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TAMPA, Fla. – Nick Schmaltz scored the winning goal for North Dakota with 57 seconds left to advance the Fighting Hawks to the national championship game after six consecutive semifinal losses.

Schmaltz stopped the puck in front of Denver goalie Tanner Jaillet’s pad and on his backhand tapped a shot into the open left side of the net for the goal.

 

Rhett Gardiner scored an empty-net goal with two seconds left to seal a 4-2 victory.

A fluke goal had tied the game for the Pioneers at 2-2 at 10:51 of the third period. Defenseman Matt VanVoorhis attempted a centering pass to Colin Staub in front of the crease. North Dakota’s Gage Ausmus extended his stick to interrupt the pass, but the puck deflected along the stick and underneath Fighting Hawks goalie Cam Johnson.

 

Denver got on the board when defenseman Will Butcher fired a wrist shot inside the left post from the top of the left faceoff circle for his ninth goal of the season. Matt Marcinew won the draw cleanly across to Grant Arnold, who deflected it back to Butcher.

 

After a scoreless first period which saw a combined eight shots on goal, North Dakota’s Drake Caggiula scored his 22nd and 23rd goals of the season on his first two shots of the game. The senior left wing intercepted a pass along the wall in the Denver zone and fired a rising wrist shot inside the right post and past the glove of Jaillet to make it 2-0 at 6:15 of the second.

Caggiula’s first goal came at 1:03 of the second period. Coltyn Sanderson entered the offensive zone on the left side and quickly fired a cross-ice pass to Brock Boeser as he headed toward the top of the right face-off circle. From the hash marks, Caggiula wristed Boeser’s feed high over Jaillet.

 

North Dakota is now 26-0-2 this season when leading after two periods.

USCHO.com will have complete coverage of this game later this evening.