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Denver finds its goaltending at the right time, advances to title game

Apr. 11—ST. PAUL, Minn. — In December, Denver's team save percentage was near the bottom in all of college hockey.

Starter Matt Davis had an .872 save percentage through his first five starts, then went out with an injury. Backup Freddie Halyk had an .883.

The Pioneers were generously handing out scoring opportunities and goals to their opponents.

Division-I newcomer Augustana scored five on Denver. Arizona State got six. North Dakota rallied from a 4-1 deficit and scored seven in a game. Western Michigan followed that up with a 12-goal weekend.

So, it may seem a little bit strange, but Denver is back in the NCAA national championship game thanks to its defending and goaltending.

Junior Matt Davis stopped 34 of 35 shots to lead Denver to a 2-1 overtime win over Boston University on Thursday in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals at Xcel Energy Center.

Tristan Broz, who grew up in the Twin Cities and played one season at the University of Minnesota, scored the winner at 11:09 of overtime to send the Pioneers into Saturday's final.

Denver is looking for its second national title in three years and 10th overall.

The Pioneers, the nation's highest-scoring team, are suddenly doing it on the other end of the ice.

After not playing a single 2-1 game during the regular season, Denver has won three in a row in the NCAA tournament — two in overtime.

Davis, who was not picked in the NHL Draft, has been the star.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder from Calgary stopped 46 of 47 in a double overtime win over UMass in the first round. He stopped 24 of 25 against Cornell in the regional final. Then, he allowed Denver to stay in Thursday's game while the Terriers dominated the opening 30 minutes.

Shots were 10-3 BU in the opening period and 19-6 Terriers with seven minutes left in the second.

"Matty Davis was excellent for us," Denver coach David Carle said. "He was the best player in the first period and in overtime."

In three NCAA tournament games, Davis has stopped 104 of 107 shots for a .972 save percentage.

"Big-time performances from him in three-straight games," Broz said. "It was awesome stuff."

Denver is 13-1-1 in the last 15 games, giving up an average of 2.07 goals per game. It's a major contrast from the first half of the season, when the Pioneers gave up 3.22 per game.

Davis, who returned from injury after Christmas break, has pushed his save percentage to .911 — 39 points higher than when he suffered his injury.

"He's been unbelievable," Denver forward Massimo Rizzo said. "He showed up when we needed him the most. We're super proud of him."