OMAHA, Neb. — The fish hit the ice early for Nebraska-Omaha, breaking a scoring drought of more than seven periods with a goal just 26 seconds into the game.
Or so everyone at the Qwest Center Omaha thought.
The light came on but the goal was waved off. The fish went back in the cooler and the Mavs scoring went back on ice as Alaska-Fairbanks got a third period goal to win 1-0 Friday.
“That was two teams that both deserved to win,” UAF coach Guy Gadowsky said. “We’ve always had such great games, and it takes spectacular plays to make the difference between our two teams. I can’t imagine any two teams more evenly matched.”
The Nanooks notched just two shots on goal the entire third period, both by Ryan Campbell, both on the same scoring chance. One just happened to find the net and win the game.
UAF goalie Preston McKay saved the day making a save with 1.3 seconds left in the game against UNO second-leading scorer Andrew Wong. The save was not one bit understated by Gadowsky.
“It was a super spectacular save,” Gadowsky said. “I’m not sure of a bigger save in this program since I’ve been here. How often do you get a chance at home ice in the CCHA, and that save is as big as it gets.”
Wong was dismayed at the save as he and his team looked sadly defeated.
“It hit his body, his glove, and it didn’t go in,” Wong said. “I should have thrown my body into the net.”
That save may very well have sealed Fairbanks’ home ice for the CCHA playoffs. Fairbanks sits in fifth in the conference, two points ahead of Notre Dame and Western Michigan. A win Saturday would make it official.
For UNO the frustration continues to mount. The Mavs outshot UAF 20-17, the team’s lowest shots allowed all season and they stayed disciplined by only taking two penalties. Still, it has now been 206 minutes and 15 seconds since UNO’s last goal. Despite close games between the two teams, it’s been 15 games, dating back to Dec. 1, 2000, since the Mavericks have beaten the Nanooks. The Mavericks signed in stone their claim at last place in the conference, a first for Kemp’s team.
Kemp and the team decided they would take the names off the back of their jerseys in promotion of team unity and as a motivational tool, and according to Kemp, it worked to a point.
“In reality it’s about as well as we’ve played. We give up two shots in the third period, and one finds its way in. We need some good things to happen right now,” Kemp said. “The guys are depressed, to be completely honest. We work hard and play hard and we’re just not getting it in.”
The two teams play again Saturday night.