ST. PAUL, Minn. — Despite scoring the first goal of the game for the fourth time in 14 games, Denver still had to come from behind, scoring five unanswered goals over the second and third periods Friday to beat Bemidji State 6-2 and earn the right to play for the WCHA championship Saturday night.
“We just couldn’t get it going in the third and they did,” said BSU coach Tom Serratore. “They’re one heck of a team and they showed why.”
“It’s a good win for us right now,” said DU’s Kyle Ostrow. “We try to grow every game and I think this is finally one of the games we’ve played hard for a full 60 minutes.”
With the game tied 2-2, the Beavers got a golden opportunity with a couple of late power plays at the end of the second period that carried over to the third with 31 seconds of five-on-three play.
However, the Pioneers were able to kill the penalties and instead got the next goal 2:56 into the third. Shawn Ostrow sent a pass out of the corner to Nick Shore, who took a shot from the point. His shot was blocked in front, but he grabbed his own rebound and buried it past Dan Bakala.
“We came out with the power play and we were kind of on our heels. We didn’t come out firing on all cylinders like we wanted to and they scored one right after our five-on-three power play which kind of deflated our tires,” said BSU’s Matt Read. “It was a lack of effort after they scored the first one.”
“It was an emotional boost for us to get through that and we kind of fed off of that,” said DU coach George Gwozdecky.
Kyle Ostrow scored 6:15 into the game on an early power play to give Denver a rare lead. David Makowski slid the puck across the top of the zone to Jason Zucker, who let a shot fly from the point that Ostrow knocked in.
Just 3:16 later, though, the Beavers tied it up on a power-play goal of their own. Brad Hunt sent a long pass from beside his own net that hit Jordan George in the neutral zone. Denver’s Matt Donovan fanned on the attempt to knock the puck away and George regained control and put it home past Pioneers goaltender Sam Brittain (36 saves).
Then, with just under four minutes remaining in the first, Radoslav Illo hustled to beat two Pioneers to snag an Aaron McLeod rebound to put the Beavers up 2-1.
“Rado showed a lot of hunger and a lot of passion on that particular play,” said Serratore. “He one-timed it and he got to that loose puck and it was a heck of a goal.”
Drew Shore tied the game at two goals apiece 4:15 into the second period on another power-play tally for the Pioneers. He broke into the zone and let a shot fly from the far faceoff dot that beat Bakala (26 saves).
After taking the lead in the third, Denver was in control. Jarrod Mermis picked up a Matt Donovan rebound in the crease and lifted the puck over Bakala to put DU up 4-2 8:17 in.
About seven minutes later, a Chris Nutini shot from the point deflected off of Luke Salazar’s stick and bounced a few times before landing in the BSU net behind Bakala.
Serratore pulled Bakala late in the third in an attempt to spark a rally, but Kyle Ostrow sealed the game with an empty-net goal with 1:16 remaining.
“I think we brainwashed ourselves,” said Serratore. “We really thought we were going to win this game, and even after the two periods, we felt very good. The bottom line is, the cream rose to the top, and that’s Denver.”
“We’ve been able to find ways in the latter parts of games in the third period to be pretty good and to score goals and to minimize the damage done at our end,” said Gwozdecky. “Hopefully tomorrow night we can score the first goal of the game and build off of it, but don’t count on it.”
The Pioneers play the winner of the Colorado College-North Dakota game at 7 p.m. CDT Saturday.
Video: Bemidji State’s Matt Read:
Video: Denver’s Kyle Ostrow: