EAST LANSING, Mich. — After being outplayed and outworked on Friday, Nebraska-Omaha returned the favor at Michigan State by an identical 5-2 score on Saturday evening.
“We didn’t come out on our heels; we came out tonight and went toe-to-toe,” said UNO coach Mike Kemp. “Last night we were overwhelemed at times, and we weren’t as intense.”
For a team that was winless in its last five games at Munn Arena and held scoreless for nearly two years, UNO played with a considerable amount of poise and purpose.
“We’ve got a group of guys with confidence,” said Kemp. “A year ago we didn’t have much confidence. We were a young team making a lot of mistakes. Now, we’re more mature and better prepared to play at this level.”
Scott Parse and Bill Thomas are two of those players with extremely high confidence levels early in the season. The duo combined for a 3-2-5 line on the night, leading the Mavs to a hard-fought split.
Each had a goal and an assist in a second period that saw UNO play most of the frame short-handed yet the Mavs were able to add three more tallies for a 4-0 lead through 40 minutes.
“We tried hard, but didn’t accomplish anything; Power plays are great if they work, but we just could not get shots through and didn’t play with enough patience to make it happen,” said MSU coach Rick Comley.
“The biggest segment of the game was in the second period. We had to kill off four penalties in a row. We got a short[handed] goal and another just coming off of a penalty kill,” said Kemp.
Thomas’ short-handed goal really opened things up for UNO. The freshman was able to capitalize on a miscue at the point, racing in alone on MSU goaltender Matt Migliaccio and sliding a backhand into the back of the net to put the Mavs up big.
The performance was especially rewarding for Parse, a Lansing-area native and Thomas continues to impress as a part of a freshman class that may signal good things to come from the Mavs.
“The young guys we’ve added have given us some offensive talent with the likes of Thomas. Those kids have really added something to our team,” said Kemp.
What a difference a day made for the Spartans. Coming off a 5-2 victory, MSU finally seemed to be finding a little jump, but faltered early tonight.
“We just did not play with any get-up-and-go,” said Comley. “It was real dull and flat right from the beginning and I did not see a sense of urgency and I could not tell you why.”
Michigan State did come alive with about 10 minutes left to play in the game, but it was a case of too little too late. Drew Miller got things started for the Spartans with his first goal of the season and Tommy Goebel also added his first just 40 seconds later, cutting the lead in half at 4-2 with 4 minutes left to play.
“Until that point in time, I was very comfortable,” said Kemp. “I thought we were doing a great job playing a road third period. We were getting the puck deep and keeping it on control and in front of us.”
State drew a penalty in the final minutes of the game, but was unable to get the puck past Mav goaltender Chris Holt, who finished the evening with 28 saves on 30 shots to improve to 5-1 on the young season.
Migliaccio replaced Spartan goaltender Dom Vicari in the second period after Vicari suffered a head injury during a collision. The duo combined to make 22 saves.
Both teams will continue CCHA play next weekend with Michigan State matching up against Ferris State while UNO makes the trek to Alaska.