Denver Takes Final Five Opener In OT

Denver sophomore Jason Zucker scored the game winner in overtime for the Pioneers.

Zucker Ends Michigan Tech's Season With Overtime Tally

The Michigan Tech Huskies won just two games in WCHA action last season. A change in coaching staff's brought a new attitude to the program, and nine more regular season WCHA wins.

Huskies head coach Mel Pearson changed the culture this season in Houghton and it paid off, as the Huskies earned league's eighth seed and swept Colorado College on the road last weekend. The series sweep earned the Huskies their first trip to the WCHA Final Five since 2007.

Tech's memorable turnaround season finally came to a close on Thursday afternoon, but it wasn't without a valiant effort from the Huskies.

The boys from the upper peninsula took 9th ranked Denver to overtime in the first game of the 2012 Final Five, but a Jason Zucker goal 2:18 into the extra session sent the Huskies home for good.

Denver opened the scoring four minutes into the first period when freshman winger Ty Loney found a seam down the slot after catching a pass from Drew Shore. Loney was able to beat Michigan Tech goaltender Josh Robinson to give the Pioneers a 1-0 lead.

Michigan Tech would bounce back at the mid-way point of the first period.

Huskies defenseman Justin FIllion sprung freshman Blake Pietila on a break away with a beautiful feed. Pietila did the rest, beating Denver freshman goaltender Juho Olkinuora to tie the game at one.

After a scoreless second period, Tech's Ryan Furne put the Huskies up 2-1 just 18 seconds into the third when his shot handcuffed Olkinuora and found it's way into the net.

Denver senior Luke Salazar, who scored the overtime winner for the Pioneers on Sunday night to advance Denver to the Final Five came up with another big goal.

Pioneer junior Drew Shore led the line rush into the Huskies zone and fed a pass to Ty Loney. The freshman winger found Salazar wide open on the back door and Salazar buried it in the back of the net to tie the game at three with just over two minutes remaining.

In overtime it was star sophomore Jason Zucker, a Wild draft pick who may be calling the Xcel Energy Center home next season who was able to come up big for the Pioneers.

Freshman Joey LaLeggia saw Zucker creeping on the far post and sent a feed to the Las Vegas native. Zucker swiftly flicked it in the goal before Robinson could get to the post.

Michigan Tech goaltender Josh Robinson was the star on Thursday night for the Huskies, turning aside 41 shots in the 3-2 overtime loss.

Denver goaltender Juho Olkinuora had 27 saves in the victory.

Denver moves on to face Minnesota-Duluth in the semi-finals tomorrow afternoon at 2:07.

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For more Wisconsin hockey coverage, follow Chuck on Twitter (@UWChuckSchwartz)

Chuck can also be reached via e-mail at chuckschwartz@live.com

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