Denver (21-6-1 overall, 16-4-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) notched two goals each in the first and second periods, putting UW down 4-2 late in the second period. Despite the fact that sophomore forward Robbie Earl added a goal at 18:31 in the second, two minutes after Denver's fourth goal, Wisconsin (20-8-1, 15-6-0) could not overcome the deficit.
With the loss the Badgers fell three points behind the Pioneers for second place in the WCHA standings. More importantly, they lost an opportunity to make up ground on first-place Colorado College, who lost 4-3 in overtime to St. Cloud State Friday.
As a result, Denver (33 points) has charged to within a point of the Tigers (16-5-2 WCHA, 23-5-3 overall) for the top spot in the race for the McNaughton Cup, while Wisconsin remains four back with 30 points. The Badgers and Pioneers have each played two fewer games that Colorado College.
Earl, who scored in his seventh straight game, opened the evening's scoring in Denver just 1:48 into the contest, taking a rebound and tapping it into an open net. Denver sophomore goaltender Glenn Fisher was caught behind the net at the time, attempting to clear the puck up the boards, when Badger freshman defender Josh Engel stopped it and took a shot on goal. Freshman forward Joe Pavelski deflected the shot to the cross bar and it bounced down to Earl, who tapped it in.
Denver senior forward Luke Fulghum, however, responded with a one-timer goal at 5:54 into the first and junior defenseman Brett Skinner put the Pioneers ahead 2-1 at 11:03.
Wisconsin, though, evened the score at 2-2 just one second before the first intermission, when junior forward Adam Burish netted a short-handed mark at 19:59.
Denver freshman forward Paul Stastny put the Pioneers up for good on a backhanded shot 9:09 in the second. Senior forward Jon Foster added to that lead at 16:44, scoring the eventual game-winner. Earl then swooped down and scored his second goal of the night on a four-on-four but it was not enough for UW.
Fisher made 23 saves in net while Wisconsin senior netminder Bernd Bruckler had 29. Both teams suffered on the power play, with the Badgers going 0-for-5 and Denver going 0-for-2. The teams face off again at Magness Arena Saturday night at 8:05 Central.