OMAHA, Neb. — A natural hat trick in the third period from freshman Broc Little proved enough to lift the Yale Bulldogs over the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, 6-3, Friday night in front of 6,702 at Qwest Center Omaha.
Despite carrying the run of play through the first 40 minutes, multiple defensive lapses occasionally bordering on the farcical in the third period doomed the host Mavericks, dropping them to 7-9-3 on the season.
“It was a very, very frustrating evening, put it that way,” UNO head coach Mike Kemp said. “We made way too many mistakes, and that cost us. It started with turnovers on our blue line, and we never recovered from that.”
UNO looked well on their way to getting back to .500 on the year after scoring two goals 22 seconds apart in the first period to take a 2-1 lead, but Little and his third, fourth and fifth goals of the year had other ideas.
The two teams entered the third period tied at 3-3 after Yale managed to withstand a 19-4 shot deficit in the second period, but Little took over in the third to sink the Mavericks’ ship.
Little’s Herculean performance in the final stanza began with an inexplicable defensive mistake on UNO’s part, one of several in the final 20 minutes that would end up haunting Kemp’s side for the remainder of the game.
Just over a minute into the period, Maverick defenseman Mark Bernier looked to clear the puck away from the UNO zone after Yale had dumped it in. He didn’t get much wood on the clearing pass, thereby effectively gifting the puck to Little, who barreled in on goal uncontested before beating UNO goaltender Jerad Kaufmann between his legs to give the Elis a 4-3 lead.
The lead went to 5-3 35 seconds later when another major defensive meltdown put the Mavericks into an even deeper hole.
Yale found itself in the attacking zone once again almost instantly, pulling Kaufmann well out of position. A scrum in front of the Maverick net ensued, with four of the netminder’s compatriots standing at or near the goal line to try and defend the net.
The fracas, which must have seemed to last an eternity for the Maverick players on the ice, finally ended when Little picked up the loose puck and slotted home high into the far side of the net.
The Mavericks could not manage to recover from these major defensive mistakes, and it would be Little who slammed the final nail into the Mavericks’ coffin with an empty-net goal at 19:39.
“Broc was dynamic tonight,” said Yale assistant coach C.J. Marottolo. Marottolo is currently stepping in for Keith Allain, who is with the United States team at the World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic.
“That’s what we recruited him for: to score goals.”
Little was a little more humble about his hat trick after the game.
“I hadn’t had a great game so far, so I really wanted to get some goals on the board tonight,” he said. “It was awesome to get three, especially like that.”
The game served as the much anticipated return for Maverick defenseman Juha Uotila, who had to sit out for the first half of the season as he waited to receive a grade for a correspondence course he had taken. There was a chance to redshirt him for the season, but Kemp elected to bring Uotila back once he became available.
“There was never a thought to a redshirt in his situation,” he said.
The Mavericks will finish off the 2007 portion of their season against Princeton on Sunday evening, which played tonight against Minnesota State in Mankato. Yale, 5-3-3 overall, will now travel up to Mankato to face Division I hockey’s other group of Mavericks before heading home to Connecticut.