OMAHA, Neb. — Ryan Miller had allowed just four goals in four games. That was until the No. 12 Mavericks doubled that total with a 4-3 win over the top-ranked Spartans Friday night in Omaha.
UNO got two goals in the last three minuets of the game to score a rare come-from-behind victory over MSU.
Michigan State dominated early. The Spartans rattled off the first 10 shots of the game, and had a 10-0 advantage in that category halfway through the first period, but it was Nebraska-Omaha that struck first.
Maverick forward Aaron Smith rushed the net, but Miller steered the puck aside. Smith regained control in the corner and centered the puck. Miller dove after the centering feed, but UNO’s Shane Glover got there in time to sweep the puck in to give the Mavericks a 1-0 edge 9:32 into the first.
On the power play just over two minutes later, UNO scored again to take a 2-0 lead on MSU. Jeff Hoggan, the Mavericks’ leading scorer, batted home a rebound Miller left that came from the blade of Andrew Wong.
After that second goal, Miller again put up his shield, and didn’t allow another goal until the Spartans had the lead.
“We didn’t fold the tent when we went down 2-0,” MSU Head Coach Ron Mason said. “Our guys battled back, battled back, and got ahead.”
Before the first period ended, the Spartans would pull within one. A defensive turnover left MSU’s Mike Lalonde alone at the blue line. Lalonde snapped the disk top shelf over Dan Ellis’ shoulder for the goal.
Both teams came out of for the second period playing fast, physical hockey. While the second period ebbed and flowed, the scored remained 2-1 Mavericks until early in the third.
Just 2:11 into the third period, the Spartans tied the match. Duncan Keith scored his second goal of the year when a free puck came to him through a mess of crease traffic. Keith sent a grounder to the net, which squeaked in.
The lead changed late in the third. Michigan State fought hard to clean up a rebound shot at the side of the cage. Brian Maloney was credited with the goal, and the Spartans found themselves with the advantage with just 3:33 left in the game. With Miller playing well at this point, and the Spartan reputation of not giving up a lead, things might have seemed secure.
“Normally when we get ahead, we expect to win,” Mason said.
UNO would have none of it.
Hard work paid off for Maverick forward Gus Groslie who rammed in a goal five-hole on Miller. Groslie came from the side of the net, out of the corner and attempted a short-side stuff. When that didn’t work he slid the puck between Miller’s leg pads, and the Omaha crowd erupted. The game was again tied, and there was just 2:44 left.
“The thought of losing never crossed our minds. We went back out there, and thought we could tire them out down low, and that’s what we did,” Groslie said.
Shane Glover became the hero with his second goal of the game. The one-time pass came from Andrew Wong who blindly sent a backhanded pass toward the crease. Glover happened to be streaking in, and tipped the game-winner home, and Nebraska-Omaha had claimed its first ever win over a top ranked team.
“We expected to win tonight,” Glover said. “We showed some grit, and had to come back, and we won it.”
Maverick net minder Dan Ellis looked more sharp than he had thus far this season, denying 31 of 34 shots, including a momentum-changing glove save in the third period. The Glover-Wong-Smith line for UNO registered eight points, and was key in the win.
“Unbelievable effort by our guys tonight. Michigan State did not back down, and were able to forge back the lead, and it was just a tremendous win for us,” UNO coach Mike Kemp said.
Notes: The last time Michigan State was in Omaha, was UNO’s CCHA opening series, in which MSU pounded the Mavs 6-1, 6-2. Since then, UNO is the only team to have beaten the Spartans two years in a row at Munn Ice Arena.