GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Freshman forward Mark Nebus picked a good time to score his first career goal for Wayne State as the unranked Warriors upset the 12th-ranked Brown Bears.
Nebus’ goal at 1:40 of overtime gave Wayne State a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Brown in the first game of the Subway Holiday Classic at Ralph Engelstad Arena. The Warriors will play North Dakota, which defeated Findlay 3-1 in the second game, for the tournament title at 4 p.m. on Sunday.
“The coach has been yelling at me to shoot and my linemates have been yelling at me to drive the net, so I faked the pass over and drove the net and let her go,” Nebus said of his game-winning goal.
“I was very disappointed,” said Brown coach Roger Grillo. “We didn’t play very hard. We didn’t compete very hard. We didn’t win a lot of battles for the puck. We didn’t do a lot of little things that we’ve been doing well this year. Obviously, when you don’t do that, you’re not going to win games.”
The Bears struck first with just their second shot on goal at 11:21 of the opening period. Controlling the puck down low, freshman wing Brian Ihnacak fed senior wing Brent Robinson in front of the net. His point-blank shot beat Warrior sophomore goalie Matt Kelly to give Brown a 1-0 lead.
Less than a minute later, Wayne State tied it 1-1. Center Nate Higgins passed up the slot to freshman defenseman Dan Iliakis who fired a quick wrist shot that beat Bear senior goalie Yann Danis high at the 12:12 mark.
Following a scoreless second period, Brown took a 2-1 lead with a power play goal at 7:48 of the third. Breaking free in the left circle, Bears senior center Les Haggett hit Ihnacak with a cross-ice, back-door pass that he blew past Kelly.
With Danis leading the nation in goals against average (1.5) and save percentage (.953), Brown’s lead appeared safe.
“I told our kids we could stuff it, jam it, wrap it, do whatever you have to do to get it to the front of the net because you’re not going to score from 60 feet out,” said Wayne State coach Bill Wilkinson.
With Kelly off the ice for a sixth attacker in the game’s final minute, Warrior senior center Travis Rycroft scored with 25 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, Nebus made the most of his opportunity on a 2-on-1 rush.
“Off the breakout, Jason Baclig had the puck. I just yelled for it and he threw a no-look pass to me up the middle,” he said. “It was a forehand, off the post and in upstairs.”
“That’s the weakness of guys who go down, the upper part of the net,” Wilkinson said of Danis’ butterfly style. “We were fortunate to get a couple up there.”
Nebus said he didn’t consider Wayne State’s (5-8-2 overall, 1-5-0 CHA) defeat of the Bears (6-3-2 overall, 6-2-1 ECAC)an upset.
“I know what our team is capable of when we all decide to show up for a game for three periods,” he said. “It was a good all-around effort. Everybody depended on one another tonight and we just got it done.”