Men's WCHA Semis: Denver 3, UW Hockey 0
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- It's like the WCHA Final Five semifinal between Denver and Wisconsin couldn't have ended any other way.
Denver's 3-0 win Friday was the Pioneers' fifth victory without a loss over the Badgers this season. It's also Denver's ninth straight win in the Final Five tournament, which the Pioneers (23-10-5) won last season.
"Our team generally has been playing well against this team," said Patrick Wiercioch, whose third-period power play goal was his fourth against Wisconsin (19-16-4) this season. "When you get team success, I think it just helps you out individually."
Marc Cheverie made 42 saves for his fourth shutout of the season, and second of the year against the Badgers. He made 45 stops in a 5-0 win at Madison on Feb. 21.
"This is a goaltender's tournament," said Denver coach George Gwozdecky. "Goaltenders are going to win it for you. That's the difference."
Brian Gifford and Kyle Ostrow also scored for the Pioneers, who play either regular season champion North Dakota or Minnesota-Duluth in Saturday's playoff final. Denver won last year's WCHA postseason title, its league-best 15th.
Minnesota-Duluth advanced to the semifinals by edging Minnesota 2-1 in Thursday's play-in game, damaging the Gophers' chances to make the NCAA tournament.
Wisconsin's only chance to get into the NCAA tournament was to win the WCHA playoff title for the league's automatic berth. The loss to Denver ends the Badgers' season, but they may have had life if the puck had bounced their way a few times against the Pioneers. The Badgers outshot Denver 42-29, and a shot deflected by Blake Geoffrion clanged off the crossbar.
"Those are turning points," said Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves. "It was like we were swimming upstream. Denver played an intelligent game, won a lot of battles and made more key plays."
Denver opened the scoring late in the first period when Brian Gifford gathered in a loose puck at center ice, skated to the left faceoff circle and whistled the puck past Wisconsin goaltender Shane Connelly for a 1-0 lead.
Kyle Ostrow made it 2-0 last in the second period, taking a pass behind the Badger defense and flipping the puck over Connelly's right shoulder. Wiercioch's power-play goal with 14 minutes remaining closed out the scoring.
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