OMAHA, Neb. — History means little when speaking of the current hockey season.
The Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks historically win at home.
The home team wins the games between the Mavericks and the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks.
A top-ten team should historically have little trouble with a conference bottom dweller.
None of these rang true as the Nanooks completed a road sweep of UNO Saturday night by winning round two, 3-1.
Two other focal points were clear Saturday night, as well. Special teams are extremely important, and a hot goaltender makes a world of difference.
To find the big story of this game, you need look no further than Preston McKay. The Mavericks’ only goal came on their 30th shot, and did little to deter the mission for the Nanooks that started from the goalie out.
“Preston was absolutely phenomenal tonight,” UAF head coach Guy Gadowsky said. “In any league that is so tight and so competitive, it is going to come down to goaltending.”
The story unfolds like a book.
Chapter one started off like any hockey game, with the faceoff. The first chapter of this one got interesting very quickly as Jared Sylvestre scored his fourth goal of the year to give Fairbanks a 1-0 lead 8:10 into the game. A good pad save by UNO goalie Dan Ellis sent the puck flying right back out to center, where Sylvestre sent it home.
The home team was down by one and the situation got critical. UNO’s Jason Jaworski was charged with a boarding call at 13:24. One minute and 24 seconds later Jeff Hoggan was given a double minor for roughing. A nice roundhouse to the melon of UAF’s Ryan Campbell drew that.
To add drama, Jaworski was again called for an infraction at 17:20 into the first. All in all, the Nanooks had 5:56 of straight power-play time, including 2:24 of five-on-three time with no luck and no lamp love — but that would turn out to be the lone Maverick bright spot.
The Nanooks garnered 21 shots to the Mavericks’ two in the first, yet only led 1-0.
“Anytime you have five power plays, and you outshoot them 21-2 and end the period with one goal, you can’t feel good about that,” Gadowsky said. “In the back of your mind you think it might come back to bite you.”
Chapter two began with the Mavericks’ first power play of the game, to no avail. Then the penalty bug bit again. UNO’s power play apparently used all its energy on the first period kill, because the Nanooks struck with a power-play goal. Ellis left another rebound and again a Nanook forward was there to light the lamp. Tom Harman stuffed the rebound home to put UAF up 2-0.
Chapter three saw the Mavericks attempt to comeback. The created for themselves several chances and a few odd-man ruches, but it was all for not. Until, that is, the Nanooks themselves took a penalty and UNO scored on the power play with less than seven minutes left. Aaron Smith was credited with the goal that came from the stick of David Brisson, and was deflected by either a skate or Smith’s stick.
“We fought like mad. I was pleased with the effort, but effort alone doesn’t win games,” head coach Mike Kemp said.
Fairbanks would have no part of the comeback. With the Mavericks charging, Bobby Andrews halted it with his fifth goal of the season, and the Nanooks’ second power-play goal of the game.
The goal couldn’t have come at a better time for UAF: by the end of the period, the UNO surge was so great that the Mavericks had overtaken UAF in shots on goal.
“You work hard on certain shifts, and then you don’t work hard on other shifts, guys are looking for other guys to do the job, its frustrating,” Hoggan said. “Coach can’t hold every guy’s hand.
“Home is where we should be playing our best hockey. Our fans come out to watch, and we basically don’t show,” Hoggan added.