Goaltender Peter Mannino has a handful of big saves and Paul Stastny’s second-period power-play goal has Denver one period away from a second consecutive national championship.
Mannino has 21 saves through two periods and the Pioneers lead 2-1 after 40 minutes Saturday at Value City Arena.
The freshman, who is making his first back-to-back starts of the season, made three key saves in the second period after a highlight-reel stop — literally — in the first to give his team a chance to become the seventh back-to-back winner of the national title.
All three goals have come on redirections, and Stastny’s, 10 minutes, 8 seconds into the second period, broke a 1-1 tie. Kevin Ulanski, who gave the Pioneers a 1-0 lead in the first, fired a shot off the right boards that Stastny tipped past North Dakota goaltender Jordan Parise.
In the first period, Ulanski and North Dakota’s Travis Zajac scored less than four minutes apart.
Ulanski’s 12th goal of the season put the Pioneers ahead 6:15 into the game. Gabe Gauthier rushed up the middle and left the puck for Ulanski, who was pushed out to the left by the Sioux defense. But Ulanski threaded a pass into the crease and it went off the skate of North Dakota defenseman Matt Smaby and into the net.
The Pioneers got their first power-play chance of the night just 16 seconds later when Sioux captain Matt Greene took his second penalty of the period, a high-sticking call. But the Sioux held the Pioneers, who were 6-for-12 with the man advantage in their 6-2 semifinal victory over Colorado College on Thursday, off the board.
Through two periods Saturday, Denver is 1-for-4 with the man advantage.
UND got even on its first power play, 57 seconds after a high-sticking call to Denver defenseman Andrew Thomas, with Zajac redirecting a Nick Fuher shot from high in the zone through his legs and then those of Mannino.
Parise, who is on a 12-game unbeaten streak, has 16 stops.
North Dakota’s Erik Fabian thought he had a tiebreaking goal on a third chance from close range with under five minutes remaining in the first period when he lifted a shot from near the goal line on the right side that Mannino gloved, apparently just before it crossed the goal line. The play was reviewed but referee Steve Piotrowski eventually signaled no goal.
Mannino then made another key save with just under four minutes left, getting his pads down just fast enough to stop a Colby Genoway redirection of a Rory McMahon centering pass.
In the second period, Mannino had stops on a Rastislav Spirko redirection attempt off a pass and stopped Chris Porter’s shot on a partial breakaway.
The game was twice delayed in the first period for repairs to the Plexiglas. With 6:45 remaining, Fabian put Denver’s Thomas into the glass, knocking it loose and causing a two-minute delay.
Late in the period, Fabian hit Denver’s Brett Skinner, breaking a piece of glass. The final 6.0 seconds of the first period were played after the ice was resurfaced.
Denver has defeated North Dakota in each of the teams’ three meetings this season. The Pioneers earned a road sweep with back-to-back 4-2 victories on Feb. 4 and 5, then earned a spot in the WCHA championship game with a 2-1 overtime victory over the Sioux on March 18.