OMAHA, Neb. — One night after Lake Superior State were fortunate to earn a draw with Nebraska-Omaha, the Mavericks experienced the same feeling on Saturday after a 3-3 thriller in front of 4,479 at Qwest Center Omaha.
The Mavericks had fallen behind 3-1 thanks to a last-minute goal in the second period and another one five minutes into the third, but a pair of goals from Bryan Marshall allowed the Mavericks to salvage a second point from the series.
After struggling Friday night with a lack of confidence thanks to a Herculean performance from Lakers’ goaltender Pat Inglis, the Mavericks turned the tables in the opening period on Saturday, thanks to freshman forward Joey Martin’s third goal of the season.
UNO head coach Mike Kemp was extremely pleased with his team’s performance in the opening frame, which was almost night-and-day different from how they had played in the first 20 minutes Friday night.
“I thought in the first period we were excellent, really excellent,” he said. “We had great chances and good control. They had more shots in the first period than they had in the first period last night, but we were getting great quality, Grade-A chances.”
The Mavericks had gone back to the dressing room with the momentum swung almost completely in their direction, but mistakes and bad luck combined in the second period to allow Lake Superior State back into the game.
The comeback began at 5:10 of the period, when Tyson Hobbins centered to defenseman Simon Gysbers in front of the Mavericks’ net, and the sophomore tipped the puck over Jerad Kaufmann’s glove for his second goal of the season.
UNO got a goal back near the halfway point of the period, but four consecutive penalties, including three in the last four minutes of the frame, let the Lakers tie the game up once more.
Collecting a set-up pass from Troy Schwab, sophomore winger Nathan Perkovich beat Kaufmann over his blocker with eight seconds left in the period for his tenth goal of the season.
“Sometimes Nathan tries to do too much,” Lake Superior coach Jim Roque said. “Not because he doesn’t care, but because he cares so much to win. He thinks he’s going to make the play all the time. He’s got the ability, though, and it was a big goal at the time.”
Kemp, needless to say, looked at the second period from a different angle.
“It’s not an acceptable effort level,” he said of his team’s performance in the middle frame. “We came out in the second period and allowed them to take the momentum away and put the pressure on us.
“Selfish penalties at the end of the period put us in a hole. We should’ve been out of that period with a 2-1 lead, and instead we were 2-2 going into the third and things were tight.”
The Mavericks’ fortunes went from bad to worse in the third, as freshman forward Will Acton deflected a long Matt Cowie shot through Kaufmann’s five-hole and into the net for a go-ahead goal at 5:38.
The Lakers looked set to leave Omaha with their first league win of the year and three points on the weekend, but Marshall had other ideas, beating Lakers’ goaltender Brian Mahoney-Wilson with 5:22 left in regulation.
One might have expected the goal to take some of the wind out of the Lakers’ sails, but they had enough left in the tank to force a second overtime period in as many nights, and the Lakers were painfully close to winning the game halfway through the overtime period.
Just before referee Matt Shegos took Marshall off for a holding penalty, Kaufmann stopped a slow-moving loose puck from sliding into his net when he dragged it off the goal line.
“We came back out with a much better effort, especially with our forwards tonight,” Roque said. “They did a much better job. We played well tonight, and I was really happy with the effort all the way through the lineup.”
Dan Charleston, who had originally been credited with the Mavericks’ goal late in the third period before it was given to Marshall, was unhappy with the team’s overall performance during the weekend.
“We’re really upset with ourselves,” he said. “We had been talking earlier in the papers about how things are going to be fine, but we’re just really upset. There’s nothing to have our heads up about. It’s kind of embarrassing.
“We shouldn’t be where we’re at right now but we did it to ourselves. Nobody else did it. The refs didn’t do it, the coaches didn’t do it. It’s us as forwards, defensemen and goaltenders who are all putting it on ourselves as a team, and we have to figure it out as a group.”
Lake Superior (2-11-3, 0-8-2 CCHA) is still looking for their first CCHA win of the season, but will have until the first week of January to rest up. UNO (5-7-3, 4-7-3 in the league) travels to Union next weekend for a pair of non-conference games before coming home for a midweek game against Minnesota State.