EAST LANSING, Mich. — Nebraska-Omaha’s fourth line scored three goals in 3:04 of the third period, breaking open a one-goal game for a 7-4 win over #6 Michigan State at Munn Arena Friday night.
The Mavericks clung to a 3-2 lead heading into the third period, surviving a 5-on-3 power play for 30 seconds with 4:30 of carry-over power play after Juha Uotila was whistled for a 5-minute major penalty for checking from behind as the team desperately tried to kill a penalty.
“It was a very anxious time for us,” said UNO coach Mike Kemp. “We’ve been struggling in goal and to be in that situation, I thought the penalty killers did what they had to. It wasn’t always pretty, but they batted it around and ate time and got it out when they needed to,”
Michigan State missed the net nearly every way, including a Jim McKenzie ringer off the post. The Mavericks relentlessly chased the Spartans around the offensive zone for minutes at a time, but freshman goaltender Jared Kaufmann refused to allow a goal.
“We haven’t been around [Kaufmann] enough to have all the answers, since this is only his second start,” said Kemp. “But he’s a battler and he competes. I don’t know that he is fundamentally the greatest goaltender, but he competes and that goes a long way.”
UNO built upon the monster kill, coming out like gangbusters in the final frame. If there was any doubt about who would win, the Mavericks put it to rest with the three-goal flurry.
The goals were all produced by Nebraska-Omaha’s freshman fourth line of Dan Charleston, J.P Platisha, and Tomas Klempa. The trio finished the night with a 3-5-8 scoring line.
“They aren’t going to be a fourth line for very long. They played together in training camp, but you don’t like to put three freshmen together. Tonight, they had a lot of spark and played with great enthusiasm,” said Kemp.
The freshmen were superb, capitalizing on what seemed like every turnover in the period.
“Pucks went in from everywhere,” said Comley. “We kept turning it over. It wasn’t like they were coming at us constantly [with odd man rushes]. We couldn’t handle even up-rushes because of bouncing pucks and turnovers.”
“We’ve been back on our heels for a couple of weeks. We got stung at home by Miami after coming off a pretty big high [against New Hampshire],” said Kemp. “We really focused on not beating ourselves this week and the guys came out and bought into what we were trying to do by playing unselfishly and in units of five.”
Michigan State jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on a goal by Colton Fretter. The assistant captain dove headlong through the slot to tip in a loose puck past Kaufmann and into the back of the net.
UNO dominated from that point on, however, evening the score on the next possession. With the score tied at one, the Mavs broke out for two more goals to claim a 3-1 lead at the end of one period.
In the second stanza, an opportunistic Nebraska-Omaha team took advantage of sloppy Spartan play in the defensive zone. Scott Parse broke up a weak clearing attempt at the top of the circles and drove in all alone on Vicari. The netminder made the initial save, but Parse deposited his own rebound for a 2-1 score. With the momentum clearly swung in favor of the aggressive Mavs, Bill Thomas expanded the early lead, stuffing home a Joe Grimaldi feed on the left post to put UNO up by a pair.
Jim McKenzie scored a goal less than two minutes into the second period to cut the lead to 3-2, but that was as close as the Spartans would get.
Kaufmann finished the game with 28 saves in his first collegiate win. Vicari stopped 22 of 29 in the loss.
“The big test is how you bounce back. You aren’t going to win every game, you aren’t going to play great every night,” said Comley.
With the win, the Mavs snapped a four-game losing streak. The Spartans will hope to bounce back tomorrow. The puck will drop early at 5PM in Munn Arena.