OMAHA, Neb. — It took Minnesota 97:36 to score its first goal of the season, but when it finally came, an avalanche followed.
After falling behind 3-0 in the second period, Minnesota stormed back with two goals in the second and five more in the third to beat Nebraska-Omaha 7-3 in the consolation game of the Maverick Stampede.
“We were fighting the battle where we had so much air blown up our rear ends that we forgot what you have to do to be successful,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. “When we became unselfish with the puck, the goals started coming.”
UNO took the lead in the second as rookie Scott Parse scored his second goal of the young season. Parse collected a rebound from Kaleb Betts and slammed home the power-play goal 45 seconds in.
Another Maverick rookie, Dan Knapp, put UNO 2-0 with a hard wrister from just inside the far blue line that sailed over Minnesota goalie Kellen Briggs’ right shoulder. Josh Weeks increased the lead by scoring on a partial breakaway just as he was released from the penalty box. Weeks was being chased by Gopher winger Andy Sertich, but Sertich tripped and Weeks undressed Briggs for the goal.
Soon after the high for the Mavericks, it all unraveled. Once the Gophers found the net, 17:36 into the middle frame, it became second nature once again.
Minnesota had been missing opportunities on the power play, going 0 for 3 up to that point, but a Barry Tallackson wrister that UNO goalie Chris Holt kick-saved into his own net brought on a flood of goals for Minnesota.
“I thought we were playing a lot better than the score showed,” Lucia said. “We were going on four and a half periods and we hadn’t scored a goal. We just had to stay, ‘Stay with it guys, stay with it.’”
The turning point came with just 26 seconds left in the second period, when the Gophers got sustained pressure in the zone. The puck found its way to Judd Stevens, who buried it low-post.
“We got too secure,” UNO senior winger Scotty Turner said. “We took a few dumb penalties and they scored one or two, people started getting nervous and stopped playing with confidence. Instead of going at them and finishing them off and going for the throat, we tried to keep the lead instead of digging deeper. That shows a lot of [youth] and immaturity.”
UNO head coach Mike Kemp said, “Its one of those things where you wish and hope it happens, instead of making it happen. We’ve got to get beyond that.”
Minnesota poured it on in the third, getting five goals from five different skaters. The tying goal came 4:24 into the third, when Keith Ballard skated in on transition and blasted it five-hole. The Gophers got the game winner when Gino Guyer picked the puck out of a crease scrum and slid it home.
UNO then abandoned the game plan and left skaters in the slot, allowing three more goals.
“A young team like ours is searching for our identity, searching for some confidence, and we clutched up pretty heavy there,” Kemp said.
Minnesota fired 45 shots on net in the game, but had the first 25 blocked by Holt, totaling zero goals on its first 50 shots to start the season.
“We got in trouble and started pressing and got undisciplined with the puck,” Lucia said. “It doesn’t come easy — we’ve got to work for it. There’s more parity in college hockey than there has been in a while. I don’t care who you play, if you don’t come out and compete and skate, you’re not going to win.”
Both teams played freshman goalies, with Minnesota’s Briggs making 18 saves on 21 shots. After making the first 25 saves, UNO’s Holt allowed seven goals on 20 shots and was pulled for another freshman, Kris Tebbs, with 6:10 left in the game.
“Chris Holt played great,” Kemp said. “What happened to Chris Holt is he became a victim in the third period. He was victimized by the fact that the guys in front on him didn’t do the job.”
Sixteen different players registered points for the 1-1-0 Gophers. For UNO, rookie Parse has the early goal lead with two. Parse has scored in each Maverick (0-2-0) game, including the Manitoba exhibition.