Denver advances to NCHC Frozen Faceoff with 4-2 win Saturday

DENVER (UND Athletics) -- Eighth-ranked Denver defeated North Dakota, 4-2, Saturday at Magness Arena in the National College Hockey Conference's quarterfinals to clinch the best-of-three series.

"The specialty teams again were the story and it's a momentum thing." UND head coach Brad Berry said. "They get a power play right away, they win the draw and six seconds later, it's in the net and we go 0-for-5 on the power play. Both sides of it. We're less than 80 percent on the kill this season and we're less than 15 percent on the power play and that doesn't win games."

Denver took the early lead with that early man advantage. After Gavin Hain took a 2-minute penalty for goalie interference, the Pioneers won the ensuing faceoff and Les Lancaster's point shot was tipped past Peter Thome for a 1-0 lead just six seconds into the man advantage.

UND, just as it had Friday, continued to dictate the play, out-shooting Denver, 16-3, in the opening frame alone.

With just over five minutes to play in the first, Grant Mismash raced through the neutral zone, gained entry and and feathered a pass to Nick Jones streaking to his left. Jones gathered and fired a wrister above Filip Larsson's glove for UND's first goal of the series, tying the score at 1-1 at the 14:33 mark of the opening frame.

Just 1:02 into the second period, Griffin Mendel fed a pass through the crease for an awaiting Colin Staub, who poked it in on Thome's right to put the Pios back in front. Denver added to its lead when Jarid Lukosevicius potted his 17th goal of the season for a two-goal lead.

Jones gave the Fighting Hawks some life in the third, striking again at the 5:42 mark of the period on a sweet back-hander right in the slot. The puck squirted free along the boards then Hayden Shaw threaded a pass to Jones in front, who went to his backhand and fired a laser over Larsson's stick side to close the deficit to one.

With two minutes remaining and still trailing by one, UND had to pull Thome for an extra attacker. Jaakko Heikkinen took advantage, finding the back of the net from the red line, sealing the Denver win.

North Dakota outshot Denver, 42-18, including 15-5 in that final period alone.

Denver advances to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff next weekend in St. Paul, Minn.

*North Dakota will miss out on the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.
*UND snaps its string of advancing to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff every year of the league's existence. Denver is now the only team to qualify for the semifinals in all six years.
*Jordan Kawaguchi led the team in goals (10) and points (26) this season.