OMAHA, Neb. — Some people call it the Spirit of the Mavericks Trophy. Others call it the Maverick Cup.
The Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks don’t care what you call it; they just want it back, and after Tuesday night’s 6-3 win over the Mavericks of Minnesota State in front of 3,178 at Qwest Center Omaha, they may be one step closer to that goal.
With the help of two goals apiece from Nick Von Bokern and Mick Lawrence, as well as a school-record five power-play goals, UNO snapped their rivals from Mankato’s six-game unbeaten streak while exercising some demons of their own.
MSU has had a stranglehold on the series in recent years, retaining the traveling trophy for five consecutive years and boasting an unbeaten streak against UNO dating back to the 2001-2002 season.
It was certainly a welcome result for UNO, though, and not only because of their recent record against MSU.
Traveling home from the team’s two-game series at Union over the past weekend became an extended adventure after the massive snowstorm that had hit New England last week, and the team had to split up on their way back to Omaha, with some players flying out of Hartford, Conn. earlier than some of their compatriots due to final exams at UNO this week.
“It was kind of the perfect way to go into a game like this,” said senior captain Bryan Marshall, who ended the night with a goal and two assists. “We have had terrible luck. Our travel was all screwed up, and everything was kind of a mess.
“We came home, and didn’t even skate yesterday. We just put all our chips in the pot and went out and played, and that worked for us.”
UNO head coach Mike Kemp, who has spent much of his head coaching career immersed in the rivalry, was especially pleased with the result.
“It’s one of those things where it’s been a long time coming,” he said. “It’s always sweeter when you have to wait for it, I guess.”
Von Bokern, who notched the first two goals of his collegiate career Tuesday night, was well aware of his team’s string of bad luck against MSU coming into the game.
“As freshmen, we had heard about the rivalry. I had looked on the Internet and all that and saw how it’s gone in the past.
“The first thing our seniors said (today) was, We’ve got to beat them. We can’t go four years without beating these guys.’ It starts with them, and it goes down through every class. They lead, and we follow. If they want to beat them that badly, it makes you want to beat them that badly.”
MSU coach Troy Jutting was understandably upset with his team giving up five goals on the man advantage, something he knows no team can get away with.
“You can’t do that,” he said after the game. “You’ll get beat every time.”
He was, however, quick to defend goaltender Mike Zacharias, who was nestled within the top five in the country for both goals-against average and save percentage before giving up six goals on Tuesday.
“He’s been playing well. I think tonight was just an aberration,” he said. “He didn’t play as well as he has been, but he’s a good goaltender.”
Regardless, Kemp was very happy to get the win before the team’s holiday break leading up to a two-game homestand against Princeton and Yale right before the end of the year.
“I think there will be a carryover into those games,” he said. “Our guys needed some success, to be positive, and I think this is going to carry through for us.”
UNO will head into the return leg of the series confident with a 6-3 aggregate advantage in the series that will be decided on total goals, but Jutting has not conceded the traveling trophy just yet.
“We haven’t given it up yet,” he said. “We still have to play them one more time.”
The deciding game of the series will take place on February 26 in Mankato.