OMAHA, Neb. — If a tie is bittersweet, then a bad taste has been left in the mouths of both the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks and the Michigan Wolverines after their duel ended 4-4 on Friday night in a Central Collegiate Hockey Association grudge match.
Michigan captain Jed Ortmeyer redeemed himself for an own goal earlier in the game, scoring the tying tally in the final minute of regulation. However, the game had all the drama of “ER” without a viewer-satisfying conclusion for fans of either side.
“To walk away with a tie — that sucks, bottom line. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” Maverick winger Aaron Smith said.
UNO got on the board first. Michigan’s Jay Vancik skated in his own zone, looking to set a break patter. Maverick winger Andrew Wong had different plans, stripping Vancik clean and making a beeline toward the net. Wong took the shot, which Wolverine netminder Josh Blackburn saved. Vancik, skating back, attempted to clear the puck and fanned, leaving Jeff Filewich open for the roof job and a 1-0 UNO lead 10:30 into the match.
Late in the period, the Mavericks took a couple penalties, putting Michigan on the power play for 3:51 of the final 4:30 of the period. The Mavericks, however, escaped the period with the one-goal edge.
Momentum shifted in the second period. Michigan used the late first-period power plays to shift the drive in its favor as Mike Cammalleri got an early shorthanded breakaway, on which he failed to score on Mav goalie Dan Ellis. That scene will be used to foreshadow.
The Wolverines tied the game 11:37 into the second on a nice backhand rebound by Jason Ryznar. A shot by David Moss found Ellis’ arm pad, but the puck shot out to Ryznar, who shoveled the puck backhand over the goalie’s shoulder and in.
Cammalleri got his revenge 1:40 later. Again he came in on a break, and this time made it count. Cammalleri was sprung off an errant puck deflected off the dropped stick of Mav captain David Brisson. Brisson gave chase stickless, but was futile as Cammalleri scored far stick side on Ellis. Michigan dominated the second period outshooting UNO 15-4, and took a 2-1 lead.
“You just about didn’t want to have an intermission because we had the game going our way,” Michigan head coach Red Berenson said.
Omaha native Ortmeyer first became a factor in the game in the third period. Shortly after Blackburn had made a couple close-range stops on Shane Glover, there was a pileup in front of the net. The puck lay motionless in the crease, and Ortmeyer swept his stick to clear it. The attempt backfired and ended up pushing the puck into tie the game. Credit for the goal was given to UNO’s Anthony Adams.
“I think (Anthony) took it to the net, took a shot at it and Blackburn couldn’t get hold of the puck, and it rolled behind him, and I think Jed put it in,” Brisson said.
Then at 13:54 drama broke out, as four goals were scored in the last 6:06 of the game. The Mavericks scored a very text book give-and-go goal. Wong, Smith, and Mike Gabinet skated in 3-on-2. Gabinet fed Wong, who then sent a cross-ice pass to Smith leaving him with an unguarded goal.
UNO took a two-goal edge with Brisson’s sixth of the year.
With less than three minutes left in the game and down by two, Michigan pulled its goalie and began throwing the kitchen sink at the Maverick blue line.
On the power play, Michigan set up a typical umbrella and Cammalleri, sitting at the point, rifled a puck high glove side on Ellis and in. The lead was down to one, and it was time for Ortmeyer to redeem himself. His chance came with just 37 seconds left. Ortmeyer was left alone in front, and though it took three whacks, he squeezed it in to give Michigan the tie. The captain had turned on the light, and the passengers strapped in for overtime.
“After that play early in the period, I was hoping for any way I could get myself redeemed and I got the chance,” Ortmeyer said. “I had two or three shots on that thing before it went in.”
Just to add another element to the crazy game, the extra period saw a bit of National Hockey League style overtime, with the teams skating 4-on-4 after a couple penalties were called. The buzzer sounded, and although Michigan outshot UNO 47-21, both teams left with one point, and a bitter taste in the mouth.
The Maverick power play was 0-7, making UNO 2-32 in its last seven games.
“Our power play hasn’t done anything in the last I-don’t-know-how-long,” Smith said. “Special teams is such a huge part of the game in college hockey. We can win or lose games because of it, and right now, it’s not winning us any games.”
The two teams meet again Saturday to complete the series.