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Published March 15, 2012, 06:51 PM

Denver Beats Michigan Tech 3-2 in Final Five

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Jason Zucker hopes to one day become a regular scorer on the ice at the Xcel Energy Center as a member of the NHL's Minnesota Wild, but for now, he's just fortunate to be playing another college game there.

By: Associated Press,

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Jason Zucker hopes to one day become a regular scorer on the ice at the Xcel Energy Center as a member of the NHL's Minnesota Wild, but for now, he's just fortunate to be playing another college game there.

The Denver University sophomore, the Wild's second overall pick in the 2010 draft, scored his 21st goal of the season 2:18 into overtime to give the Pioneers a 3-2 win over Michigan Tech in the quarterfinals of the WCHA Final Five tournament on Thursday.

"It's obviously a very nice building," Zucker said of the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. "I've been here for a couple summers for camp and stuff, but it's a state of the art building, and it's fun to play in."

Ty Loney and Luke Salazar also scored for third-seed Denver (24-12-4). Josh Olkinuora made 27 saves for the Pioneers, who will face defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth in Friday's semifinals.

Denver, ranked No. 9, has won six of its past seven games after dealing with injuries throughout the season and the absence of Zucker, who scored three goals and had four assists in six games during the World Junior Championships in January.

An All-WCHA second-team selection this season with 20 goals and 24 assists in the regular season, Zucker has been rumored to possibly be leaving for the NHL, but for now he's looking forward to continue his collegiate career. Denver, the preseason pick to win the WCHA, entered the week 12th in the Pairwise rankings and was on the bubble of making next week's NCAA tournament, but possibly secured an NCAA bid with the win.

"We play tomorrow night," Zucker said Thursday when asked about turning pro.

Zucker was able to play the part of hero Thursday, but not without more clutch scoring by Salazar.

Salazar, who scored the overtime game-winner last weekend to avoid an upset by Wisconsin in the best-of-three first round, added his 12th goal of the season with 4:32 left in the third period to put the game into overtime. After a falling save by Olkinuora in the Denver defensive zone, the Pioneers quickly moved the puck up the ice and had a well-executed odd-man rush and Salazar finished off the rush with assists to Loney and Drew Shore.

"He called himself lucky, but I don't really think a guy that scores that many game-winning goals should be lucky," Shore said of Salazar. "He does it time and again. Obviously he's a great finisher around the net. I don't know if I've played with that many guys who've been able to score that many big goals in their career."

Blake Pietila and Ryan Furne scored for Michigan Tech (16-19-4), who was outshot 44-28. Huskies goaltender Josh Robinson stopped 41 shots.

Michigan Tech, who finished the regular season with an 11-13-4 conference record, was looking for another upset after ousting Colorado College in a two-game sweep in the first round last week. But, a team that hadn't made the Final Five since 2007 and hadn't won a playoff game since 2008, still felt good about a season of improvement under first-year head coach Mel Pearson, who was named the WCHA's coach of the year last week.

"We weren't sure at the start of the year where we were going to be or where we were headed," Pearson said. "I think as you can see, we've really come on as the season progressed."


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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