CHICAGO — Jarid Lukosevicius scored three goals in the second period, and Denver beat Minnesota Duluth 3-2 on Saturday night for the NCAA championship.
Troy Terry had two assists and Tanner Jaillet made 38 saves as Denver moved into a tie with North Dakota for second on the NCAA list with eight men’s hockey titles, trailing only Michigan with nine. The Pioneers (33-7-4) also made it to the Frozen Four last year, but lost 4-2 to the Fighting Hawks in the semifinals — providing inspiration for this year’s run to the program’s first championship since 2005.
Lukosevicius’ three goals in a 7:39 span finished off the first hat trick in an NCAA final since Denver coach Jim Montgomery accomplished the feat in Maine’s 5-4 victory against Lake Superior State. It also helped Montgomery become only the fourth man to win the championship as a head coach and player.
Lukosevicius was named most outstanding player of the Frozen Four.
Alex Iafallo and Riley Tufte scored for Minnesota Duluth (28-7-7), and freshman Hunter Miska had 25 stops. The Bulldogs, the tournament’s No. 2 overall seed behind only the Pioneers, dropped just two of their last 21 games.
The NCAA final served as the 208th meeting between the longtime rivals and members of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. They split two entertaining games in Denver in December, with the Pioneers taking the opener 4-3 and the Bulldogs winning 3-1 on the second night.
Together again at the home of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, they put on another good show — especially in the second.
Denver jumped in front with two goals in 16 seconds. First, Michael Davies’ shot went off Lukosevicius and into the top part of the net at 4:44. Then Terry made an outstanding drive to the net from the left wing corner and Lukosevicius slammed it home for his 15th of his sophomore season.
After Iafallo tipped Joey Anderson’s power-play pass by Jaillet at 7:16, Lukosevicius struck again for the Pioneers. Terry tried to find Dylan Gambrell in front and the puck popped out to Lukosevicius, who buried the open look at 12:23.
The Bulldogs responded with a strong push and nearly got another goal when Neal Pionk flipped the puck by a charging Jaillet in the final seconds of the second, but it went wide.
The game was delayed early in the third when Minnesota center Jared Thomas and Denver defenseman Tariq Hammond got tangled up, and Hammond’s right leg got pinned against the boards behind the Pioneers net.
Hammond, who had a goal and two assists in Denver’s semifinal win against Notre Dame, was taken off on a stretcher. The Pioneers surrounded him for a brief moment on his way off.
When the game resumed, Minnesota Duluth pushed frantically to get back in the game. Avery Peterson had a shot go off the right post, but Tufte was there to knock it in at 14:39.
The Bulldogs controlled most of the final minutes, but couldn’t find the tying goal. The Pioneers poured out to the ice after the final seconds ticking off, ditching their helmets and gloves for the celebration.