Denver edges UND 3-1 to advance to finals

Brian Deutsch

It wasn’t quite as timely as Mike Howe’s game-winner with just 12.7 seconds remaining, but Denver freshman forward Anthony Maiani’s goal with 1:20 left in regulation brought on the same result ñ a win. This time it was a 3-1 victory for Denver over North Dakota in Western Collegiate Hockey Association semifinal action today at the Xcel Energy Center.

Maiani took his seventh goal of the end to end and lifted a solid backhand past senior goalie Jean-Philippe Lamouruex to reclaim the one-goal lead ñ the eventual game-winner – for the Pioneers.

“I just wanted to get the puck on net and get the change,” Maiani said after the game. “It ended up going in.”

WCHA Goaltending Champion, Hobey Baker Award finalist Lamoureux did his best to bring the Sioux back to the WCHA Championship for the third year in a row.

Unfortunately for North Dakota, the conference’s top netminder finished second in a two goalie race tonight as Denver senior goaltender Peter Mannino led is team to the WCHA Championship by turning away 32 of the 33 shots he faced for his 24th win of the season.

“Obviously with Peter in goal and the driving force that he is in that position, it’s really helped us to straighten the ship and move on,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said.

The straightening the Pioneers coach referred to was the departure of forward Brock Trotter to the NHL, and injury to now-healthy sophomore forward Tyler Ruegsegger and playing near .500 hockey after losing just three games in the first half of the season.

“We need to be aggressive but a little bit more conservative,” Gwozdecky said of the team’s new look. “We’re not going to be the run and gun, quick transition team that perhaps we might have been the first two-thirds of the season.”

Denver sophomore forward Rhett Rakhshani picked up game’s first goal in the second period. The Huntington Beach, native put a high power-play blast from down low in the zone past Lamoureux for his 14th goal of the season. Freshman forward Tyler Bozak and junior defensman both added helper’s on Rakhshani’s game-winner.

But the Sioux answered back early in the third period when junior defenseman Taylor Chorney put a tic-tac-toe play in with help from sophomore forward Darcy Zajac and freshman forward Jake Marto.

It looked like the game was headed to overtime before Maiani’s goal and after sophomore forward Matt Glasser added an empty-net insurance goal with 6 seconds remaining, the Sioux’s hopes of getting back to the Saturday night game came to a screech halt.

The Pioneers advance to the WCHA Championship Saturday at 7:07 p.m. while the Sioux will play for third place at 2:07 p.m. Who the two will meet in their respective games will be decided by tonight’s game between Minnesota and MacNaughton Cup Champion Colorado College.

What team would Gwozdecky and the Pioneers prefer to play?

“If there’s anyway we can get a bye, that’s perhaps what I would like to suggest or ask for.”