Sunday, March 11, 2007

DU Drops Series To Badgers
Playoff Bid & Pepsi Center Appearance Likely Gone

From: Denver Post
by Mike Chambers
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(left) DU's dream of playing in the Pepsi Center disappeared when Wisconsin's Jake Brandt buried this shot against Glenn Fisher
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The University of Denver hockey team has as good of a chance to play in the West Regional at the Pepsi Center as the Avalanche has in making the NHL playoffs.
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The Avs can only hope that the teams ahead of them collapse like DU.

The Pioneers, who a month ago were in excellent position to make the NCAA Tournament and have home-ice advantage at the West Regional, won just one of their past nine games, a 1-6-2 stretch that will likely keep the 2004 and 2005 national champions out of the 16-team national field the second straight year.

DU couldn't avoid another Magness Arena meltdown against a team that came in below .500 in the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs, this time against defending NCAA champion Wisconsin.

The No. 7-seeded Badgers on Saturday night beat the fourth-seeded Pioneers 2-1 to sweep the best-of-three series and advance to the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul, Minn.

All-American goalie Brian Elliott matched DU's Glenn Fisher with 35 saves, but the Badgers had a 2-0 lead to play with. For the second straight game, the Pioneers' rally from a two-goal deficit came up short, and Elliott was the hero.

"We are a good team," Elliott said of the Badgers (17-17-4), who must win the Final Five to make it to the NCAA Tournament. "We knew that Denver did not want to play us. We knew that we had a good shot at winning this."

Denver (21-15-4), a 3-2 loser in Game 1, is tied with Colorado College for 15th in the Pairwise Rankings, which mimics the method used by the NCAA selection committee. Once automatic bid are given to the six tournament champions, only the top 12 to 14 teams will be considered for at-large berths.

"I don't want to start commenting on (the NCAA Tournament) until it happens," DU coach George Gwozdecky said. "Our intention was to advance to the Final Five and win it....Now we have to sit back and cheer for certain teams to win and certain teams to lose, but I'm not ready to start talking about what might happen."

Elliott shut the door after freshman Rhett Rakhshani got DU within 2-1 midway through the second period. Elliott stopped DU's leading scorer, Brock Trotter, on a breakaway early in the third, and about five minutes later Trotter shot wide on another terrific chance from the doorstep.

DU was 0-for-5 on the power play and is 1-for-29 in its past six games.

The Badgers came in with their own problems, ranked 56th in offense among 59 Division I teams, but rose to the challenge.

"My hat's off to Wisconsin," Gwozdecky said. "This isn't luck. Wisconsin played a smart, smart series."

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