MANKATO, Minn. — For forty minutes, Nebraska-Omaha had a nonconference road win wrapped up.
But Minnesota State (7-11-4 overall) scored five goals in the third period-three goals in a span of 2:14-to beat UNO 5-2.
The nonconference series sweep gave MSU the Spirit of the Maverick trophy for the fourth straight year. The traveling trophy goes to the winner of the series between the two Maverick teams.
It was also the first win on the season for MSU when trailing after two periods. Minnesota State was 0-11-0 heading into the contest when down before the third.
“I told the guys tonight we hadn’t had a comeback all year,” MSU coach Troy Jutting said of his second intermission speech. “It was time. I also told them I thought the second period was the worst period that we’ve played all season. I don’t think there’s any excuse for that. I didn’t tell them in that calm of manner.”
Trailing 2-0 after two periods, it took a freshman’s first collegiate goal to get MSU rolling.
From the right circle, freshman Kevin Huck fired a shot that somehow found light under UNO goalie Jerad Kaufmann’s arm. Huck’s power-play goal came at 2:16 of the period.
“I kind of got lucky,” Huck said. “I got the passIt was a great look by (Joel) Hanson. I just looked for the far side because that’s what I thought would be open.”
“I think that obviously boosted us,” Jutting said. “I think our kids were coming out there to win the hockey game, and they just needed something to give them a jumpstart a little bit. And that goal obviously did that for us.”
UNO coach Mike Kemp felt the goal might have been a soft one allowed by Kaufmann.
“I’m sure Jerad would like to have that one back because it was a fairly long shot off the angle and it kind of went right through him,” Kemp said.
At 7:05 of the third, sophomore Ryan Carter got the equalizer. The play started as UNO’s Mike Lefley’s shot hit the MSU crossbar. As play went down ice, Carter took the puck from the right boards, cut to the net, and used his 6 foot, 1 inch frame to fight off a defenseman and beat Kaufmann.
“I think we finally had enough,” Carter said. “We were getting embarrassed in our own building for two periods. You get full of all those negative emotions that bottle up, and sooner or later the cork is going to pop. I think in the third period it did.”
Just 25 seconds after Carter’s goal, Huck struck again to give Minnesota State the 3-2 lead. Following up Joel Hanson’s shot, Huck found the rebound and crammed it home from the left side of the net.
“Kevin’s really starting to get a feel for what college hockey is all about. I think he’s really starting to play well,” Jutting said of the freshman.
MSU poured it on as captain David Backes struck at 8:19 of the third. Travis Morin passed from behind the net to Backes in front, and Backes easily beat Kaufmann for his 10th goal of the year.
“One thing compounded another,” Kemp said. “They gained tremendous momentum, and we really buckled. As a program and a team we have to learn to respond better to adversity.”
Another Minnesota State power-play goal would give MSU a 5-2 lead. Junior Kurtis Kisio attempted a pass to Carter on the right side. However, the pass deflected off a UNO player and went into the net, closing out the scoring.
Early on, it was Nebraska-Omaha with the edge. UNO outshot Minnesota State 28-15 through two periods and scored the first two goals of the game.
On the power play, defenseman Juha Uotila showed some finesse as he went coast to coast. Starting from his own zone, Uotila danced around MSU’s Kyle Peto before going in on Minnesota State goalie Dan Tormey. Uotila deeked Tormey, then backhanded the puck between the freshman’s legs at 4:20 of the second. The goal was Uotila’s first career tally.
At 7:54, Nebraska-Omaha (11-9-0 overall) scored on an odd-man rush. After Peto turned the puck over in the neutral zone, Bill Bagron carried the puck down the right side of the ice. On a two-on-one, Bagron beat the defense with a pass and found Dan Charleston in the slot. Charleston made a move to get Tormey out of position before sliding the puck into the empty net.
But then the wheels came off, and UNO was unable to stop Minnesota State when the MSU goals began rolling in. Minnesota State outshot Nebraska-Omaha 20-8 in the third.
“We allowed them to dominate. All the credit goes to them. They turned it up, and they steamrolled us,” Kemp said.
Nebraska-Omaha will return to home to face Notre Dame next weekend. Minnesota State will be off next weekend and will resume action January 13 when it hosts Alaska-Anchorage for a WCHA series.
“It feels good finally getting our offense going,” Hanson said. “And definitely to score five in a period-that’s a huge boost for our confidence. We have a long break now, but I think we’ll get the confidence back right away and get some big conference wins.”