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2012 WCHA Playoffs: Denver Pioneers Need Victory To Advance To Final Five

The No. 3 Denver Pioneers and the No. 10 Wisconsin Badgers are the only two teams left playing in the opening round of the 2012 WCHA Playoffs following the Pioneers' 3-1 victory on Saturday. That evened the best of three series at one apiece and sets the stage for Sunday's decisive Game 3. All other series in the opening round have ended, and Colorado College was the only team so far to be upset (No. 5 seed losing to No. 8 Michigan Tech).

On Saturday night, the Pioneers and the Badgers played to a standstill before the start of the third period, tied at zero. But that's when these teams decided to open up the game. Nate Dewhurst (3) put the Pioneers on the board at 4:04 in the final frame after the puck found the back of the net. Nearly three minutes later, Wisconsin tied the game on Justin Schultz's 16th goal of the season.

But at 12:53, Luke Salazar completed a sequence of passes by netting the puck after Nick Shore and finally Jason Zucker set him up for it. Nick Shore added an empty-netter with 56 seconds left to make it a 3-1 game.

The Denver offense was a furious one, putting 42 shots on Joel Rumpel while Wisconsin trailed with 28. Sam Brittain made 27 saves in the game.

The decisive Game 3 takes place on Sunday night at 7:07 p.m. MT. The Pioneers need to advance to the next round to have a legitimate chance at making the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team (though a WCHA Tourney victory with it automatic bid would be preferable).

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