DENVER — Denver senior forward Chris Paradise exploded for his first career hat trick and junior netminder Wade Dubielewicz turned away 29 shots to lead the No. 1 Pioneers to a convincing 5-2 win over No. 2 St. Cloud State in a crucial WCHA game on Friday night at Magness Arena.
With the win, Denver improves to 27-5-1 on the season, 20-4-1 in league play, and extended its lead over the Huskies to three points with three regular-season games remaining. St. Cloud State snapped a six-game winning streak and falls to 26-6-2, 18-5-2 in the WCHA.
Denver took the lead less than a minute after the puck was dropped on a goal by Paradise, his 13th of the season. Paradise set up the play when he blocked an attempted dump-in by a Husky defender and then chased the loose the puck down at the blue line. He skated in the zone and fired a rocket into the net that beat SCSU netminder Dean Weasler over the stick shoulder to put Denver up 1-0.
St. Cloud State evened the score on a power-play goal by forward Mark Hartigan, who slapped a one-timer from the right circle that beat Dubielewicz and knotted the game at one goal apiece. The goal, Hartigan’s league-leading 31st of the year, was just the fifth extra-man goal allowed by the Pioneers at home this season.
Tempers flared in the second frame that stemmed from the increased defensive pressure on both ends of the ice.
The Pioneers took advantage of a scoring chance midway through the period that gave them a 2-1 lead going into the second intermission. Sophomore Lukas Dora was credited with the tally, his 13th of the season, when he chipped the puck through traffic that slid under Weasler’s blocker following a scrum in front of the net.
Denver’s offense wasted no time in the third period and extended its lead just 18 seconds into the frame on Paradise’s second marker of the night. Freshman linemate Kevin Ulanski recorded his 13th helper of the season when he fed Paradise in front of the crease, who wristed a shot low into the corner of the net to give the Pioneers a 3-1 lead.
Junior Kevin Doell extended his point streak to seven games when he scored the Pioneer’s second goal of the period on a backhander from the right edge of the crease. Doell’s team-leading 16th tally of the season extended the lead to three goals with just over 11 minutes remaining.
St. Cloud State charged back with a relentless pressure late in the game and celebrated its second goal of the night, a soft floater that slipped under the arm of Dubielewicz, but it was not enough to overcome the deficit as Paradise completed the hat trick with an empty-net tally to solidify the victory.
Denver outshot St. Cloud State 33-31 but failed to score on six man-advantage opportunities. The Huskies recorded two power-play goals on five tries.
Another highlight of the evening for Denver was unanticipated return of freshman defender Jussi Halme to the lineup. Halme, who underwent shoulder surgery on Nov. 6, was expected to be out for the remainder of the season, but after missing just 26 games the much-touted rookie was welcomed back to Denver’s defensive unit.