DENVER — WCHA regular-season champion Denver advanced to the Final Five with a convincing 8-1 win over Michigan Tech on Saturday night at Magness Arena.
The Pioneers (30-7-1) completed the weekend sweep of Michigan Tech (8-28-2), their seventh straight win over the Huskies and sixth of the season, to advance. The 2001-02 Pioneer squad becomes only the fourth team in Denver’s 52-year history to record 30 wins in a season, and is four shy of the school record set by the 1985-86 team.
Sophomore forward Connor James opened the scoring attack for Denver with his 16th goal of the season midway through the first period on a pass from freshman Jon Foster. Foster skated the puck through three Husky defensemen into the offensive zone and fed James on the left side, who controlled the pass and then chipped a shot over the glove shoulder of MTU goalie Cam Ellsworth to give Denver a 1-0 lead and extend his scoring streak to six games.
The Pioneers added a goal late in the opening frame and held a two-goal advantage at the first intermission.
Denver continued to pour it on offensively in the second period and doubled its lead within the first five minutes of the stanza on goals by sophomore Lukas Dora and junior Greg Barber.
Senior Chris Paradise tallied Denver’s first power-play goal of the night late in the period, his team-leading 19th marker and career-high 36th point of the season, to give the hometowners a comfortable 5-0 lead after two periods of play.
Junior Matt Weber and Neale each added a highlight-reel goal in the third period to give Denver a 7-0 lead. With the game securely in hand, the Pioneers nodded to senior netminder Andy Lemelin to finish the game in goal. The crowd favorite capped a limited career of eight minutes and 53 seconds with no saves and one goal against.
Each team registered a goal in the final two minutes to supply the final score of 8-1.
Denver’s final home game of the 2001-02 season was completed with the presentation of the MacNaughton Cup, awarded to the WCHA regular-season champion. Denver, one of six original WCHA members, earned the league’s most coveted prize on the 50th anniversary of the conference.
The Pioneers return to action next weekend at the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul, Minn., and will play the winner of the Colorado College-Wisconsin play-in game on Friday night. St. Cloud and Minnesota will square off in the other semifinal tilt.