Denver’s Tanner Jaillet, right, deflects a shot on goal as Providence’s Brandon Tanev, center, and Denver’s Nick Neville, left, look for a rebound during the second period of their NCAA East Regional game. (Steven Senne, The Associated Press)PROVIDENCE, R.I. — If nothing else, the Denver Pioneers wanted to be a “hard out.” Captain Grant Arnold said massive disappointment from not winning the national championship would be tempered by playing well in defeat.
Maybe DU played too hard, because a massive neutral-zone check by its best player led to the Pioneers’ downfall.
DU gave it all it had Sunday in a 4-1 loss to Providence College in the NCAA Tournament East Regional final. The Friars, who added two empty-net goals after breaking a 1-1 tie with 5:01 to left, advance to their first Frozen Four since 1985.
Providence defenseman Tom Parisi scored the game-winning goal on the power play at 14:59, and in the last minute of senior Joey LaLeggia’s major penalty for contact to the head. LaLeggia, the Pioneers’ best player who scored their lone goal, made a big center-ice hit on Steven McParland and was ejected with 9:23 to go in a 1-1 game at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
Just before the game-winning goal, DU’s Evan Janssen clanged a shorthanded shot off the Friars’ goal post. Providence called its timeout and scored off the ensuing offensive faceoff.
“I was just trying to impede him from getting to the middle of the ice,” LaLeggia said of McParland, who was shaken but not seriously injured. “I stepped up, definitely didn’t intend to hit him in the head. I don’t know what the referees saw but all I know is I did not intend to hit him in the head. But I haven’t seen the replay. I don’t think I’ve ever got a hit to the head before.”
LaLeggia, a 2014 All-American who won every major individual National Collegiate Hockey Conference award for a defenseman, and was the NCHC player of the year, is expected to sign with the Edmonton Oilers this week. Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish and president Kevin Lowe were at the game.
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