DENVER — MacGregor Sharp scored 1:25 into overtime to give Minnesota Duluth a 3-2 win over the No. 8 University of Denver Pioneers in the opening game of their WCHA first-round playoff series tonight in front of 5,706 fans at Magness Arena. DU, which played in its third consecutive overtime contest, saw its 16-game overtime unbeaten streak end with the loss.
The Pioneers (20-14-3), the No. 2 seed in the WCHA Playoffs, were led by sophomore center Paul Stastny’s two power-play goals. Freshman right wing Patrick Mullen assisted on both scores for the Pioneers, who finished 2-for-5 on the power play and totaled 29 shots.
DU junior goaltender Glenn Fisher made 15 saves in taking the loss.
UMD (10-23-4) snapped its six-game losing streak with the win and was led by left wing Andrew Carroll’s two goals and one assist. The No. 9-seeded Bulldogs were 1-for-2 on the power play, and UMD goaltender Nate Ziegelmann stopped 29 shots to earn the win.
“Minnesota Duluth played really well tonight and deserves full credit for the win,” DU head coach George Gwozdecky said. “You could really see that we lost a lot of our intensity and determination as the game went on, and Duluth sensed that and got better and better.”
The Pioneers took control of the game from the opening face-off, forcing UMD to commit an interference penalty in front of its own net 10 seconds into the contest. They capitalized on the power play with a wide-open Stastny deflecting a cross-ice pass from Mullen into the net from just outside the crease to give DU a 1-0 lead 1:25 into the game.
Junior defenseman Matt Carle set up DU’s first goal by showing outstanding awareness in feeding Mullen the puck along the right boards with a back-handed pass, putting the right winger in position to find Stastny for the score.
DU maintained control of the game for duration of the first period, building an 8-1 shot advantage at the 10-minute mark and outshooting UMD, 12-2, after the first 20 minutes while not committing one penalty. Fisher was rarely tested early on but did make a pad save on a hard shot off the stick of Jason Garrison from the slot with less than two minutes remaining in the first period.
The Pioneers’ first penalty of the game, an interference call on sophomore defenseman Andre Thomas in the second period, proved costly. DU could not secure the rebound from a blue-line shot on the ensuing power play, allowing Andrew Carroll to poke the puck past Fisher to tie the score, 1-1, at 15:06 of the second period.
Carroll’s second goal of the game 2:36 into the third period put the Bulldogs ahead 2-1, but their lead would not last long.
A great effort by sophomore left wing Ryan Dingle in front of the net drew a hooking penalty that put the Pioneers on the power play less than a minute after the UMD score. DU capitalized on the power play with Stastny tying the game, 2-2, on his second goal of the contest at 4:02 of the third period.
The Pioneers had a five-minute power play that began with 9:59 left in the game but were unable to score on the extra-man opportunity that stemmed from Nick Kemp’s major penalty for checking from behind. A short time after that penalty expired, DU streaked into the Minnesota Duluth zone on a two-on-one but Ziegelmann stopped senior left wing Ted O’Leary’s one-timer at 4:29 to preserve the tie.
Sharp won the game for Minnesota Duluth in overtime, slipping the puck into a wide-open net at 14:25 of the extra period with Fisher on the ice after making a series of saves.