Denver beats North Dakota to reach final five |

Denver beats North Dakota to reach final five

AP Photo/Jim MoneDenver goalie Peter Mannino, right, blocks a shot by North Dakota's T. J. Oshie, left, in first period of the WCHA Final Five hockey game semi-finals Friday, in St. Paul, Minn.

ST. PAUL, Minn. ” Freshman Anthony Maiani scored with 1:20 left in regulation to lift Denver to a 3-1 win over North Dakota on Friday in the semifinals of the WCHA Final Five.

Maiani raced down the right side with North Dakota defenseman Joe Finley in his path the entire way, and just before getting to the goal line, he scooped a backhanded shot past Fighting Sioux goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureaux.

Matt Glasser added an empty net goal in the closing seconds and Peter Mannino made 32 saves to send the Pioneers into Saturday’s tournament final against the winner of the semifinal between WCHA regular-season champion Colorado College and Minnesota.

The game-winner came after North Dakota tied the score early in the third period on a hardworking goal by Taylor Chorney. Denver’s Rhett Rakhshani got the game’s first goal on a power play in the second period.

It’s the second straight game-winning goal for Maiani. He had the only score of the Pioneers’ 1-0 win over Minnesota Duluth last weekend to clinch a first-round series sweep in Denver.

After killing off a pair of 5-on-3 power plays, the Pioneers used a man advantage to get on the board first. Rakhshani beat Lamoureaux short side from a deep angle early in the second period to give the Pioneers a 1-0 lead.

North Dakota tied the score early in the second period when Chorney worked the puck free after getting his point-blank shot blocked by Peter Mannino, who let the puck get free behind him in the crease. Chorney set up the play moments earlier by keeping the puck in the zone at the blue line.

Lamoureaux made 26 saves for the Sioux.

Tempers flared in the final minute of the first period when it appeared the Sioux had scored. Mannino made two saves and covered up beneath a pile of bodies, and after some pushing around the goal light flashed on. As referees tried to restore order, players squared off in the Denver end of the ice. Three players from each side were called for unsportsmanlike conduct, and after a long video review it was ruled that the puck never crossed the goal line.

Denver is now 3-0 against North Dakota in the Final Five, winning 2-1 in overtime in the 2005 semifinals and 4-3 in 1999 final. The Pioneers also snapped a three-game losing streak to the Sioux, a skid that includes a 5-4 North Dakota win Feb 15. in Grand Forks in which Denver blew a 4-1 lead.

Denver is in the Final Five championship game for the first time since 2006, when the Pioneers beat Colorado College 1-0 for their sixth WCHA playoff title.

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