OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska-Omaha hopes the door on the stable has been blown off the hinges.
The Mavericks opened their 2000-2001 season with a 6-1 exhibition victory over Manitoba on Friday.
“It’s good to be back here,” Mavericks coach Mike Kemp said. “This was a good opportunity for us to get out and play somebody besides ourselves.”
Omaha opened the scoring 9:07 into the game on the five-on-three power play. Defenseman Ed Cassin fired a bullet from the blue line that beat Bisons goaltender Tim Winters, who had finally been scored upon after a barrage of saves. Jason White and Billy Pugliese set up the goal that gave UNO a 1-0 lead.
A second goal for UNO came at even strength just 2:02 later. Maverick sophomore Joe Pereira did the brunt of the work by skating the puck around the net and feeding forward Shane Glover across the crease. Glover put the puck home for a 2-0 lead.
Before the first period was over, Manitoba got on the board as well. Deep in their own zone, the Maverick defense turned the puck over to Bison forward Mark Gaudet, who skated in and beat UNO goaltender Rodney McLeod up top.
Pereira took the blame for the mental lapse.
“I honestly believed I saw Shane Glover there for one second, when actually he was on the other side of the rink,” he said. “At least I can laugh it off now.”
Compared to the first period, the second period was fairly quiet. A couple penalties were dished out here and there, and midway through the period UNO switched goaltenders from McLeod to freshman Dan Ellis.
That second period proved to be the calm before the storm, as the Mavericks came out blazing in the third. A late second-period penalty on Manitoba’s Mike Reimer gave UNO a power play going into the third. Omaha capitalized with its second power-play goal of the night for a 3-1 lead. Mavericks forward Alan Carr was left all alone in front of the net when two Bisons defenders swarmed Glover as he skated to the net.
In less than two minuets, that lead would be stretched to 5-1. The Mavericks got a redirection goal from Pereira 2:01 into the third, and David Brisson added to UNO’s lead with a flutter shot that sailed over Winters’ head.
“Eight minutes into that third period, we just stopped competing hard, and you just can’t do that against a team like the Mavericks,” Manitoba coach Mike Sirant said.
The game got choppy as the third period progressed. Winters took a shot in the shoulder, and later took UNO forward Dave Noel-Benier directly, sending Winters to the ice in pain on both occasions. Both Manitoba and UNO began racking up penalties in the late stages.
UNO did get one last golden opportunity on another five-on-three power play, in which the Mavericks got their sixth and final goal of the match. A heavily screened Winters could only watch as Maverick Greg Zanon wristed the puck by him.
One of the problems that the Mavericks had last season was their penalty killing. In the exhibition, however, UNO did not give up any power-play goals, and in fact had a few shorthanded chances, including one breakaway.
“Hopefully this is a pre-cursor of what is to come of our special teams,” Kemp said.
The Mavericks’ highly heralded rookie class showed itself well during the match. Goaltender Dan Ellis did not allow a goal in his half of a game of work. Rookie Andrew Wong began his UNO career with two assists.
“Our rookies played really well,” Kemp said. “Wong made things happen like we knew he would, and Mike Gabinet did an admirable job. Jason Jaworski was outstanding and I was happy with Scott Turner’s work as well.”
For UNO, four players had two-point nights. The Mavericks outshot Manitoba 44-23. Manitoba is the only team that UNO has played all four seasons of its existence, with this being the biggest win.
The Mavericks will host the Maverick Stampede next weekend, with Niagara, Boston College and Notre Dame coming to Omaha.