Ty Loney scored with less than five minutes remaining Friday to lift Denver to a 4-3 victory over Western Michigan in the first semifinal game of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff at Target Center.
The Pioneers will face either Miami-Ohio or North Dakota in Saturday night’s title game. Miami led North Dakota 3-0 in the third period when this edition went to press.
Loney flipped the puck over the shoulder of Western Michigan goalie Frank Slubowski with 4:53 left, then Denver (19-15-6) held off the Broncos (19-15-5).
The Pioneers overcame an early mistake from all-league goalie Sam Brittain, who inadvertently deflected a puck into his own net just 42 seconds into the game.
“You could tell he wasn’t bothered at all,” Denver coach Jim Montgomery said of the goal.
Denver responded with goals from Daniel Doremus and Grant Arnold in the first. The Broncos took a 3-2 lead in the second period on goals by Shane Berschbach and Will Kessel, but Joey LaLeggia tied it for Denver before the period ended.
The Pioneers will look to clinch their seventh consecutive NCAA tournament berth Saturday. Montgomery said, however, that playing for a conference championship is more important than playing for the NCAA tournament.
“Our focus is staying in the moment. It’s not about what’s going to happen next week,” he said. “ Because if our focus starts to drift, then our play will drift.”
Brittain had 24 saves and Slubowski 19.
Attendance for Friday’s session was announced at 9,113.
Nate Gotlieb is a University of Minnesota student on special assignment with the Star Tribune.