The 2012 WCHA Playoffs begin on Friday and will be quickly followed by Can the Denver Pioneers win their first WCHA Tournament championship since 2008?

2012 WCHA Final Five: Pioneers Lose To North Dakota, 4-0

The Denver Pioneers failed in their pursuit of a WCHA tournament title.

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2012 WCHA Final Five: Denver Pioneers Fall To North Dakota, 4-0

For a third straight year, the North Dakota Fighting Sioux have won the WCHA Final Five, and for the second year in a row they have defeated the Denver Pioneers. While in 2011 the Fighting Sioux needed double overtime to defeat the Pioneers, this year North Dakota took the game, 4-0.

The Fighting Sioux scored two goals in the first period (Brock Nelson, Carter Rowney) and then one in the second (Michael Parks) and one in the third (Mark MacMillan). Nelson's and Parks' goals each came on a power play opportunity, which North Dakota was 2-for-5. The Pioneers went scoreless in all four of its power play sessions.

Juho Olkinuora was in net one day after Sam Brittain made 67 saves on Friday afternoon. Olkinuora allowed all four goals on 22 shots and was removed for Adam Murray after the final goal.

The Pioneers (25-13-4) are now waiting until Sunday to find out where they will wind up in the 2012 NCAA Hockey Tournament. They will likely receive a No. 3 or No. 4 seed after finishing with a No. 11 PairWise ranking.

Head over to Western College Hockey Blog for more WCHA news and notes.

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2012 WCHA Final Five: Denver Pioneers Win In Double OT Over Minnesota-Duluth

What a time for the Denver Pioneers Zac Larraza to score his first goal of the season. The 6-foot-3 freshman forward netted the game-winning goal for the Pioneers in double overtime on Friday afternoon for a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. The Pioneers notched a spot in the 2012 WCHA Tournament title game.

The Pioneers, who just played its fifth game in eight days and will plays its sixth in nine on Saturday, held a 3-0 lead over the Bulldogs midway through the second period. Shawn Ostrow (11) scored the first goal of the game and then Jason Zucker (22) and Dustin Jackson (2) put two on the board for the 3-0 lead. Mike Seidel, though, scored two goals for the Bulldogs in a span of nearly three minutes. Jack Connolly, a Hobey Baker Award finalist, tied the game at three with less than eight minutes left in regulation.

Unlike regular season overtime, these playoff ones go 20 minutes for sudden death. At 8:14 in the second overtime period, the Pioneers picked up their third straight overtime victory when Zac Larraza found the back of the net.

The Bulldogs put 70 shots on net, but sophomore goalie Sam Brittain made a record 67 saves in the contest.

The Pioneers (25-12-4) will play either the Minnesota Gophers or the North Dakota Fighting Sioux on Saturday.

Head over to Western College Hockey Blog for more WCHA news and notes.

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2012 WCHA Final Five: Denver Faces Minnesota-Duluth For Spot In Title Game

The Denver Pioneers have basically booked a trip to the 2012 NCAA Hockey Tournament with a 3-2 overtime victory against the Michigan Tech Huskies on Thursday afternoon, but that won't stop them from seeking a WCHA Playoffs championship. On Friday afternoon, the Pioneers will play the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, the No. 2 team in the polls and the No. 2 seed in this tournament.

The No. 3 seed in the WCHA Playoffs, the Pioneers went three games against the Wisconsin Badgers in the opening round of the playoffs to reach Thursday's quarterfinal game. Now, the Pioneers have a chance to return to the WCHA championship game for a second year in a row, losing in double-overtime to North Dakota last season.

The Pioneers are led by Drew Shore and Jason Zucker, each having 21 goals, but the former leads with 52 points to the latter's 45. Drew's brother, Nick, is also right there with 40 points. Freshman Joe LaLeggia and Ty Loney have also been of great help down the stretch.

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have Jack Connolly, a repeat Hobey Baker Award finalist. He has 18 goals and 56 points while J.T. Brown has the team-lead in goals with 23. Goalie Kenny Reiter has a .912 save percentage and a 2.39 goals against average.

The puck drops at 1:07 p.m. MT and can be seen on Root Sports.

Head over to Western College Hockey Blog for more WCHA news and notes.

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2012 WCHA Final Five: Denver Pioneers Defeat Michigan Tech In Overtime, 3-2

The Denver Pioneers remain alive in the 2012 WCHA Final Five after defeating the Michigan Tech Huskies in a 3-2 overtime contest. Jason Zucker scored the game-winning goal at 2:18 by picking up a rebound and getting it over goalie Josh Robinson.

Denver wasted little time in scoring, gaining a 1-0 lead just 3:50 into the game. Freshman Ty Loney notched his 10th goal of the season with the help of Drew Shore. About seven minutes later, Blake Pietila responded with his 10th goal of the season, putting the Pioneers and the Huskies into a 1-1 tie.

After a scoreless second period, the Huskies netted a goal just 18 seconds into the third period with Ryan Furne picking up his 12th goal. But Loney and Shore gave way to a Luke Salazar goal at 15:28.

Tech goalie Robinson made 41 saves on 44 shots while Pioneers' freshman Juho Olkinuora stopped 27 of 29 shots.

The Pioneers (24-12-4) will be back on the ice Friday night for a game against the defending NCAA Tournament champion Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. The puck drops at 1:07 p.m. MT.

Head over to Western College Hockey Blog for more WCHA news and notes.

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2012 WCHA Playoffs: Denver Pioneers Survive, Defeat Wisconsin In Overtime, 3-2

The No. 3 Denver Pioneers live to play another day. Having to go to a Game 3 against the No. 10 Wisconsin Badgers in the 2012 WCHA Playoffs, the Pioneers came away with the 3-2 overtime victory on Sunday night. Luke Salazar netted the game-winning goal at 1:40 in overtime, with assists going to Drew Shore and Scott Mayfield.

The Badgers had opened up a 1-0 lead in the second period with 6:40 gone on the clock. It took less than five minutes for the Pioneers to answer back with a goal from Ty Loney and assists to Salazar and Drew Shore. But the Badgers quickly took back the lead with a Tyler Barnes goal.

Nick Shore, though, tied the game at two early in the third period, scoring a goal at 2:01. Jason Zucker and Drew Shore picked up assists on the goal.

Pioneers goalie Sam Brittain made 24 saves on 26 shots while his teammates put up 33 on Wisconsin's Joel Rumpel.

The Pioneers are back in the WCHA Final Five and will play Michigan Tech on Thursday, March 15, in the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. The puck drop will come at 1:07 p.m. MT.

Head over to Western College Hockey Blog for more WCHA news and notes.

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2012 WCHA Playoffs, Denver Vs. Wisconsin: Pioneers Set To Begin Conference Playoffs

The Denver Pioneers men's hockey team is set to begin the 2012 WCHA Playoffs on Friday as they begin a series with the Wisconsin Badgers on the Denver campus. The Pioneers need to win two of three against the Badgers to advance in the conference playoffs. A series loss against the Badgers would be a big upset for Denver and would eliminate all hopes of a conference title.

The Pioneers split the season series with the Badgers this year, taking one of two games in Wisconsin. The Badgers have struggled to an 11-15-2 record this year and hope to make up for a poor regular season with a series win against the Pioneers.

Denver takes on Wisconsin at 7:37 p.m. MT on Friday night at Magness Arena and 7:07 p.m. MT on Saturday night. If a third game is necessary it will take place at 7:07 p.m. MT in Sunday in Denver in a winner take all situation.

Head over to Western College Hockey Blog for more WCHA news and notes.

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