Fri. Final: Denver 4, UW Hockey 3
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Scoring late in regulation to tie the game and early in overtime to win it, No. 8 Denver pulled off a stunning turnaround for a key victory.
Joe Colborne scored with 14.4 seconds left in the third period and Brian Gifford netted just his third goal of the season for the Pioneers 41 seconds into overtime, keeping Denver in first place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association with a 4-3 victory over No. 13 Wisconsin.
"It's a really tight race in the WCHA, and we're getting to the end here," Gifford said. "We need to start distancing ourselves from the other teams. We knew this could be a big turn for us at the end of the season, so hopefully this is the start of something big."
Colborne scored a fluky goal in the dying seconds to extend the game and deny the Badgers a much-needed victory in the race for both the league championship and a spot in the NCAA tournament.
The freshman's sharp-angle shot from the left side hit Wisconsin goaltender Shane Connelly's shoulder and twirled over his shoulder, off his back and over the goal line.
"That was about the longest second of my life," Colborne said of the wait for his second last-minute tying goal in as many Fridays to fall into the net.
Gifford was all alone in front of the net after a Badgers turnover in overtime -- Denver's Tyler Ruegsegger knocked down a clearing pass out of mid air -- and the junior backhanded a shot past Connelly for his first game-winning goal since his freshman season.
"I just happened to be the only man up front there, and I just tried to put it where the goalie was coming from," Gifford said. "I caught him sliding across, and it went in."
Kyle Ostrow and Ruegsegger scored on two of Denver's first four shots to erase Wisconsin's 2-0 lead.
Marc Cheverie made 32 saves for the Pioneers (18-9-4, 14-7-3 WCHA).
Michael Davies put the Badgers ahead 3-2 less than three minutes into the third period, but Wisconsin (16-12-3, 13-8-2) couldn't hold the lead despite a 35-21 advantage in shots on goal. Connelly made 17 saves.
"Would he like to have that tying goal back? Absolutely," Badgers coach Mike Eaves said.
The Badgers fell three points behind the Pioneers in the tight race for the WCHA championship.
North Dakota, which entered Friday tied with Denver for first place and one point ahead of the Badgers, played at Alaska-Anchorage later.
Blake Geoffrion and Patrick Johnson scored first-period goals to stake the Badgers to a lead, but it lasted only 21 seconds into the second period.
Denver improved to 12-2-2 at the Kohl Center with the late rally.
Asked to explain the Pioneers' success at the Badgers' home rink, Gifford said: "Honestly, I don't have an answer for that. I don't know what it is."
Wisconsin got defenseman Brendan Smith back in the lineup after the sophomore missed eight games with a broken wrist.
Denver swept Wisconsin at home in October, and Friday's victory clinched the head-to-head tiebreaker for the Pioneers if it's needed.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)