DENVER — Sophomore forward Lukas Dora scored an empty-net goal with less than one minute remaining and sophomore netminder Adam Berkhoel made 24 saves to solidify Denver’s 3-1 win over Bowling Green in the semifinals of the 2001 Wells Fargo Denver Cup on Friday at Magness Arena.
The Pioneers improve to 15-2-0 overall on the season with their fourth consecutive win and improve to 15-3-1 in Denver Cup games. BGSU drops its third straight decision and falls to 5-12-4 on the season, losing in its first-ever appearance at the Denver Cup.
Denver opened the scoring in the first period when senior defenseman Bryan Vines fired shot towards the net that was initially saved by Falcon netminder Tyler Masters, but freshman forward Luke Fulghum rushed the net to pick up the rebound and chipped the puck into web to give Denver a 1-0 lead just seven minutes into the game.
Despite being out-shot 27-2 in the opening frame, the Falcons stormed out of the locker room in the second period and attacked Denver’s defense, but the Pioneers maintained their composure and retaliated with their second goal of the game.
Junior Greg Barber stalled BGSU’s onslaught when he lit the lamp for Denver midway through the second period for his seventh goal of the season that increased Denver’s lead to 2-0.
Bowling Green pulled to within one goal minutes later when Falcon defenseman Brian Escobedo wristed a shot over Berkhoel’s shoulder that found the back of the net during a four-on-four skirmish.
The goal, Escobedo’s fourth of the season, kept the game close late into the third period, but it was not enough as the Falcons suffered their third straight loss against the Pioneers. Both teams traded offensive rushes down the stretch but were unable to get the puck in the net.
Masters stood on his head for three periods and turned away a career-high 51 Denver shots, but his team’s lack of offensive production resulted in his ninth loss of the season. For the game, Denver peppered Bowling Green with 54 shots and allowed just 25.
“We did a lot of good things tonight,” said Denver head coach George Gwozdecky. “Our forwards showed a lot of speed and created a lot of scoring chances, but give credit to Tyler Masters he was phenomenal in net tonight. Our front line got frustrated late in the game when they weren’t scoring, but Berkhoel kept his poise and made some big saves for us down the stretch.
“The best thing about tonight is that we got the win and gave ourselves a chance to defend the Denver Cup title tomorrow night.”
Coming into Friday’s contest the Falcons were the most penalized team in the nation, averaging 12 penalties a game for 24 minutes, but their play was harnessed against the Pioneers as they were whistled just four times for eight minutes.
No. 3 Denver will face No. 5 UMass-Lowell in the championship tilt on Saturday. The red-hot River Hawks advanced after posting their ninth consecutive win, a 2-0 victory over No. 14 Harvard. Bowling Green is scheduled to battle the Crimson in the consolation game. The puck will drop at 4:05 p.m. MST and the championship bout will immediately follow.