Amherst, Mass. - Junior forward Gabe Gauthier registered his first career hat trick to lead the Denver Pioneers to a 4-2 win against New Hampshire on Sunday afternoon in the NCAA Northeast Regional final at the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass.
With the win, the Pioneers advance to face WCHA rival Colorado College in the Frozen Four on April 7 in Columbus, Ohio.
Denver dominated much of the first period generating an 18-6 shots on goal advantage with UNH freshman goaltender Kevin Regan making early saves on a one-timer by senior forward Kevin Ulanski, a wraparound try by sophomore forward J.D. Corbin, and making another stop on Ulanski as the Pioneers came in on a 2-on-1.
The Pioneers would eventually grab the first goal of the game when Gauthier picked up his 21st goal of the season at 13:42. It was just a great individual effort by Gauthier as he battled his way off the back boards to the front of the net. His first shot was blocked but his second shot found the top right corner to give Denver a 1-0 lead.
The Wildcats would respond less than a minute later to tie the game. Freshman defenseman Brad Flaishans' shot from the mid-point went wide of the cage, but the puck caromed off the back wall towards the left post. Sophomore forward Jacob Micflikier, who had been knocked down at the side of the net, gathered the loose puck and shoveled it in while on his knees to make it a 1-1 game at 14:36 of the opening period.
Both teams had multiple power-plays in the second period. For the Wildcats, senior forward Preston Callander put a backhander off the left post. On the same man advantage, another bid was set up by sophomore forward Brett Hemingway who centered to senior forward Sean Collins, but his shot was stopped by DU freshman netminder Peter Mannino and the rebound shot by senior forward Tyson Teplitsky went high and wide.
UNH also generated some chances while the Pioneers were on consecutive power plays near the midpoint of the game. First junior forward Brian Yandle sent in Collins on a clear shorthanded breakaway, but his backhand deke was stopped by the left pad of Mannino.
On the next DU power play, it was sophomore forward Daniel Winnik who got a shorthanded break, but he was pulled down and was awarded a penalty shot. Winnik showed great patience on the penalty shot, pulling the puck back to the forehand as Mannino committed, and he slid the puck into the open cage to give UNH a 2-1 lead at 13:27 of the second period.
Denver would capitalize on the power play before to send the game into the third period tied at 2-2. Sophomore defenseman Matt Carle standing at the left point fed a pass to sophomore forward Adrian Veideman along the left boards. Veideman found Gauthier in the slot, and he potted his second goal of the game with 1:58 left in the second frame.
Both goaltenders continued their strong play in the third period, but Denver would crack through with the game-winner with 3:43 left in regulation.
A UNH defender played the puck back up the right wing boards where it was picked off by Carle who sent a shot on net. The rebound was poked at by senior forward Luke Fulghum and the puck squirted to freshman forward Ryan Dingle who picked up his sixth goal of the season.
UNH would get a chance to tie soon after when Hemingway put a rebound effort off the right post, but Gauthier would complete the hat trick with an empty-netter at 19:37 to close out the scoring.
Mannina picked up the win with 31 saves in the Pioneer net. Regan stopped 42 shots for New Hampshire.
Gauthier was named the Northeast Regional Most Outstanding Player. He was joinded on the All-Tournament Team by forwards Winnik and Ulansky, defensemen Teplitsky and Carle, and goaltender Regan.
Denver improves its record to 30-9-2, while New Hampshire closes its season with a record of 26-11-5.