UND Blanks Denver 4-0 for WCHA TitleST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Brock Nelson and Carter Rowney scored 46 seconds apart in the first period for North Dakota in a 4-0 victory over Denver on Saturday, giving the Fighting Sioux their third straight WCHA playoff championship.
By: Dave Campbell, Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Brock Nelson and Carter Rowney scored 46 seconds apart in the first period for North Dakota in a 4-0 victory over Denver on Saturday, giving the Fighting Sioux their third straight WCHA playoff championship.
Michael Parks added a power-play goal in the second period and Aaron Dell made 22 saves for his ninth career shutout to improve to 6-0 in WCHA playoff games over three seasons with the Fighting Sioux (24-13-3). Mark MacMillan's short-handed breakaway shot in the third period knocked the water bottle off the top of the net and sealed their seventh consecutive victory overall and 13th WCHA playoff win in a row.
The Pioneers (25-13-4) watched North Dakota take the Broadmoor Trophy in the title tilt for the second year in a row. Their streak of three straight overtime games ended with a thud in front of an announced crowd of 16,838.
The Fighting Sioux also tightened their grip on a No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament, likely on this same ice next weekend. The Xcel Energy Center, home of the NHL's Minnesota Wild, is one of the four regional sites.
Denver is comfortably in the 16-team field, too, so after the intensity and drama that unfolded during both semifinals the night before there was a noticeable drop-off in atmosphere in the building for this one.
After stopping 67 shots, an all-time Pioneers record, in the double-overtime victory over Minnesota Duluth on Friday, sophomore goalie Sam Brittain was on the bench. Denver coach George Gwozdecky, who has used three different guys to mind the net this season, picked Juho Olkinuora to play. The Finnish freshman has the worst record, 9-8-3, of the trio but the best goals against average, 2.07 coming into the game.
Olkinuora never got into a groove against a North Dakota attack that stunned top-seeded Minnesota with five goals in the third period on Friday, and he heard the "Sieve! Sieve! Sieve!" chant more than once from the Fighting Sioux fans. Adam Murray replaced Olkinuora midway through the period.
Defenseman Derek Forbort had two assists for North Dakota, which lost a slew of seniors from last year's NCAA semifinalist team and started slowly this season but has lost just four times in 22 games after Christmas break. The Fighting Sioux finished fourth in the WCHA regular season, but they've been as good as any team in the country in March.
Both teams looked a little drained from the exhausting semifinal games, and the first period was dead until Nelson — the sophomore and 2010 New York Islanders first-round draft pick — backhanded a power-play rebound that Olkinuora didn't control to give North Dakota the lead with 2:17 left. Then Rowney scored off a slick touch pass from MacMillan, and the rout was on. Nelson scored four goals in three games at the Final Five and has 27 this season.
The Pioneers didn't have a power play until 7:29 remained in the second period, and the Fighting Sioux had already scored on two of their four opportunities.
On an unseasonably warm day and St. Patrick's Day celebrations in full swing in downtown St. Paul, the passionate North Dakota fans took their party inside for a few hours to watch the Fighting Sioux capture another title.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.