DENVER — Minnesota-Duluth scored four goals in a span of 3:45 in the second period to erase a Denver lead, handing the back-to-back NCAA national champion Pioneers a 5-2 loss Sunday in front of 3,382 fans at Magness Arena.
UMD’s win secured a 2-1 series victory for the Bulldogs (11-24-4) in the first round of the WCHA playoffs and denied DU (21-15-3) its second consecutive trip to the WCHA Final Five.
Bulldog senior center Tim Stapleton scored once and assisted on two other goals to help Minnesota-Duluth upset Denver. The victory sends UMD to the WCHA Final Five for the third time in four years.
Sophomore center Paul Stastny had a power-play goal and one assist for DU. Senior center Gabe Gauthier also notched one goal and one assist for the Pioneers.
Nate Ziegelmann stopped 33 shots for Minnesota-Duluth, while DU’s Peter Mannino took the first playoff loss of his career, making 14 saves before being replaced by Glenn Fisher at 16:02 of the second period. Fisher finished with eight saves.
Mullen played an important role in the Pioneers’ early success against UMD. After halting a Bulldog scoring chance by diving to sweep a loose puck from the crease 4:30 into the game, his pass set up Stastny’s power-play score at 9:41 that give DU a 1-0 lead.
DU was unable to add to its first-period lead despite being awarded a five-minute power play at 10:25 stemming from a game-misconduct penalty on UMD’s MacGregor Sharp for his check on junior right wing Ryan Helgason.
Before that penalty expired — with both teams skating a man-down due to penalties — sophomore center Geoff Paukovich was twice stopped on the doorstep by Ziegelmann, whose acrobatic glove save prevented a goal on Paukovich’s second shot.
Mannino preserved the Pioneers’ lead with a glove save on a breakaway attempt by Mason Raymond with 16:37 left in the second period, but Minnesota-Duluth soon took control.
The Bulldogs scored the next three goals, including the first two on the power play, in a span of 1:40 to take a 3-1 lead at 13:57 of the second period.
Stapleton opened the UMD scoring with a five-on-three power-play goal at the 12:17 mark and freshman defenseman Josh Meyers added another man-advantage tally 70 seconds later.
Freshman left wing Michael Gergen then pumped in the eventual game-winner, his team-leading 14th goal of the season, at 13:57.
Mannino was replaced by Fisher after Minnesota-Duluth extended its lead to 4-1 on Jason Garrison’s goal at 16:02 of the second period.
DU generated several scoring chances early in the final period, including a wrist shot by junior left wing Mike Handza that hit the post with a little less than 15 minutes left to play. DU trimmed its deficit to two goals on Gauthier’s score at 15:06 of the third period with Fisher on the bench in favor of an extra skater.
The Pioneers played most of the final five minutes without a goaltender and on the attack in UMD’s zone, finishing the third period with 18 shots. The Bulldogs’ lead proved to be too much to overcome, however, and UMD added an empty-net goal by Andrew Carroll with less than 30 seconds remaining.
For the third straight night, the Bulldogs received a stellar goaltending effort from sophomore Nate Ziegelmann, who totaled a career-high 33 saves, including 17 in the final period. UMD, which was outshot 35-27, cashed in on two of its seven power-play opportunities, while Denver was 1-for-6 with the extra man.
In all, 11 Bulldogs marked in the points column, including senior right wing Justin Williams, who had two assists.
The Bulldogs (11-24-4), who had come into the weekend having won just one of their previous 15 games, will take on St. Cloud State Thursday night at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.