OMAHA, Neb. — Northern Michigan goaltender Tuomas Tarkki was all smiles Friday night after he pulled out his first conference win, a 2-1 victory over Nebraska-Omaha. Before the game, however, was another story.
Tarkki, a sophomore, was told he would get the start on Tuesday as staring netminder Craig Kowalski was sidelined for what coach Walt Kyle described as “breaking a team rule.”
Coming in, Tarkki said, “I was nervous. I was kind of worried — their first shot hit the post.” But he settled down “after the first couple saves.”
Said UNO coach Mike Kemp, “We didn’t even acknowledge (the change). He’s a goaltender. We didn’t talk about it at all. They scored on a power play and we didn’t; that was the difference.”
Each period of the game saw just one goal as Northern bookended the Mavericks with one in the first and the game-winner in the third.
Maverick winger Aaron Smith preceded that play with a shot from just outside the goal. The goal horn sounded, and the puck went in … Tarkki’s glove.
On the counter, Jimmy Jackson and Nathan Oystrick skated in with Mike Stutzel trailing. Stutzel as well was gloved, by Dan Ellis, but the Wildcat forward roofed the rebound.
Though the Mavericks outshot the Wildcats 27-19, UNO’s only goal came at 8:36 of the second period. David Brisson scored his fifth goal of the season on a wraparound goal that slid far-side.
Tarkki turned away 11 of 12 shots in the second and six more in the third to preserve the win.
“I knew he was nervous, but I don’t think he showed it,” Stutzel said. “We expected to be tied or down going into the third period and win it there, and that’s what happened.”
While on the power play, Bryce Cockburn took a crease-cross feed from Stutzel and buried the game winner 2:11 into the third period.
The Mavericks fell to 3-7-1 on the year as Northern Michigan improved to 7-4-1.
“I was pleased with the effort,” Kemp said. “It’s frustrating because we outshoot them and I thought they deserved a better fate, deserved a reward for the work they did.”
This was the third one-goal loss in a row for UNO, still struggling and searching.
“We’re still missing something,” UNO forward Scotty Turner said. “Once we find that, we’ll start turning it around. Tonight was an improvement.”