OMAHA, Neb. — While most people were still locating their seats at Qwest Center Omaha, there were two goals on the board in the first minute of the second game of the Maverick Stampede.
What began as a shootout ended wildly as Wisconsin’s Dan Boeser scored in overtime to win 4-3 and advance to the tournament’s championship Saturday evening against Maine.
“Always nice to win, it’s a little more special in overtime.” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. “The players took what was given and showed some chemistry tonight.”
Host Nebraska-Omaha scored first, just 21 seconds into the game, when Scott Parse chopped down a Wisconsin clear, springing a 2-on-1 for the Mavericks. Andrew Wong fed Alex Nikiforuk cross-ice for the goal.
Just 30 seconds later the Badgers knotted the score when A.J. Degenhardt stuffed home a feed from Nick Licari.
The two teams battled for dominance through the first, and Wisconsin took a couple penalties at the end of the period, giving UNO a 5-on-3 power play to start the second to no avail.
UNO and Wisconsin spent the second period trading penalties and the Mavericks even got another 5-on-3, for 1:35, but had a goal waved off.
“That’s where the game was won and lost. We had our chances. We had a couple 5-on-3 opportunities, you need to take advantage and we just didn’t,” UNO coach Mike Kemp said. “Hopefully with time that power play will get moving that puck a little better.”
The Badgers’ best chance in the period came when Andy Wozniewski fired a laser from the blue line that sailed through traffic and embedded itself in Maverick goalie Brian Haaland’s stationary glove
“The second period was pretty sloppy in terms of discipline,” Eaves said. “The hands got up, [the referee] was calling anything to the head — we’re going to have to learn that’s what they are going to call this year.”
Wisconsin started the third period with the power play, as UNO’s Mike Gabinet leveled two Badgers right after the second-period whistle. Gabinet got a four-minute double-minor for high sticking.
The Badgers capitalized as Robbie Earl stuffed in another rebound to take a 2-1 lead at 3:17 of the third. The Mavericks struck right back as Parse scored his first official goal of the season, taking the puck wide on a man-on-man and blasting a tough-angle shot over Bernd Bruckler’s shoulder from the far side of the circle, tying the game at 2-2 at 4:37 of the third.
Wisconsin re-took the lead skating 4-on-4. Earl skated behind the net and sent a pass from the office to Andrew Joudrey, streaking through the slot. Joudrey slammed the puck home and gave the Badgers the lead again.
UNO fought back with a power-play goal. With 2:34 left, Micah Sanford batted a loose puck out of midair and into the net, pushing the game to overtime.
“We had a situation where we were down twice in the third period, guys answered the bell.” Kemp said. “That’s what you want, especially in a young team, guys that won’t fold the tent.”
But overtime is where Boeser put an end to the snowball fight. Boeser took a puck that had spilled out to him hard to the top shelf, lighting the lamp and sending the natives home 7:47 into the overtime.
Wisconsin lived by special teams, while UNO died. The Mavericks saw Wisconsin score twice while arguably their top defenseman, Gabinet, sat in the box.
“He took penalties,” Kemp said. “We don’t need to get involved in a ruckus. We know that calls are going to be made; we can’t afford to take those kind of calls.”
Wisconsin moved its record against UNO to 5-0-0. The Mavericks get the “consolation” of playing Minnesota in the early game Saturday.