DENVER — The No. 10 University of Denver Pioneers erased a third-period deficit for the third consecutive game to clinch the No. 2 seed in the WCHA Playoffs with a 3-3 tie against No. 5 Colorado College in their regular-season finale tonight in front of 6,124 fans at Magness Arena. DU (20-13-3, 17-8-3 WCHA), which began the final period trailing, 2-0, scored three consecutive goals in the third period before CC tallied a goal with 47 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.
The Pioneers played their second overtime game in a row against the Tigers following their 5-4 win Thursday night in Colorado Springs. DU’s tie extended its unbeaten streak in overtime to 16 games and is 6-0-1 in its last seven games against Colorado College.
“I thought we played pretty well in the first period, but we just didn’t finish around the net,” DU head coach George Gwozdecky said. “After they scored their second goal, you could see the change in how we moved the puck, shared the puck and relied on our simple-but-effective style of play.”
DU sophomore left wing Ryan Dingle had one goal and one assist, scoring the Pioneers’ go-ahead goal with 18:09 left to play. Junior right wing J.D. Corbin and sophomore center Paul Stastny each added one goal and one assist for the Pioneers
Sophomore goaltender Peter Mannino made 33 saves for DU, which finished 0-for-5 on the power play and totaled 37 shots.
Matt Zaba registered 34 saves for Colorado College while Joey Crabb led the Tigers with two points on one goal and one assist. The Tigers went 1-for-4 on the power play.
After DU sophomore center Geoff Paukovich back-handed a shot over the net on a shorthanded breakaway, Colorado College scored on the ensuing rush to take a 1-0 lead at 2:01 of the first period. Mannino stopped a Crabb shot from just inside the left circle and made another stop on Chad Rau’s shot off the rebound, but the puck bounced back to Rau, who notched the power-play score.
The Pioneers entered the first intermission trailing, 1-0, despite generating 15 shots and having two power plays. DU’s extra-man unit had several scoring opportunities, including a shot from Dingle that was stopped after he used a nifty move to get past a CC defender with approximately 8:30 remaining in the first period.
DU spent the early part of the second period on the attack, but Zaba was able to keep the home team off the board by turning away shots from Dingle and sophomore left wing Tom May within the first five minutes. At 5:24 of the second period, the Tigers again took advantage of a rebound in front of the Pioneers net with Crabb flipping the puck past Mannino from the left side to put Colorado College ahead 2-0.
Corbin’s shot to the top left corner of the net 27 seconds into the third period trimmed the Pioneers’ deficit to 2-1. A little more than five minutes later, Stastny tied the game with his goal at 6:07.
The Pioneers took their first lead of the game with less than two minutes left in the contest. Dingle stole a pass from Colorado College defenseman Brandon Straub along the right boards and fired a shot from the slot at 18:09 to put DU ahead, 3-2.
While it appeared that the Pioneers would hold on for a 3-2 win, the Tigers’ Rau collected a loose puck in traffic on the edge of the crease and slide it past Mannino with 47 seconds left to play in regulation to force overtime. The goal came moments after CC called a timeout and pulled Zaba from the net in favor of an extra skater.
The Pioneers’ best chance to score in overtime may have come less than two minutes into the extra period when Corbin sent a pass from behind the net to a wide-open Dingle, whose shot was turned away by Zaba.