First collegiate goal a big one for DU’s Larraza

From …

Denver 4, Minnesota Duluth 3 (2OT)

SAINT PAUL — Zac Larraza is a Denver freshman from Scottsdale, Ariz., whose most prominent role in Friday’s first semifinal at the WCHA Final Five was to serve a major penalty for Denver teammate Larkin Jacobson.

Until the second 20-minute overtime, that is. Then, after both teams had played to exhaustion in the longest game in WCHA playoff history, Larraza got on the Xcel Energy Center ice and scored his first collegiate goal to send the Pioneers into the playoff final with a 4-3 victory over Minnesota-Duluth.

The play started as a rush by Denver’s fourth line, and freshman center Matt Tabrum fired a shot from the right side that glanced off the right pipe and out toward the blue line. Defenseman John Ryder shot again.

“Ryder threw it at the net and it hit me in the chest,” said Larraza, who let the puck drop in front of him, pulled it to his right as goaltender Kenny Reiter went down, and then flicked a backhander into the open goal. He did it with the poise and certainty that a veteran scorer might have shown. Instead, Larraza was dressed as Denver’s 13th forward — a spare after the four regular lines.

“That was the biggest goal I’ve scored,” said Larraza. To say nothing of the only one. “I got about 10 shifts in the game, so I was still fresh at the end.”

Officially, the goal came at 8:14 of the second 20-minute overtime, which means it was after 38:14 of sudden-death play, making the game’s duration 98 minutes, 14 seconds, breaking the league playoff record, and leaving 12,804 fans nearly as drained as the players. Another record set in the game was the 67 saves by Denver goaltender Sam Brittain, who withstood UMD’s determined comeback from a 3-0 deficit, which featured the Bulldogs outshooting Denver 70-49.

The victory sends Denver (25-12-4) into Saturday’s championship game against the winner of Friday night’s Minnesota-North Dakota second semifinal. UMD goes home 24-9-6, but certain to have a high seed in next week’s NCAA tournament field.

“We dug ourselves a hole at the start, but we did a lot of good things in the second half of the game, and it became a helluva hockey game,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “Both teams had a lot of chances and both goalies made some tremendous saves.”

North Dakota 6, Minnesota 3

Minnesota out shot North Dakota 12-2 in the first period and took a 3-0 and was in complete control.

But from then on, it was all North Dakota.

Derek Forbort, a sophomore defenseman for North Dakota, flung a deflected shot from the right point that eluded Gopher goaltender Kent Patterson at 14:51, but at 3-1, the third period started with no illusions for the Sioux.

But at 5:31 of the third, Michael Parks went to the net and had a pass deflect in off his skate to cut it to 3-2. Exactly 30 seconds later, Brock Nelson blocked a high bouncing puck and fired it in to tie the game 3-3.

The Fighting Sioux fans in the crowd went crazy, and the Sioux poured it on.

Mario Lamoureux scored at 9:42, then Corbvan Knight scored on North Dakota’s only power-play chanbce, at 10:19, and Lamoureux scored again by jamming in a rebund at 16:10.

About paisleyhockey
I am a freelance writer specializing in sports with about 25 years of professional experience.

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