COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Luke Fulghum made sure Denver got off to a
Fulghum scored two first period power-play goals and defending
champion Denver's defense and freshman goaltender Peter Mannino did
the rest in a 6-2 victory over rival Colorado College in a national
semifinal on Thursday.
The Pioneers scored all six of their goals with a man advantage,
making the most of 12 power-play chances.
"Coming into this weekend, we made the power play a priority,"
Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. "Having so many power plays
and taking advantage of those opportunities was huge for us because
we knew they were hard to score on 5-on-5."
It was Fulghum who had the decisive goal the last time the teams
met, a 1-0 Denver victory in the finals of the Western Collegiate
Hockey Association tournament on March 19 in St. Paul, Minn.
Gabe Gauthier added two goals and an assist and Brett Skinner
had four assists for Denver (31-9-2). Matt Carle chipped in with a
goal and two assists, Jeff Drummond had two assists and Adrian
Veideman added a late goal. Fulghum also had an assist to go with
his two scores.
The Pioneers will meet North Dakota, a team they are 3-0 against
this season, in Saturday night's championship game. The Fighting
Sioux beat Minnesota 4-2.
Brian Salcido and James Brannigan each had power-play goals for
CC (31-9-3), which was 2-of-8 with an extra attacker.
The two rivals -- just 70 miles away from each other on I-25 --
met for the 255th time, but for the first time in the NCAA
tournament. They shared the regular-season WCHA title.
"It's very disappointing the way the game turned out," CC
coach Scott Owens said. "We got to their net better than in the
previous two games but didn't capitalize on our chances."
The second semifinal pitted Minnesota against North Dakota,
marking the first time in 58 NCAA hockey tournaments that the same
conference grabbed all four semifinal spots.
Ranked No. 1 for much of the season, Denver is 6-2 in NCAA title
games. The Pioneers rank third behind Michigan and North Dakota
with six national titles (1958, '60, '61, '68, '69 and 2004). One
more win would make Denver only the seventh school to win
back-to-back hockey championships.
Mannino had 41 saves for the Pioneers. He smothered a shot by
CC's Braydon Cox on a breakaway late in the second period that
would have cut the lead to one goal.
"Playing in front of him is a special thing," Gauthier said.
"He does things you don't expect from a freshman. He plays more
like a junior."
Denver won its seventh NCAA game in a row despite being outshot
"Mannino was terrific in goal," Gwozdecky said. "He was
probably our top star tonight."
After a cautious first 13 minutes by both teams, Fulghum scored
twice in a span of 1:36.
Fulghum was in the high slot when he deked defender Lee Sweatt,
who lost an edge. Fulghum then skated tight to the goal and beat
senior goaltender Curtis McElhinney for his 22nd goal of the
Skinner then skated to the top of the right circle and drove a
hard slap shot that deflected off Fulghum, who was crashing the
net. The puck ended up beating McElhinney high on the stick side.
"The first goal was the most important," said Fulghum. "I was
just able to get a pass from Carle and put a move on the defender.
The second one was luck. Skinner had a great shot and it went in
off my rear end."
The Pioneers made it 3-0 early in the second, again on the power
play, when Carle's slap shot from just inside the blue line snaked
past teammate Geoff Paukovich, who was parked in the slot.
Salcido finally broke the Tigers' lengthy scoreless streak
against their rivals, tallying on a wrister from between the two
circles midway through the second period. The Tigers had gone 153
minutes and 52 seconds without scoring against Denver.
When the puck settled into the net, some of the animosity that
runs between the two schools bubbled to the surface. Carle tangled
with Salcido, punching him in the face as they were separated by
Gauthier, Denver's leading scorer, scored on a wrist shot in the
final seconds of the period to make it 4-1.
Gauthier didn't have to work hard to make it 5-1, barely moving
his stick after Jeff Drummond put a centering pass on his stick at
the mouth of the goal cage midway through the final period.
"We didn't have a very good shooting game, but we did do a
better job of getting to their net," said CC winger Scott Polaski.
"It came down to them burying their power plays and us not burying