DENVER — In a fast, physical contest featuring the last two schools crowned NCAA National Champions, No. 11 Denver and No. 10 Minnesota skated to a 3-3 tie tonight at Magness Arena in front of 6,092 fans.
Denver (5-4-2, 3-2-2 WCHA) battled back from a two-goal first-period deficit to Minnesota (5-3-3, 5-2-2) and tied the game at 3-3 at 2:47 of the third period on junior left wing Steven Cook’s first goal as a Pioneer. Denver also was led by strong play from junior defenseman Matt Carle, who posted a goal and an assist.
Junior Pioneers goaltender Glenn Fisher made several acrobatic stops on the way to recording 27 saves. His counterpart for Minnesota, junior goaltender and Colorado Springs native Kellen Briggs, finished with 33 saves.
“It was a heck of a hockey game,” Denver head coach George Gwozdecky said. “We spotted them a pretty good lead with some turnovers. The thing I was most pleased with was not only our effort we had great hunger and effort but that we were able to battle back.”
The Golden Gophers scored the game’s first goal 6:43 into the first period on the power play when center Phil Kessel’s pass in front of the net deflected off the skate of Carle past Fisher. They nearly extended their lead a few minutes later on a 2-on-1, but Fisher made a spectacular pad save on a one-timer by right wing Blake Wheeler to the left of the net that just kept the puck from crossing the goal line.
Minnesota’s Mike Howe put his team ahead, 2-0, at 13:46 of the opening period when he collected a rebound that wrapped around the boards and banged it into the net.
Denver narrowed the deficit to one later in the first period thanks to the play of two Minnesota natives. Junior right wing Ryan Helgason scored at 16:28 of the opening period by deflecting a shot from sophomore left wing Tom May.
Carle, one of the WCHA’s top scoring defensemen, tied the game at 2-2 at 6:24 of the second period with his fifth goal of the year. He skated around Minnesota’s Kessel and snapped a shot from the right faceoff dot into the net. Less than two minutes later, Minnesota regained its lead on right wing Justin Bostrom’s goal on a one-timer that snuck past Fisher’s glove side at 8:09 to give the Golden Gophers a 3-2 lead that they took into the second intermission.
Cook, who fought back from injuries that limited him last season, tied the game at 3-3 with the first goal of his Pioneers career 2:47 into the third period on a play set up by sophomore center Paul Stastny streaking down the right side into Minnesota territory.
Denver had a flurry of shots and scoring opportunities with less than 9 minutes remaining in the game but was held off by Minnesota to force overtime.
Neither team was able to get a shot off in the extra period, which marked Denver’s second trip to overtime in its last three games after it also tied Minnesota State, 3-3, on Nov. 11.
Minnesota, which entered the game with the WCHA’s No. 1 power-play unit, was held to 1-for-3 on the man advantage. Denver, with the conference’s No. 3 power-play, was unable to convert any of its three power plays.
The two teams return to action tomorrow night, with puck drop slated for 7:07 p.m.