VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Big East top seed Denver used a 9-2 run in the second and third quarters to down fourth-seeded Villanova 16-9 in the Big East Semifinals on Thursday night at Villanova Stadium.
Denver finished the evening with four players producing five or more points. Denver's team-leader in points this season, Connor Cannizzaro, led the Pioneers in points for the eighth time in this campaign, tallying seven points on four goals and three assists. Cannizzaro produced the same output in the first meeting between the two programs on April 3.
Wesley Berg and Erik Adamson both had five points on four goals and one assist. Tyler Pace had a career-high five assists on the night. Pace's assist tally ties for the third-highest in a single game in Denver history.
Trevor Baptiste won 20 of 28 faceoffs on the evening, his fourth game with 20 faceoff wins this season. Ryan LaPlante finished with 10 saves, including five in the fourth quarter. The output was LaPlante's fourth double-digit save tally of the season, and the 19th of his career.
After scoring seven goals in the first half of the first meeting between the two teams, Berg completed his 26th-career hat trick in the first quarter, scoring all three of the Pioneers' (12-2) goals in the opening stanza. Villanova (6-8) opened the game on a 4-2 run after the two squads traded two goals apiece in the opening 8:06 of the period. The Wildcats took a 5-3 lead into the second quarter, the seventh time Denver has trailed after the first 15 minutes this season.
Denver used a 4-0 second quarter to take command.
Denver extended the run over a two-quarter span to 9-2 in the third quarter. Cannizzaro netted Denver's first man-down goal of the season, starting a 4-1 run to end the third period. Berg, Cannizzaro and Adamson all scored in the final 3:39 of the frame to extend Denver's second-half lead to 12-7 heading into the final 15 minutes of the second semifinal.
Baptiste scored his seventh of his rookie campaign, sandwiched around Cannizzaro's 43rd of the season and Adamson's 28th to give Denver its biggest lead of the night at 16-8. Danny Seibel scored the final goal of the night for Villanova with 4:15 to go in the quarter, but Denver advanced to its third consecutive conference tournament final, and its second in the Big East with the win.
The Pioneers doubled up Villanova in ground balls 30-15, and converted on 4 of 7 man-up opportunities in the game, scoring two man-up goals in both the second and fourth quarters.
No. 1 seed Denver will take on No. 2 seed Georgetown in Saturday's Big East Final.