OMAHA, Neb. — You wouldn’t think that faceoffs would be such an overlooked aspect of the game of hockey, considering how quickly they can devastate the teams that lose them.
Unfortunately for the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks on Sunday night, they had to learn that the hard way.
A game that UNO looked to have a reasonable chance of winning quickly went the other way in the third period when the Mavericks gave up two power play goals almost instantaneously after faceoff loses in their zone and another soon after gaining the man advantage themselves en route to a 5-3 loss to Princeton in front of 6,859 at Qwest Center Omaha.
UNO (7-10-3 overall, 4-7-3 CCHA) had plenty of opportunities to put the game away early, holding a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes, but third period goals from four different Tigers turned the game on its head and gave Princeton the victory.
The win was a welcome result for Princeton, who came into the game 5-8-0 on the year (4-4-0 ECAC Hockey) and looking for a way to wash the taste of a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Minnesota State on Friday out of their mouths.
“I think it was a ‘must’ performance, but not a must-win game,” Tigers’ coach Guy Gadowsky said after the game. “We had to come out and play hard. We (as coaches) wanted to see a strong hockey team with a strong work ethic.
“They looked a bit tired late in the second, but they really dug down in the third and I’m happy that they showed that kind of work ethic.”
It was a deserved victory for Princeton in the end, who can attribute the win in large part to how they came out to play in the final frame.
A pair of power play goals from Landis Stankievech and Taylor Fedun, coming thirteen and seven seconds after the respective penalties were called, gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead over a UNO team who had come out flat in the third period.
Both goals came off of key faceoff wins in the UNO zone while the Mavericks were trying to kill off the penalties. They had killed off Princeton’s first four power plays, three of them coming in fairly quick succession early in the second period, but it was the special teams’ lapses on the fifth and sixth go-rounds that left UNO coach Mike Kemp frustrated.
“Our penalty kill has been pretty solid over the last several games, but tonight it let us down. You can’t lose clean faceoffs on penalty kills in your defensive zone, and that happened twice in a row. They were both clean wins, and those are things that just can’t happen.”
Brandon Scero got the equalizer for the Mavericks with his seventh goal of the year at 9:05 of the period, but a big goal from sophomore Mark Magnowski fourteen seconds into a Tiger penalty kill assured the visitors that they would get a positive result out of their western holiday swing.
The shorthanded goal had been set up by senior captain Mike Moore, who finished off the Mavericks with an empty-netter, his first goal of the year, with 26 seconds left.
“Mikey Moore was just a warrior today,” Gadowsky said. “He really made it happen there at the end. He is just a fantastic leader, and he had one heck of a game.”
Both teams will now set their sights on conference play next week, with UNO traveling to Western Michigan and Princeton hosting clashes with Ivy League rivals Dartmouth and Harvard.