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College Hockey:
Ellis Backstops Mavericks To Series Split With Buckeyes

— Shane Glover had three points and Andrew Wong, Jeff Hoggan, and Greg Zanon each had a goal and an assist as the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks downed the Ohio State Buckeyes 4-1, earning two points and a road split in their weekend series in Columbus.

Dan Ellis made 36 saves in the contest and 60 in the two-game set, as he allowed just two goals on the weekend.

“I thought Danny came out and played very, very well,” said UNO head coach Mike Kemp. “I don’t want to take anything away from [OSU goalie] Mike Betz because I thought he played extremely well both nights as well.

“But Ellis, as long as he’s playing well, he’ll give us a chance to win. Tonight he did that for us because he kept us in there during that first period when he was the team. That allowed us then in the second period to regroup and in the third period play the way we can play.”

With the exception of one key breakdown, the Buckeyes dominated the first period, outshooting the Mavericks 19-4 and forcing most of the play into the UNO defensive end. The lone exception to that dominance wound up in the Buckeye net, a shorthanded tally for Jeff Hoggan to give the Mavs the early 1-0 lead.

After stealing the puck from the Buckeye defense in the neutral zone, Greg Zanon passed up to Shane Glover on the left wing as Glover and Hoggan were flying into the OSU zone two-on-one with Scott May back for the Bucks. Glover shuffled a pass across the slot to Hoggan, who beat Betz clean on the short side at 2:30.

It took the Buckeyes 16 minutes to answer, but not for lack of effort or opportunity. Dan Ellis came up big against the Dave Steckel-R.J. Umberger twosome several times, including on the same power play during which UNO scored. Just after the Mavericks went up 1-0, the Buckeyes roared into action at the other end, peppering Ellis close in. The sophomore UNO netminder was up to the challenge, especially when he stopped Steckel’s initial shot and Umberger’s rebound as the Omaha penalty was expiring.

Near the 14-minute mark in the first, Ellis foiled Steckel — with a little help from the post — when the Buckeye skated in alone, through, and around several Mavericks, switching from back- to forehand, and finally snaking across the crease from left to right to backhand the puck at the net. Ellis mirrored Steckel’s highlight-reel journey, taking away Steckel’s angle near the post. Steckel tried to force the shot into the narrow gap left by Ellis’s skate, but found metal instead.

“Ellis is a good goalie,” said Steckel. “He’s right up there with Ryan Miller, regardless of what anyone thinks. They’ve got a good, solid defensive corps, too, so that makes for a lot of confidence back there.”

OSU tied it up at 18:30 on Daymen Bencharski’s power-play goal, with help from Mike McCormick and Doug Andress. Andress ricocheted the puck off the boards behind the net, where McCormick picked it up and passed short to Bencharski, who practically willed the puck past Ellis at point-blank range, banking the shot off the goaltender’s leg. The period ended 1-1.

“Obviously, I wasn’t really pleased at the end of the first period,” said Kemp. “In fact, Coach [David] Quinn went in there and did a real good job of ranting and raving, and got some of their attention. I didn’t think in the first period that we came out and played the kind of hockey that we are capable of playing. I thought Ohio State absolutely had us on the ropes.”

When the first 20 minutes ended, so did OSU’s dominance. Greg Zanon made it 2-1 at 2:03 in the second, Andrew Wong made it 3-1 at 5:24 in the third, and Glover had the empty-net goal at 18:33 to cap the game.

Kemp credited a few adjustments between the first and second periods for UNO’s turnaround. “I just think we did a much better job of playing the rush, and our support coming back through the neutral ice was much better. Consequently, we were able to deny a lot of [Buckeye] quality chances because of the play of our defense and forwards coming back.”

Steckel gave the Mavericks credit for turning up the heat after the first period, but neither Steckel nor Umberger shied away from taking blame.

“In the second period they came out a lot harder, and we didn’t come out as hard,” said Steckel. “We made mental mistakes.”

Umberger added, “I wasn’t too happy with our play in any period. We could have played much better. I don’t think we brought the game today at all.”

The Buckeyes were 1-for-7 on the power play, while the Mavericks went 0-for-1 on their lone power-play ^ which lasted for exactly five seconds. After the game, Kemp bristled when asked about the Mavericks’ play on special teams.

“Don’t call it ‘special teams.’ Call it ‘penalty killing,’” said Kemp. “I didn’t know we were the Broad Street Bullies — or would that be the Dodge Street Bullies?”

With the win, the Mavericks improve to 6-2-0, while the Buckeyes are 3-2-1. Next up for UNO is a pair of road games in Kalamazoo against Western Michigan, Nov. 9-10. Ohio State hosts Wayne State for the same dates.

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