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Colorado College knocks off No. 3 Denver in NCHC semifinals

Kaidan Mbereko makes 23 saves, Hunter McKown scores on the power play to help the Tigers advance to their first Frozen Faceoff championship game.

Denver vs. Colorado College
Denver forward Jared Wright (18) and defenseman Sean Behrens (2) battle with Colorado College forward Hunter McKown in a semifinal matchup on Friday, March 17, 2023 at the 2023 NCHC Frozen Faceoff at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Contributed / Jim Rosvold / NCHC

ST. PAUL — Colorado College pulled off its third straight win in the NCHC playoffs to advance to its first Frozen Faceoff championship game.

Kaidan Mbereko made 23 saves, the Tigers were 4-for-4 on the penalty kill and Hunter McKown scored a power-play goal to lead the way to a 1-0 win over third-ranked Denver in the conference semifinals on Friday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center.

Colorado College (13-21-3) will play the winner between St. Cloud State (22-12-3) and North Dakota (18-14-6) for the conference playoff title at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The winner of that game will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I tournament.

The Tigers got the lone goal of the game on the power play on a nice passing play that finished with Nicklas Andrews making a good cross-ice pass to Hunter McKown. McKown caught the pass on the faceoff dot to the right of goalie Magnus Chrona. He took a couple of strides and then beat Chrona with a wrist shot over his glove at 13:22.

It was the team-leading 21st goal of the season and nation-leading 13th on the power play for McKown, a junior from San Jose, Calif.


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A bad sign for Denver came with 10:32 left in the third period. Magnus Chrona, the NCHC Goaltender of the Year, came out of the game with a lower body injury and did not return. Chrona, a Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick, missed the previous four games with an apparent injury. Chrona left the ice and went into the locker room after he came off.

Colorado College was 4-for-4 on the penalty kill and held Denver to six shots with the man advantage. The Pioneers went into the game second in the nation on the power play (27.2%).

It was the fourth time this season that Denver has been shut out. The Pioneers went into the game fifth in the nation in offense (3.9 goals-per-game) and 10th in shots-per-game (32.4).

The win snaps an 11-game losing streak for Colorado College to Denver. The Tigers' last win over the Pioneers was Jan. 1, 2021.

Colorado College 1, Denver 0

CC 0-1-0—1
DU 0-0-0—0

First period scoring — None. Penalties — CC, Hunter McCown (slashing) 1:41; CC, Noah Laba (slashing) 18:48.

Second period scoring — 1. CC, Hunter McCown 21 (Nicklas Andrews 12, Noah Laba 11) 13:22 (pp). Penalties — DU, Tristan Broz (high-sticking) 6:22, DU, Brett Edwards (tripping) 12:13; CC, Jack Millar (tripping) 14:01.


Third period scoring — None. Penalties — CC, Laba (holding) 4:09; DU, Sean Behrens (boarding) 6:27; DU, Carter Mazur (slashing) 19:23.

Goalie saves — CC, Kaidan Mbereko 5-8-10—23 (0 GA); D, Magnus Chrona 12-2-6—20 (1 GA); Matt Davis x-x-5—5 (0 GA, in at 10:32 of 3rd).

Penalties-minutes — CC 4-8; DU 4-8.

Power-play goals, opportunities (shots) — CC 1-4 (2 shots); DU 0-4 (6 shots).

Faceoffs — DU 35-25.

Referees — Dan Dreger, Brandon Schmitt.

Linesemen — Dana Penkivech, Jeff Schultz.

Three stars of the game — 1. Mbereko (CC), 2. McCown (CC), 3. Bryan Yoon (CC).

Mick Hatten is a reporter and editor for Forum News Service and helps manage TheRinkLive.com, a website dedicated to hockey. He began working for Forum Communications in November 2018 and has covered St. Cloud State University hockey since 2010. A graduate of St. Cloud State, he has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist and has been a youth hockey coach since 2014. mhatten@forumcomm.com

For more coverage of St. Cloud and the surrounding communities, check out St. Cloud Live.
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