No. 1 Denver falls to No. 11 North Dakota in NCHC semifinals

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The No. 1 DU Pioneers suffered their first defeat in almost two months on Friday night, dropping a 1-0 decision to the No. 11 UND Fighting Hawks on Day 1 of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff at the Target Center. Denver (28-7-4) will now face No. 8 Western Michigan (22-11-5) on Saturday at 3:30pm CT/2:30pm MT in the conference’s Third Place Game.

“I thought this was a very good college hockey game tonight,” Denver head coach Jim Montgomery said following Friday’s hard-fought loss. “North Dakota made one more play than we did and got the win but it was a competitive, back-and-forth battle that we can learn a lot from as we get ready for the NCAA Tournament. The Fighting Hawks are a hard-checking team that skates well which is exactly the type of team we’ll be facing at our regional next weekend. We know we need to play with much better puck support and with greater pace if we want to be successful in the next stage of our season so hopefully this setback will be of benefit to us in the long run as we look to regroup and take a run at our eighth national title in the coming weeks.”

After a scoreless opening 40 minutes of play, North Dakota took a 1-0 lead early in the third period when St. Louis Blues prospect Austin Poganski hammered a rebound produced by a Colton Poolman shot to the back of Denver’s net to register the 12th goal of his junior season. The Pioneers vehemently pursued the equalizer for the final 17:30 of regulation but were unable to get the puck past UND goalie Cam Johnson as the Fighting Hawks held on to take the decision by a one-goal margin and end DU’s 13-game winning streak, which was tied for the fourth-longest streak in program history.

Denver had already clinched an at-large berth in the 2017 NCAA Tournament heading into this weekend’s games and remains atop the PairWise Rankings despite Friday’s loss. The Penrose Cup Champions will find out which of the four national regionals they’ll be headed to on Sunday at 12pm ET/10am MT during the NCAA Hockey Selection Show on ESPNU.

Featured Image Credit: Denver Pioneers

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