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College Hockey:
James Leads Pioneers to Denver Cup Title

— Tournament MVP Connor James had two assists and six different players scored as Denver rolled past Nebraska-Omaha, 6-3, in the championship game of the Wells Fargo Denver Cup at Magness Arena.

Denver (13-6-3) claimed its tenth Cup title in 12 years and improved its all-time tourney record to 20-3-1. UNO fell to 5-12-3 this season.

“We had a really good start to the game,” said Denver coach George Gwozdecky. “We did a really nice job in the second period of managing the game. We played smart hockey and had an explosion with those two goals.

“I liked the way we played our positions and how we wore their defensemen down. They didn’t have an answer for us, which gave us great scoring chances.”

Three different Pioneers scored in the first period. Freshman Ryan Helgason extended his four-game point streak with a goal at 2:53 and then Gabe Gauthier capitalized on a power play at 6:22. Kevin Ulanski added a goal with 9:32 remaining to give the Pioneers an early 3-0 lead.

But before the end of the opening period, UNO came back with two goals to cut Denver’s lead to 3-2. Mike Lefley scored four-on-four and Phil Angell scored on the power play for the Mavericks.

It remained 3-2 until the latter half of the second period, when the Pioneers took a commanding lead on back-to-back goals by Lukas Dora and Max Bull just 33 seconds apart. Bull recorded his first goal of the season off a pass from sophomore Ted O’Leary. The assist marked O’Leary’s third of the tournament.

But UNO refused to go away, as Scott Parse scored a power-play goal at 16:51 to cut the Pioneer lead to 5-3 heading into the third period.

Luke Fulghum’s goal just 1:41 into the third period regained the three-goal lead for Denver, and the hosts went on to the 6-3 win.

Adam Berkhoel made 23 saves in the win, while UNO’s Brian Haaland made 36. Denver outshot UNO, 42-26, and went 2-of-7 on the power play. UNO finished 2-of-6 on the power play.

Niagara’s Justin Cross, UNO’s Angell, and Denver’s Ryan Caldwell, Glenn Fisher and Dora joined James on the all-tournament team. James had one assist in last night’s 3-2 win over Niagara.

Denver will return to action on Friday, Jan. 2, when the Pioneers host St. Lawrence at Magness Arena in a nonconference game. UNO returns to the ice on Jan. 7 with a CCHA game against Ferris State.

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