No. 2 if it loses to Western Michigan and Minnesota Duluth defeats North Dakota. The No. 1 overall national seed will likely
open against the Western Collegiate Hockey Association champion, Bowling Green or Michigan Tech. The No. 2 overall seed will probably open against the Atlantic Hockey champion, which could be dangerous Air Force.
“This will be good for us,” DU goalie Tanner Jaillet said of the Pioneers’ loss Friday. “I think we needed this, to be honest. We didn’t play very good at all and it’s the first time we’ve played a good team in a while. Hopefully we can learn from this and get ready for (Saturday).”
Poganski scored 2:30 into the third period off a big carom off the end boards. From the left point, defenseman Colton Poolman put the long shot off the boards behind the net and Poganski drove in from the right wing and had the open net to shoot at because Jaillet wasn’t expecting the carom.
“I went forward with my blocker and missed,” Jaillet said of Poolman’s shot. “Kid got a heck of a bounce; it went right on his stick. Rinks like this, bounces happen. What can you do?”
Denver had an unfortunate stretch to end the second period. Sophomore Dylan Gambrell put a wrist shot off the crossbar; and the Pioneers were assessed a penalty to negate a semibreakaway. Senior Evan Janssen took a pass on the UND blue line, but linemate Matt Marcinew was whistled for tripping behind the play.
North Dakota’s Hayden Shaw checks Denver’s Troy Terry while UND’s Cole Smith skates in from the left during the first period of Friday’s NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal game in Minneapolis. Eric Hylden, Grand Forks Herald