DENVER — Denver clinched home-ice advantage in the first round of the WCHA playoffs for the third consecutive season with a come-from-behind 7-3 win against North Dakota Saturday in front of 6,145 fans at Magness Arena.
The Pioneers (19-13-2, 16-8-2 WCHA), who built a 2-0 lead against UND, fell behind 3-2 early in the third period before scoring the game’s final five goals to secure the win.
Sophomore center Paul Stastny led the Pioneers with a game-high four points off two goals and two assists, marking the third four-point game of his career. All four of Stastny’s points came on four consecutive third-period goals as part of DU’s comeback against the Fighting Sioux (21-14-1, 14-12-0 WCHA).
DU sophomore left wing Ryan Dingle scored two third-period goals, both on the power play, and added an empty-net score to record the first hat trick of his career. Dingle, who also recorded one assist, helped the Pioneers end a two-game power-play drought and go 4-for-8 on the man advantage against North Dakota.
Blueliner Matt Carle had two assists for DU, which limited UND to a 1-for-7 mark on the power play. Junior goaltender Glenn Fisher stopped 25 shots and had a career-high two assists in picking up his ninth win of the season.
“We’ve had a few times this season where we considered a game a ‘must-win,’ and tonight was one of them,” DU head coach George Gwozdecky said. “We needed to have our big guys come up big in the third period, and it was great to see us respond in a very difficult situation.”
It took the Pioneers only one shot and 11 seconds to take a 1-0 lead over North Dakota. Sophomore left wing Tom May took control of the puck at center ice, skated down the right side and whistled a shot over Jordan Parise’s left shoulder for a goal with 19:49 left in the first period. The 11 seconds it took May to score DU’s opening goal marked the earliest in a game the Pioneers have scored all season.
Consecutive high-sticking penalties committed by the Fighting Sioux with less than six minutes remaining in the first period yielded two Pioneers power plays, including a five-on-three advantage for 23 seconds. DU was unable to score, however, and took its 1-0 lead into the first intermission while limiting UND to only four shots in the period.
DU ended its power-play drought 3:31 into the second period on an extra-man opportunity stemming from a five-minute major and a game-misconduct penalty on UND’s Joe Finley for checking from behind. Junior defenseman Adrian Veideman maintained possession of the puck through traffic skating down the center of the ice and slid it past Parise as he tumbled into the net to give DU a 2-0 lead.
Jonathan Toews trimmed the Pioneers’ lead to 2-1 at 5:49 of the second period, scoring his third goal of the series off a tap-in from Drew Stafford. Toews’ goal was the only shot Denver allowed through nearly the first 15 minutes of the second period, but UND ended the period with a flurry of scoring chances and tied the game at 2 on a power-play goal at 18:18.
The Fighting Sioux took the lead for the first time in the game at 4:33 of the third period with T.J. Oshie scoring their third consecutive goal to put UND ahead 3-2. A little more than a minute later, DU tied the game on the power play when Stastny scored on a deflection in front of the crease off a hard pass from senior center Gabe Gauthier.
The Pioneers regained control of the game by scoring the next four goals, including two power-play scores and an empty-netter by Dingle. Dingle’s power-play goal off a wrist shot at the 10:06 mark of the third period put DU ahead 4-3 and proved to be the game-winner.
A goal by Stastny, who scored off a pass from Dingle behind the net, extended the Pioneers’ lead to 5-3 at 11:42. Stastny returned the favor by assisting on Dingle’s power-play score at 16:32.