OMAHA, Neb. — Northern Michigan did everything right Friday. The Wildcats played the body well, generated shots, scored first and their goaltender, Craig Kowalski was solid.
Still, the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks came away with a 2-1 win in front of 8,817 at Qwest Center Omaha.
UNO got a third-period goal from freshman Brent Kisio, his first as a Maverick, to win the game. The puck never touched Kisio’s stick, but rather his helmet. Mike Gabinet came streaking down for UNO and fired a hard shot stick-side on Kowalski, which chipped up and deflected off a streaking Kisio and into the net.
“So much of hockey is getting pucks to the net and that was one of those where guys went to the net, got to the net and we got that rebound,” UNO head coach Mike Kemp said. “Kisio has a real hockey sense about him. He’s around the puck all the time, and he’s just a real smart hockey player.”
The two teams entered Friday night with a combined five seniors on the line charts. Kowalski, one of two for Northern Michigan, turned in 27 saves and about as good an effort as was possible without getting the win.
“I thought he played well, and he didn’t have a chance at either of those goals,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. “This is exactly the type of game I expected.”
Kowalski was outdone by the Maverick freshman Kris Tebbs, who hadn’t started a hockey game since April of 2001. He redshirted for UNO last year, but on Friday recorded 23 saves for his first win in his first college start.
“It was a lot of fun and the guys played well in front of me. It’s a lot easier when the guys are playing well for you,” Tebbs said. “I’ve been trying to focus more in practice and we’re all trying to push each other.”
Kemp left the decision open as to who will start Saturday.
Northern Michigan got on the board first with a 5-on-3 goal by Jamie Milam. Milam fed the puck down low to Darin Oliver, who swept it back out to Milam streaking into the circle. Milam slapped the puck home.
UNO tied the game in the second period when freshman and leading scorer Scott Parse scored a goal reminiscent of last Friday’s brilliance. In transition Parse took the puck down on a 2-on-2. He shook both defenders, deked Kowalski and scored low stick-side.
Kemp said it may have been the best 60 minutes the Mavericks have played this season.
“It certain was our most solid,” Kemp said. “Far better than last Friday night fundamentally.”
For the Mavericks, it was their second win of the year, improving their record to 2-6-1. The Wildcats moved to 0-4-0 on the road with an overall record of 4-5-0.
The teams will complete the series Saturday at the Qwest Center.