Athletics & Recreation / Magazine Feature

Pioneers claim 15th WCHA Playoff Title

Tom May netted the game-winning goal and Peter Mannino made 34 saves as No. 6 Denver claimed the 2008 Red Baron WCHA Final Five playoff championship with a 2-1 win over No. 12 Minnesota before 17,907 fans at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., on March 22.

Tyler Bozak added his 18th goal and seventh against Minnesota this season as DU improves to 26-13-1 with its league-leading 15th playoff championship. Minnesota falls to 19-16-9.

The Pioneers men’s hockey team earns the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA tournament with its fourth consecutive win and remains unbeaten against the Golden Gophers at 4-0-1 this season. DU claimed its third WCHA playoff title at the Xcel Energy Center and first since 2005.

“I am extremely proud of the young men in our locker room,” DU Head Coach George Gwozdecky said. “We have gone through a lot of adversity this season and our guys have really embraced every challenge. We’re excited about this championship and the NCAA tournament next weekend.”

Minnesota took a 1-0 lead when Ryan Flynn redirected a Stu Bickel shot at the low slot for the game’s first goal at 5:39 of the second stanza. Bozak quickly tied it when he ripped a centering pass off Minnesota defenseman Cade Fairchild’s skate less than four minutes later.

Pioneers gained the lead they would not relinquish when May cashed in with 26 seconds remaining in the second period. May scooped up an Anthony Maiani pass and raced into the Minnesota zone and beat Alex Kangas through the five-hole from the low slot.

Minnesota outshot Denver 14-4 in the final stanza, but Mannino slammed the door and moved to 4-0-1 against the Golden Gophers with a 0.99 goals against average and .971 saves percentage this season. Tournament MVP Kangas made 32 saves for Minnesota.

Both teams were shutout on the power play and Minnesota won the shot battle 35-34.

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