COLUMBUS, Ohio – Denver broke with its seasonlong practice of beginning a two-game set with sophomore Glenn Fisher on Thursday at the Frozen Four, giving the nod to freshman Peter Mannino instead.
Mannino, who entered the game with a 3-0 record against Colorado College, responded again, stopping 41 shots and leading the Pioneers to their second-straight national championship game with a 6-2 victory.
Denver will now play North Dakota on Saturday with a chance to match Minnesota’s feat of 2002 and 2003 with its own back-to-back national titles.
“I don’t want to say it was a gamble. But when you’ve got two young goaltenders like we have and all of a sudden you’re changing, even though the odds say and the experts say you should do this, you’re taking a risk,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. “You’re putting them out of their comfort zone – that rotation that they have come to believe in and rely on. But we were playing a team we knew.”
After a 3-for-48 slump on the power play in its last eight games, Denver scored all of its goals on the power play, finishing 6-for-12 and taking more shots (16) with the man advantage than at even strength (13).
Luke Fulghum scored the game’s first two goals before all-WCHA defenseman Matt Carle tallied the Pioneers’ third score. Carle and Brett Skinner, who Thursday were named first- and second-team All-Americans, respectively, contributed seven points between them.
Goligoski in lineup
Freshman defenseman Alex Goligoski, who was questionable for Thursday’s game with a broken bone in his left hand, started the game for the Gophers.
Goligoski, who missed Minnesota’s last two games with the injury, returned to his normal position in the lineup alongside Chris Harrington. He also accompanied Harrington on the Gophers’ top power-play unit.
Thursday’s first semifinal drew 17,116, marking it the fourth-straight year the afternoon semifinal has topped the 17,000 mark.
But the figure was not a sellout – despite the tournament selling out nearly a year ago.
With four WCHA teams in the tournament (and none within a 14-hour drive of Columbus), attendance lagged because of a lukewarm local interest in buying tickets left over from the competing schools’ allotments.