OMAHA, Neb. — Ferris State had never beaten Nebraska-Omaha. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, hockey isn’t played in the past tense.
Powered by the heroic play of Chris Kunitz (2G, A), Rob Collins (3A), and Troy Milam (2G), who racked up a combined eight points, Ferris State drubbed the Mavericks at 7-2 at the Civic Auditorium.
“You don’t get many like that, so we should enjoy it,” Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels said.
The Bulldogs come out of the gate foaming at the mouths. They bit UNO for 18 shots in the first period, scratched and clawed their way to a 4-1 lead, and went to the locker room after 20 minutes with the win already secure.
Daniels, however, said that it could have been different.
“We were up 3-1 in the first and they hit a pipe. Now, that puck goes in, and it’s a whole different game,” he said.
Scoring was opened very early on by FSU defenseman Simon Mangos. A Dan Ellis stick save rebound was left on the ice just long enough for Mangos to muscle it in for Ferris’ first of three power-play goals.
On Ferris’ second goal, there was no question about the puck going in, yet there was deliberation at the scorer’s box. Mike Kinnie had clearly given the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead, but the light didn’t go on. When the ice cleared, the puck came to center, the scoreboard read 2-0, and Kinnie had his fourth goal of the year.
UNO then pulled within one goal, and broke its 0-for-27 power-play drought. Jason Jaworski rifled a shot just outside the slot that was tipped downward by Shane Glover and into the net behind Bulldog gatekeeper John DeCaro.
Just when UNO thought it had gained stride, the Bulldogs tightened the leash. Kunitz got his fist of two consecutive goals as he was left wide open to store a rebound on the top shelf. His second came just 2:46 seconds later on the power play. FSU defenseman Matt York took a light shot on net, which Kunitz sliced up over Ellis.
At that point, 9:16 into the game, Ferris had four goals. UNO had three shots. The end of the first period was the most intense part of the game, and one of the few bright spots for UNO. Ferris was given four minutes of power-play time on an interference call with two more tacked on for unsportsmanlike conduct on Daniel Samuelsson.
During that, Maverick winger Dan Hacker got two for hooking, giving the Bulldogs a full two minute five-on-three. The four-minute melee included some flashy glove saves, a stoning of Kunitz, and a hit pipe, but ultimately a Maverick kill.
The second period saw a very different Maverick squad. Head coach Mike Kemp sent a message to his team about the poor performance, and benched the teams top two scorers, Andrew Wong and Aaron Smith.
“This is not something we haven’t done before. We’ve been preaching a work ethic, and consistently they haven’t done the thing we need them to do,” Kemp said.
This left the Mavericks in a desperate situation, given their lack of depth due to injury. UNO was forced to experiment with lines, and had players matched with others that they hadn’t been in a game situation with before.
This did little to cure the problem for the Mavericks. Ferris State took a 5-1 lead on a notable effort by Troy Milam. In the slot, Milam deked a Mav defender and slid the puck far side on Ellis.
“We didn’t generate as much offense because we didn’t have the puck as much,” Kemp said. “They were taking it to us, beating us to loose pucks, beat us up ice, and in those circumstances, you don’t get the shots.”
Milam added another goal in third, Ferris’ third power play tally of the game. After allowing that sixth goal, Ellis was pulled in favor of Brian Haaland, whose college goaltending experience consisted of 27 minutes against Findlay last season.
Gus Groslie scored for UNO to make it a 6-2 game and with five minutes left, the Mavericks choose to go without a goalie in a desperate attempt to make the game a game. The plan ended with an empty-net goal, and a 7-2 final.
“Feels really good to take a big win away from them. It’s a real big game for us. Everything keeps rolling over for us,” Kunitz said.
UNO did get two power-play goals to end a 0-27 lack of performance, which was one of few positives. “There is always a silver lining,” Kemp said.