There is a logjam at the top of the WCHA standings going into Saturday's games.
Denver, which has won four games in a row, moved into a tie for first with Nebraska Omaha on Friday by beating the visiting Mavericks 7-4.
The Pioneers and Mavericks have 19 points apiece. Idle St. Cloud State is second with 18. The Gophers and North Dakota are tied for third with 17 and Minnesota State Mankato is sixth with 16.
So the top six teams, who would all have home ice if the WCHA playoffs were starting today, are separated by three points.
POWERFUL PP FOR U
Once again the Gophers seemed to play down to the level of their competition for part of Friday's 4-3 victory over last place Alaska Anchorage. They haven't swept a WCHA series yet, but have a chance tonight.
Named the three stars of Friday's win were Nick Bjugstad, who had two goals, defenseman Ben Marshall. who scored the game-winner in the last minute, and Kyle Rau, who had a goal and an assist.
The difference in the game were the special teams. The Gophers were 3-for-6 on the power play, including two goals in the last four minutes when the Seawolves took a five-minute major penalty. The maroon and gold had six shots on goal on the power play and scored on three of them. Nice percentage. UAA was 0-for-3 with a man advantage.
Kyle Rau, Nick Bjugstad and Ben Marshall scored power play goals for the Gophers on Friday. Funny those same three had goals with a man advantage the first time these team met Nov. 9 in Anchorage. The Gophers won 4-0 that night. Rau had the first two power-play goals as the maroon and goal was 4-for-6 with the man advantage.
The next game was a 2-2 tie and the Gophers were 1-for-3 on the power play. Seth Ambroz scored it.
So in three games, the Gophers are 8-for-15 on the power play, or over 50 percent. Rau has three power-play goals, Bjugstad and Marshall two against the Seawolves.
* The Gophers had 30 shots on net. Bjugstad and defenseman Nate Schmidt had four apiece, tying for the team high. ... Defenseman Jake Parenteau was a plus-1, best on the team; defenseman Mikey Reilly was a minus-2, worst on the team.
Sophomore Zac Larraza scored two goals in under two minutes with under six minutes left in the third period to help turn a 4-4 tie into a 7-4 victory for No. 9 Denver over No. 13 Nebraska Omaha on Friday night before a crowd announced as 4,907 at Magness Arena.
“I’m proud of the fact that our team found a way to win,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said, according to a Pioneers news release. “They responded when things were looking their bleakest.
"We beat a team that was extremely hot. They were first place in our league and can really score. As bizarre and strange as that game was from my standpoint and the way we played, the most important thing was we got a very important two points.”
And a tie for first. Denver is 13-6-3 overall, Nebraska Omaha 13-9-1. Both are 9-5-1 in the conference.
Goals by junior David Makowski and sophomore Matt Tabrum gave DU a 2-0 lead in the first nine minutes even though the Pioneers were outshot 21-6.
Josh Archibald scored for UNO four minutes into the second period on a 3-on-1 break.
But 14 seconds later, Quentin Shore answered and the Pioneers were ahead 3-1. Shore has scored four goals in the past four games after having three in the initial 18 contests.
Andrej Sustr's power-play goal at 17:39 of the second got UNO within 3-2.
Once again DU responded. Shawn Ostrow scored with 30 seconds left in the period, batting the puck in out of the air.
Brent Gwidt's short-handed goal at 25 seconds of the final period for the Mavericks and Ryan Walters at 12:19 of the third period tied the score at 4-4.
After Larraza's two goals, DU added an empty-netter with three seconds left.
Denver won despite being out-shot 42-22. Pioneers goalie Juho Olkinuora made 38 saves while earning his fourth win in a row.